Indonesian Nostalgia

Time passes so fast we don’t even realize it. Unable to pause for a moment and reflect on the present cos we are so worried about the future. But when that time comes, it too becomes the present, and so we once again focus on the future. And so it goes on. An infinite loop that we simply can’t break out of.

New things come in. Old things go out. Nothing retains its popularity forever I guess. And sometimes things aren’t got rid of once and for all, but left to linger on, a sad shadow of their former selves. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Bentoel Biru. Once a very popular kretek cigarette which was always advertised on TV in a very memorable commercial. I can still remember the words today:

I love the blue of Indonesia
it's a flavor in the air ..
I love the blue of Indonesia
you can taste it everywhere
I love the blue of Indonesiaaa ...
it's my kind of blue ..........

2. Timor cars. One of Suharto’s brainwaves – I use that term in the loosest sense - was the national car project that he gave to his youngest son Tommy. Hence the Timor name (Teknologi Industri Mobil Rakyat), although it also unfortunately brought to mind a little island where lots of bad stuff was going on. Cheap and cheerful, they weren’t bad cars. In fact, they were actually imported Korean KIA Sephia cars with the badge ripped off and an Indonesian one in its place. But that’s nationalism for you.

Timor car3. Bank Bali. Nice island, decent bank. Then it’s merged with four or five other banks into Bank Permata that has Standard Chartered as its backers.

4. Tanamur Discothèque. Renowned for its hard-hitting techno music, its patrons were an eclectic bunch, ranging from highly paid oil expats to university students, transvestites, working girls and even celebrities. I once saw a inebriated expat nearly have his arm taken off by one of those guys you see in the streets with a sickle and a huge slab of ice. And the parking guys weren’t exactly angels either.

5. TVRI news at 9.00pm followed by half an hour of Suharto talking to kids at some village school. Shown on all channels, it had that austere East European feel to it, completely shunning what was really going on in the real world and instead showing only the most banal tosh you could imagine.

6. The Hilton Jakarta. It’s now called the Sultana or Raisin or something. Noone's sure who the land belongs to, but the Jakarta City Administration claims to have the original land certificate. Allegedly haunted by the ghost of a young bartender who patrols the plush hotel’s corridors!


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