40 things to do in Indonesia before you die (30-21)

And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don't mind.
Why should I be frightened of dying?
There's no reason for it, you've gotta go sometime.

> Pink Floyd

30. Visit Schapelle Corby or another foreigner in an Indonesian prison. If you want to be reminded just how wonderful it is to be free then visit one of the many foreigners currently locked up in an Indonesian penitentiary and you will leave the prison gates a more content man than an alcoholic in an off-license on pay day. Most foreigners end up in the slammer for drugs offences and those incarcerated at “Bali Hilton” (Kerobokan prison) include such fuckwits as the Bali 9, French dude Michaël Blanc (who still pleads his innocence) and the once extremely fit but now very haggard Schapelle Corby. There are fewer foreign prisoners in the capital Jakarta - most of whom are locked up in the infamous Cipinang penitentiary in East Jakarta – but quite a few drug smuggling lunatics in Tangerang jails awaiting their execution. Bring along some books and food for the prisoner you intend to meet - and make sure you give them some pocket money as well – after all, you will never have to go back unless you want to; these poor blighters are in there for the long haul.

29. Have a massage. There are basically two “types” of massage in Indonesia and the one I am referring to is the respectable one which loosens up your muscles after a stressful day at the office. A profession which is often taken up by the blind, even elderly masseurs can have incredibly strong hands despite their frail appearance (and for the record, here's some info on where you might like to get the other type of massage).

28. Ride a becak. Although long since banished from Jakarta, becak (rickshaws) are still found in abundance the length and breadth of Indonesia and are a firm reminder that Indonesia is still a very poor country. But you won’t know how tough it is to be a becak rider if you just sit in the passenger seat like some sort of pompous twat: so go one step further and actually ride it yourself (more on that in 27 below).

27. Visit “Dolly” to conduct socio-economic research. Surabaya is a hot and dirty industrial city on the north coast of East Java. It is also home to SE Asia’s largest red light district (Dolly) where over 15,000 girls ply their trade. Named incidentally after one of its most popular girls (and not the cloned sheep), Dolly is a bloody incredible place - it’s like they took a huge honky-tonk Mexican border town and simply moved it piece by piece to Surabaya. There are row upon row of little shacks, and the streets are full of young women, old hags, greasy pimps, roaming minstrels, destitute beggars, and even little kids. To get there, myself and a mate borrowed a becak from one of the becak riders at Gubeng train station and rode it the not inconsiderable distance to Dolly. Things were not made any easier by the fact that Dolly is located on fairly high ground and by the time we eventually arrived I was panting like a dog and my sorry hamstrings were tighter than a Scotsman’s purse strings. After a good look around and a couple of litres of aqua later, we returned to Gubeng train station - virtually flying on the roads which sloped downward; hell even the cops waved at us – well they could hardly ticket us, could they?!!!

26. Slaughter a cow/chicken. If, like me, you are a bit partial to a nice juicy steak then you should have no qualms about slaughtering the beast whose flesh you are only too willing to dine on. I got my chance to undertake the gory deed a few years back on the Islamic animal sacrifice day of Idul Adha (this year it takes place on 27 November). It was not a cow whose neck I slit with my razor sharp knife but some unfortunate kambing (goat) - which doubtless ended up on skewers as sate kambing (my favorite).

Monas, Jakarta25. Go to the top of Monas. Don’t miss the chance to go to the top of the phallic looking National Monument (Monas) which is oft referred to by locals as Sukarno’s last erection (Indonesia’s first president was famous for his sexual prowess). When it was built Monas was Jakarta’s tallest building but it is now dwarfed by the many huge skyscrapers that line Jakarta’s major thoroughfares. On a good day the view ain’t bad but often visibility is reduced by Jakarta horrendous air pollution.

24. Watch a cockfight. Although the sport may not go down too well with the RSPCA, cockfights are still an integral part of Balinese culture. And here I quote:

The fighting goes down with an assortment of birds measured by height, weight, and wing span to make for an even battle. When two birds match, they're fitted for a razor sharp blade that is tightly tied around one foot, with the blade sticking out the back. The birds are held face to face as their feathers are pricked to stimulate aggression. A fury of money changes hands as bets are accepted. The roosters are taken to their respective corners and released.

For one, maybe two minutes, roosters fly in the air and that's it. The loser backs off, slowly collapsing to the ground. Their legs are then sliced off or the throat is cut. The losing bird is scooped up and skinned right outside the stadium to get ready for the dinner pot. The winning rooster will be heading there as well, as most times their injuries are just as bad.

Josh Grillo

23. Drive from Jakarta to Bali. If you are something of a sadomasochist and want to drive the grueling 1,044 kms from Jakarta to Banyuwangi before taking a ferry across to Bali then go for it. Alternatively, choose the easy option and just go by plane in a mere one and a half hours.

22. Make a commercial. Everyone wants to be a film star – or so it is said – and in Indonesia they are always looking out for foreign looking types to appear in commercials – either for the domestic or international market. But be prepared for a grueling couple of days – for most of the time you’ll probably be waiting for the other scenes in the ad to be filmed.

21. Attend a political rally (esp. PDIP). Long gone are the days when political rallies were a battle cry for real change – now they are more of an excuse for political parties to make a show of force and create traffic congestion. Party political rallies generally take place in a short time window ahead of the elections, so you’ll probably have to wait until 2014 when the next parliamentary and presidential elections will take place.

20-11 to follow next



  1. I wonder where did you do the slaughtering? In a mosque? If so, then how come you could get the persmission? O.o

  2. Yay! I've done 4 on this part of the list.

    @Natt: you don't need permission. You need guts!


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