Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

My final thoughts on Indonesia, as I wait to board my plane to Japan:

Indonesians are warm and welcoming people. They are not xenophobic, and take delight in the new. They love to laugh and sing and joke. 3 large group religions that traditionally hate each other compete here for souls, and they all seem to get along quite well.

Yet, I cannot shake the sentiment that (and we’ve heard the same for just about any country including America) that Indonesia would be a great place, if not for the damned Indonesians. Hear me out before you oil your torches and sharpen your pitchforks…

Just like in any government, they vote in the most sleazy corrupt pieces of turd to official post and then wonder why their legal system is a mess, businesses are gutted by regulation and corrupt demands, currency is debased, and life is made tougher. However in Indonesia it’s even more corrupt due to tight clannish nepotism, and it’s so ingrained it cannot and will not be driven out.

Due to this, and due to the general culture of the people, the Indonesians are now terrible stewards of their environment. Absolutely terrible. The US gets a bad rap from environazis for this and that, but I dare any environazi to go to Indonesia, stay there a year in the charming third world Papuan villages, and see what the “sustainable tribal people” are doing to their reef and rainforest, then come back to the US where trash is managed, sanitation conducted, and conservation carried out in a clean and organized fashion, and let us hear what they have to say, if they still have anything to say!

The park fees to dive in Raja Ampat and Cendrawasih are very high, more than the average Indonesian can afford. More than the average diver wants to pay– Several hundred dollars just to enter the parks. Per person. Then there is the hiring, keeping, and feeding of the “warden.” Then the graft to the local village chiefs for “permission” to dive on their reefs. That money is all supposedly used to conserve the marine reserves. However, judging by the “wardens” we encountered, and the heavy audible fishbombing (and its visible results) going on in both locations, there is absolutely zero enforcement, zero education, and zero give-a-shit. That money goes to buy the ministers shiny new cars and shiny new mistresses, and not a dime reaches where it was originally intended. Loads of money is spent, tourists and tour operators are fleeced and inconvenienced, and the environment perishes under the watch of the scumbags whose jobs are to protect it.

Indonesians think nothing of bombing a reef with dynamite or cyanide to get a boatload of fish, a good week’s haul in a single day but that reef is now gone for 100 years and 10,000 times more fish lay dead at the bottom, rotting. They think nothing of dumping trash and chemicals into the sea. It simply doesn’t occur to them the long-term results of these actions. They don’t even seem to see the trash blowing up in the street, literally in drifts. And where there was once an actual clean space, as soon as a piece of trash blows there, then it is soon joined by new freshly-discarded neighbors. Oh, they can see the trash plenty good when they are looking for a place to throw it.

When the bottom rungs of your social ladder have been kicked out by government meddling, you have more important things to think about, like “will I have rice on my plate tomorrow?” and so to hell with the environment that sustains you. The government claims to be all mega-green and super totally keen into making sure their parks are well-kept for the future enjoyment of Indonesia and foreign visitors, but it’s 100% BS.

I’m going to go out on a very inflammatory and politically incorrect limb and say that the Allies should have let Japan keep the parts of Indonesia that they took during WWII. The Japanese sure were cruel bastards but they took good care of their stuff. And they would have taken good care of Indonesia. Much better care than the locals are giving it today, for damned sure. 100 years before that, one group of islanders running through another island to take it over, even waging genocide in the process, wouldn’t have generated any wow-factor whatsoever. But for some reason it was considered inconceivable during the 40s, and still is today? I believe that the US simply used the Indonesians as disposable generators of unrest and enlisted support in order to upset the Japanese occupation. They certainly didn’t leave their capital in Indonesian hands– there are dump sites where you can dive on boats, trucks, millions of rounds of ammunition that were all scuttled in the sea on departure because they would have cost too much to transport back home or on to the next battleground.

Sure, the Indonesians were given their independence but what are they doing with it? Destroying their lands is what. For short-term petty reasons.

Not all of Indonesia is shit-hole. Some parts are beautiful. The beautiful places are all you see when you go searching for information. But the intelligentsia only goes to these beautiful tourist places, and no longer wants to rough it to see the real side of things. You won’t see tattoo-faced people who just came out of the jungle and are gobsmacked at the sight of a white man. National Geographic is too busy these days with Top Hooker and other reality trash to waste any time showing you the true naked islanders of Pogo Pogo. And so you will never see the “real side” of Indonesia unless you go and do it like I did. Not that I can recommend it as wholly enjoyable outside of the scuba experiences.

The end result? Give Indonesia a pass until it gets its act together. Tell anyone who is remotely interested about the wholesale environmental destruction there.

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Odds and ends: KFC

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Food, Travel
Tags: ,

The Colonel is everywhere. Indonesians eat everything fried. Chicken, noodles, rice, fish, fried fried fried fried fries…

There are KFCs all over, even in the most remote parts of the country. It’s mega-popular here.

I think a Waffle House would do brisk business.

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Odds and ends: Pepsi Blue

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Food, Travel
Tags: , ,

Not sure exactly how it was different, seemed to taste like normal pepsi, but flat. And it has blue flavor, or blue color, or whatever. It’s blue!2013-08-17 16.11.27

Why would you want to drink something with sweat in the name?
It tastes like gatorade. While it is edible, it is not delicious. I am not a fan.

Just what you want after sweating all day is a nice can of refreshing sweat!

Just what you want after sweating all day is a nice can of refreshing sweat!

Odds and ends: Durian

Posted: August 26, 2013 in Food, Travel
Tags: , ,

Durian season is over, but I managed to find Durian flavored candy. I tried it, and if the candy version tastes this awful, then I can only imagine how bad the real thing is. Well, the flavor wasn’t bad, it was kind of a vanilla-ish custardy thing, but the volatile sulfuric aroma was overpowering. Just the one piece of candy left my head in a stench cloud and I was burping it up all day after that. Repulsive to say the least.

I gave the bag of remaining candy to the crew, and they loved it. “I like the smell,” IndoDiveGuideBob said as he packed his face with the stuff. Captain Abu had a mouthful of it yesterday; the smell punched me in the nose as I was getting back up on the dive platform.

Now with 25% extra stench!

Now with 25% extra stench!

Wednesday, Aug 21: Here one day, gone the next

Cendrawasih Bay, Indonesian National Marine Reserve

We had to pick up a marine reserve warden in Manokwari, in order to bring the dive boat here. He stays on the boat the whole time. We feed him, give him a bunk, and we have to pay him. He doesn’t know how to dive. In fact, a couple of days ago he delayed us getting out to our dive site because he took one of our dinghies ashore to one of the local villages for “paperwork formalities.” Wonderful, useful, resourceful guy.

Said warden looked on and didn’t lift a finger to help as we hunted and killed several dozen Crown-of-thorns starfish which were destroying a reef that we dove on. After all, the guy can’t dive. This reef, last year, was beautiful. Now, it’s toast. Cyanide and bomb-fishing, combined with an infestation of the Crown-of-thorns (a manageable species) have ruined this once-pristine reef.

And he has to be on our boat. To make sure that we divers don’t do something environmentally offensive. Why the guy isn’t out patrolling these waters for the people who bomb and poison the reef to catch their fish, organizing hunting parties to remove the Crown-of-thorns, or introducing predators that eat them, is beyond my understanding. Oh, wait, this is Indonesia, one of the most corrupt countries in the third world, and our dear warden is someone’s well-connected cousin who had and has no interest whatsoever in doing his job. Ehh, the box for park warden is checked on the list back in the capital, so that means our park is protected, right?

It is not unheard of here to dive on a beautiful reef one day, and come back a few days later to find it completely bombed out and full of dead fish. Just about every dive we are on, we can hear the fish bombs going off somewhere. That sound carries for miles underwater. And if we are in the water for just a couple of hours per day, based on what we are hearing, the amount of bombing going on must be staggering. Not just here but back in Raja Ampat as well.

But Indonesia is protecting its reefs! They have wardens out there working hard!

If you have been thinking of coming here to dive, do it now, because it’s all going to be gone in a couple of years. Or start boycotting it in the hopes they will get their shit together.

The crown of thorns starfish. Nasty creature.

The crown of thorns starfish. Nasty creature.

Killing a ton of crown-of-thorns with fresh water, apparently the only way to make sure they are truly dead. Any scrap that falls off of them stands a chance of becoming its own starfish.

Killing a ton of crown-of-thorns with fresh water, apparently the only way to make sure they are truly dead. Any scrap that falls off of them stands a chance of becoming its own starfish.

Tuesday, Aug 20: Whale Sharks of Nabire

Nothing puts you in your place on the food chain like a giant 50-foot shark. Fortunately these ones just eat plankton. Actually, the ones here have evolved to eating fish.

The area is populated by squid, anchovy, and sardine fishing platforms. These are basically a boat in the middle with a network of outriggers and nets hanging in between. At night, the platforms are lit, which attracts the squid and small fish. The fishermen throw their catch into the nets, which hang below the water’s surface, in order to keep the creatures alive.

The fishermen noticed that the whale sharks would come up underneath the platforms and suck on the nets, pulling pieces of dead fish (and sometimes live ones) through. The sharks would swim around all morning, in packs, taking their turns sucking on the nets. Eventually they became trained to come up to the surface to receive handouts of mashed-up fish, and an industry was born.

The mornings begin with the boat boys scouting out which platforms have sharks, and we go to the one with the most active group. You can hang there just below the surface (or in my case, hang on the outrigger), and watch them come and go, within touching distance. At that shallow a depth you can last 3 hours on a tank of air. You’ll probably retire early to replace your camera batteries a couple of times.

Whale sharks are curious creatures and will actively check out each diver, visiting them in turn, as they make their rounds of the platforms. Pretty neat. Until they get a little too curious and bump you. Fortunately peeing your wetsuit isn’t a problem.2013-08-26 08.22.41 am 2013-08-26 08.24.10 am 2013-08-26 08.21.39 am