Tuesday, June 25, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

First, someone in Palembang, Sumatera stole my main luggage, which left me wearing the same clothes for four days, since I was on the road and did not have the chance to change clothes or to by new ones.

I then bought a plane to Malaysia without continuing on my trip from Palembang to Jakarta.

I thought I would take the ferry from Melaka in Malaysia to Dumai in Sumatera and then on by bus to Pekan Baru to Palembang and then to Jakarta.

I wanted to see the sights and to do some research on the Sriwijaya Empire.

I still managed to do that.

But I chose to fly to Jakarta from Malaysia a few days later thinking that it was a direct flight and Jakarta is not Palembang.

I was right, but only to a certain extent.

It was still pleasant to be able to return to Jakarta after an absence of nine years.

The weather was fine and not so hot, but pleasant and I was able to walk a lot in the city taking the KRT trains and local modes of travel including the ‘bajaj’ and buses packed with people.

It was more pleasant to discover that Jakarta was celebrating the 486th anniversary of its founding in 1529. And I was there to experience it.

There were many activities organized but I chose those that were held at Taman Fatahilah or Fatahilah Square at Jakarta Kota or Kota Tua.

This was where the Dutch had their headquarters when they colonized the whole country.

I enjoyed visiting the Muzium Bahari where some relics from ancient Portuguese and Dutch times are put on display other than the ‘bakso’ that are sold by the food vendors outside of the museum.

American President Barack Obama had remarked in Melayu, ‘Bakso sedap. Nasi goreng sedap’ or ‘Bakso is good. Fried rice is good’ when he met some Indonesians at a university in Jakarta the last time he was back in the city where he had grown up as a boy studying at the primary school in the exclusive and residential Menteng district.

I had a bit of ‘bakso’ as I had not tasted it in a long time. They do sell it in Malaysia, mostly by the Indonesians themselves and in the night markets.

The Melayu in Malaysia have not got used to eating the food, so most of the customers are the Indonesians living and working in the country either legally or illegally – and some Malaysians such as me.

I sat at a table in front of a young Chinese man and a young Chinese woman. They spoke in Melayu or Bahasa Indonesia.

It is not a rare sight to see the Chinese in Indonesia speaking in Melayu. But it is rare to find them doing that in Malaysia.

And I have not seen any Chinese in Malaysia eating and enjoying ‘bakso’ at the stalls in the night markets in Malaysia. They have not gotten to like the food.

And while I was in Jakarta, their Governor Joko Wibowo or Jokowi, was in Kuala Lumpur to promote the ‘Enjoy Jakarta 2013’ where he remarked how he would like to see Jakarta as clean as Kuala Lumpur.

I don’t find Kuala Lumpur to be clean. And I don’t think Jakarta can be as clean as it is now.

The main roads in and around Jakarta are clean. The areas beside the railway lines are also clean.

There used to be huts where some people used as their houses where they would cook and also change their clothes as the trains pass by them.

But this scene is gone.

I first visited Jakarta in May, 1974 just two months before I enrolled at the Institut Teknologi Mara in Shahalam in Malaysia to work on my degree in advertising.

I did not experience being cheated then. I was a young boy. So no one could think they could cheat me of anything.

The rate of the Rupiah to the Malaysian Ringgit then was 145 Rupiah to One Malaysian Ringgit.

Today, it is about 3,000 Rupiah to One Ringgit.

I could buy a large banana for twenty Rupiah then or Roops as the Caucasian tourists or visitors would say.

Now I am much older and am a person of some means, and the people in Jakarta and also the whole of Indonesia could see that.

So I can become a victim of scam.

You don’t have to tell anyone what you have and who you are; they can tell it if you fit in their profile of a potential and easy cheat-victim.

You do not have to flaunt your ‘wealth’ they can see it from a distance, from the way you carry your electronic gadgets and also your dress, even if you still prefer to be like the locals and eat ‘bakso’ and take their public transport.

I did Enjoy Jakarta even if Jokowi does not ask me to do.

He is such a simple man, who has the look of Barack Obama. In January when I was in Aceh, I noticed him on television for the first time.

This time in Jakarta, I realized that he had lost a bit of a weight. He is proud of the fact that he is transparent by also admitting to how much he earns as Governor of Jakarta about 9,000,000 Rupiah or about RM3,000.

But he lives in a large white mansion which is colonial-style in the Menteng District and not too far away from Barack’s school.

Jokowi may be Melayu or Jawa, but he has Chinese features, which indicated that his ancestors could be Chinese.

But he did not want to make that a big deal; he does not care about his ancestry or where his ancestors had come from. To him, he is Indonesian and Jawa or Melayu.

He is like the many Chinese in Indonesia who have Chinese ancestries, but who said they are from another part of Jawa. They did not want to go further back in the history of how their ancestors had come here from South China.

Most of them were boys or men. And they had married local Jawa women. And they had indeed left China for good to become good Indonesians.

They are unlike the Chinese in Malaysia who are might proud of their Chinese ancestry that they also want to bring the Great Wall of China.

They know they are not able to do that, so they settle for creating more and more Chinese schools and speak in Chinese as much as they can and some fractured Melayu when they have to.

Yet, many of them are able to get their driving licenses despite not being able to read or write in Melayu well or at all.

So far the Chinese chauvinist groups and their leaders and their political parties in Malaysia have not tried to relate to their brethren in Indonesia, or for that matter, in Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines and the other countries in the ASEAN region.

They did not want to do that as they know the Chinese there have been so assimilated that they are not interested to relate to the Chinese in Malaysia, ever.

On the flight back the immigration officer wanted some ‘bribe’ money for losing the departure card, which I had put somewhere but not with my passport.

He said if I chose not to pay I could be fined. The amount was pittance, if it is true – 200,000 rupiah or about RM18.

I said I did not wish to pay the fine, and I wanted to be sent to prison. I could get a story worth more than RM18.

The Indonesian immigration officer was shocked. He did not think I was joking. But he let me off passing through his counter, so I was able to wait for my flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

Where in the world where you can get an interesting experience and story for only RM18?

The skies over Sumatera were clear in early June. They were also clear in Jakarta in the middle of June.

But now they are not so clear; they are hazy. 

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