Live and See Indonesian Cities

Submitted by mumunmumun on 25 January 2011   •  Opinion

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As I have traveled a few Indonesian cities, I’ve come to conclude that there are 2 kinds of so-called city or ‘center of the community activities’. We’ll term this centrifugal force as ‘cities’ for the time being.

1.     ‘To See’ city

A city ‘to see’ is a city that is full of venues to visit and enjoy. You would be entertained of the things the city provides. And after you have gone through them, then you can clearly say that you have experienced it. Kinda like an amusement park where you come for all the rides.

From personal experience I’ve had a few of these. Such as, Ubud – Bali that provides everything you need from shops, to restaurants, to boutique hotels, traditional shows and acts, temples with monkeys, and I haven’t even started on the surrounding areas. It is the center where you can get a lot of things and you don’t even have to travel far to be amused.

Another example is Semarang. Semarang has a lot of old historical buildings that is a walk away from each other. It’s a city that also has great food, pleasant transportation (referring the fun loving becak), and of course an alley full of men fighting their cocks, roosters I mean.

Travel Indonesia: Semarang

You can come just to see the roosters

So, you probably already get my drift about this type of city.

2.     ‘To Live’

Now, when I was in Makassar, I realized that there isn’t much to do. There’s lot to eat but you can’t really eat 24/7, right? Also, all the great attractions are out of town. So what is it that makes you experience a city like Makassar?

It’s at this city I realize that there are cities only ‘to live’ in. There aren’t a lot of things you can buy tickets and go see, or performers waiting for your applauses, but that maybe isn’t the point. As I read NomadicMatt’s deleted blog, I realize this was what he was talking about. A town where things are totally the same yet different. People are doing routines and happily living their lives but also feeling that there’s gotta be more to it, day by day like any other city in the world. However, it’s different as in they might be up at 5 am and not 7 am, they might go to traditional markets and not pay at a register, and their coffee has more debris than an antique shop; just different.

It’s when you actually live in a city like this, than you understand what the city is all about. I have this 3 day rule. The rule is when you’ve stayed in one area for 3 days or more, you can feel it growing on you just because you’re so used to the local accent, the smell of each alley, the manner, the air, and the waking up experience for the past 3 days. It grows on you because you’re starting to get used to it. Usually, after 3 days, it seems like I can live in that area forever.

Makassar is one of them. I tried to do what the Lonely Planet suggested, but I realize Lonely Planet was just trying to entertain those that expect more of traveling. I tried to visit the places that were recommended but I’m not sure it would give much purpose especially if you’re a thriller seeking junkie.  It’s beyond Makassar that is said to be a lot more fun. Concured!

Another example is Kupang. As I have passed it over and over again, I am now accustomed to what it’s all about. The people are dark skinned, has white teeth that stand out when they smile, curly hair with most of them straightened, and loud. The city is about a hot coastal city which is mostly dry, with less water than needed, loud bemos roaming the street, laid back, and roaming motorcycles that just has to make a point by making so much noise.

Travel Indonesia: Jakarta

To live amongst the streets and see the remains of riots

As for Jakarta, now that’s a tricky one. Since this city has it all, it has both sides to it. While it has some stuff to see like the Fatahillah complex up north, it’s to live in to really understand the culture of the metropolitan money pumping labor that runs around the city, and how they can ever get by.

In the end, I would like to emphasise that when you come across a boring city, that can not wow you in anyways, just think that maybe it’s not supposed to. Maybe you’re supposed to catch up with your emails and change some of your torn wardrobe, read the book you haven’t finished, blog about your travel before you forget, amongst the foreign activities around you. I think you would see a lot more of the city, Indonesian cities in particular, that you would have imagined. Who knows, you might experience a city to the fullest once you realise you just drank out of a bowl of water served for washing your hands. If that’s not traveling, I don’t know what is!


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