Monday, February 10, 2014

Pilgrimage

I haven't posted anything over the past weeks: I was on a pilgrimage in Indonesia, my first return since 1989, when the nation was still under Suharto's yoke, and I an ESSEC student. 

For my first experience in Asia, I worked as an intern for a French bank in Jakarta. In the evening and on week-ends, I would often bajaj my way across parts of the capital I wouldn't have the opportunity to discover otherwise, and sometimes reach by car into Jawa Barat (Cirebon, Pelabuhan Ratu...). To go to Yogyakarta, I took the old Dutch train that basically never stopped between both cities, the mechanics taking only a few minutes to oil the rusty antique after each 12 hour journey... which left me 24 hours to visit the city, Borobudur, and Prambanan. And to celebrate the end of the intership, I indulged in a week in Bali, with a jeep to explore every hill and village.

This pilgrimage started in Bali and ended in Jakarta, with a big chunk devoted to Jogja. And for the final leg of the trip, I took once more the train from Tugu to Gambir, an 'express' (only 7h18!) that lacked the quaint charm of its green ancestor, but compensated with a much higher level of comfort, and even allowed me to say a brief hello to Cirebon*. From the train windows, rural Jawa looked relatively unchanged, the suburbs significantly extended, and the recent floods still visible.

Of course, Jakarta is dotted with much more high rise buildings than a quarter of century ago, but it didn't change as radically as Seoul over the past decades. This may not last long, with these steady 5%+ GDP growth rates and FDI billions pouring into Indonesia. I already saw a couple of scary round blocks towering over whole neighborhoods, as if some mad urbanist had used a giant round hole punch and left the 50 m thick disc standing out, then built newtownish apartment towers over it.

By the way... hard to escape Korea in 2014 Indonesia. In Yogyakarta city, posters advertize a K-pop festival, and in the countryside, jobs in Busan - here, near a lovely, remote, and warmly welcoming hamlet in Argomulyo district (Kecamatan Cangkringan, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta):

Ad to recruit workers for Busan, in Indonesia countryside near Merapi volcano (wage USD 800 to 2 K)
twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/431403149207674880



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* on my previous trip I passed by Bandung - the French program "Des Trains Pas Comme Les Autres" later (1993) made a focus on that cult line

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