Java by Asienreisender


Iridescent past, shabby present and no future

A Traveller Magazine on Southeast Asia by Asienreisender Asienreisender



"Among all the 18.000 Indonesian islands Java is King", Lonely Planet writes (Lonely Planet Indonesia, 2007). In it's political correctness they don't add, why it is so. After the end of colonial occupation the new, national governments of Southeast Asia continued actually what the Colonialists did. The countries got domestic leaders only; the common peoples exploitation continued. From now on the new states were depending on the world market.

The 'kris', a traditional Malay weapon. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

For Indonesia it means that Java actually continued a kind of colonialism in the own country/state respectively island empire. Java is the center, what it was before under Dutch rule already, and all the other islands are the object of exploitation. That's, in short words, the simple reason for the fact, that Java is by far the most developed island in the Indonesian archipelago. Most of the country's wealth is concentrated on Java, but in the hands of a small and corrupt elite.

Java has a long history of human settlements. The history of civilization is far not as long, but dates back to the 8th century and left a number of traces, just to name a few at the Dieng Plateau, Prambanan and, above all, the great pyramid monument of Borobodur.

Java / Indonesia is one of the really down-to-the-bottom countries in the world. Poverty and social neglect is enormous. The population continues growing, and the poverty with it. There is only a very small middle class. A few people are very rich and - the masses of the people - are very, very poor. They are particulary extremely uneducated and extremely uncultivated.



Being at Java's south coast, there is no land anymore but sea - all the long distance over a quarter of the globe until the antarctis. Java is part of the indo-pacific firecircle. It's the most active part in the world for earthquakes and volcano outbreaks. In fact Java thanks it's very existence to the volcanic activities who brought the land above the sea level.

The Javanese landscapes are mountaineous, minted by 38 high volcanos of which many are active. South of the equator, but close by it, it's a truly tropical island with a lot of rain as well as a lot of sunshine. Together with the very fertile soils created by the volcanos ashes, vegetation is rich, agriculture is productive and outside of the asphalt jungles of the cities there is plenty of green.

Map of Java

Map of Java by Asienreisender

A map of Java island. For an enlarged, 'Interactive Map of Java' click the link.

The volcanos shaped Java's landscapes, and they represent some of the most impressive part's of the country, as Mount Merapi and Mount Bromo do.

Inhabited by 140 million people on a size of 126,000 km2, (about the size of England), Java is the most densly populated island in the world (more than 1,000 people per km2). There is barely a squaremeter left which is not cultivated for agriculture or urbanised by settlements and cities. In the last years there were several projects to settle down Javanese on other islands as Sumatra. It seems, they all failed.

More than 90% of the Javanese are Muslims; 42% of them follow an orthodox Islamic way.

Overpopulation, hunting and industrialization led to the extinct of a great number of species. Among them is the Java Tiger.



A 1000 rupee coin. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Although it's always emphasized, how well the Indonesian economy grows, in my eyes as a traveller above all one thing grows, and that's the slums, followed by poverty, pollution and environmental destruction.

Beneficiaries of the economic growth are just a few people in established networks, particularly around the army, who are already rich or superrich. And, honestly, it doesn't help anybody if these people get even richer and superricher. They have already much more than they need. The superrich make more money in one day than they can spend in a year. But pauperization is growing, and with it the slums. Slums and poverty will have a great future here (as everywhere on earth).

For an introduction into the Indonesian economy click the link.

Many of the villages with a tourist recommendation charge an admission fee [!] for entering the place. So do Pangandaran, Parangtritis, Kaliurang and many others.

Although Java can be seen as still a cheap country to travel (what's getting more and more rare nowadays), it's far no more that cheap as it was in the 1990s. Accommodation is partially quite expensive, and the seemingly cheap things are mostly of a very low quality.



Traffic is not only notorious in Jakarta. Individual motorized traffic is the worst form of traffic organization. It means a huge waste of resources, a great impact for the nature, a severe threat for lifes and health of the people and a great chaos on the roads. When a region as Java is so overpopulated, traffic is collapsing in traffic jams and blocked roads, what means more waste of fuel and time for the people.

Despite the huge poverty in Java most of the vehicles are new. A hint for a credit bubble? Image by Asienreisender, 2012

What I see in Java is a big growth of vehicles in total since the mid-1990s. Even in formerly remoted areas like on the Dieng Plateau there is a lot of traffic including the smallest roads. Additionally many vehicles, mostly busses and trucks emit clouds of black smoke, causing big clouds darkening the whole road sometimes. Besides Javanese drive rather fast and aggressive on the narrow roads.

When there are emergency vehicles like ambulances using their horns and signal-lights, nobody cares and gives space to them.

All these mass vehicles need also space for parking. Cars and motorbikes are everywhere. They are permanent obstacles for pedestrians. Sidewalks are abused for parking. In Yogyakarta I saw sidewalks crammed with motorbikes so dense, that it is even almost impossible to enter or leave the shops behind. And, additionally, although it's a public sidewalk, there are guards who charge the drivers for the parking. I guess, they are 'authorized' by the shop owners to do so. Additionally business for the shops.

In former times Indonesia was an oil exporting country and an OPEC member. Years ago the oil consumption grew and Indonesia inverted into an oil importing country. In the coming years it will need to import gas additionally.


Masses of motorbikes are everywhere. They rush out of the smallest lanes without caring anyhow for the traffic around. Helmets, strange enough in such a chaotic country, are mandatory. At daytime, at least. After sunset the police does not care anymore and the drivers go without. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

In compare to the mid 1990s are many more motorbikes here on the streets, much too many. Twenty years ago there was a great deal of bicyles around; that's a significant change. But that's not an increase in living quality. It's rather an increase in noise pollution, smog, stress and traffic chaos. And accidents. Besides the people can't afford the motorbikes - they get credits from the banks and pay a long, long time money back. Much more than the motorbikes cost them. If they are able to finally pay their debts back. Probably there is a big credit bubble in the background, blown up to the benefit of the car and motorbike industries. It might burst in the future.

Motorbikes are very noisy, smoky and dangerous. Javanese don't drive carefully. Besides, they let the motorbikes run all the time, also when waiting a longer time for friends or whatever, even when they clean the vehicles or fill petrol in the tank. Seems, they feel better when an engine is running around them.


There are a lot of busses available for public transport. On routes on which many people go, the bus connections are very good. One goes to a bus stop or station, enters a bus and soon after it goes out. That saves time - normally waiting for transport consumes a lot of the time of a traveller, and it's no pleasure to hang out for longer at the dirty and noisy bus stations. Particularly when a long trip is following. But, that's not always and everywhere so.

Inside a Javanese bus. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

If the busses stop at a station, food sellers enter the bus and sell snacks. Most of it is of bad quality. There are also guitar players, sometimes together with drummers, entering the bus, playing a piece and asking for money. Begging of all kind is common.

When the bus stops at a bus stop or station, the engine remains running. Even when there is a 30-minutes break for food, the engine will be kept running all the time.

In the 1990s I saw frequently busses stopped by the police. The bus guard then went out and had a small talk to the policemen. Finally they shook hands and with this gesture the guard handed the policemen a bundle of banknotes. To prevent them of making trouble. I don't see that anymore. But, that does not mean, that corruption in general decreased - not at all. Only methods have changed with the time.

If a passenger does not know the bus fare, the bus conductor, who is collecting the fares, makes him a higher price, sometimes four, five times of the common one. That's frequently so. It's therefore helpful to be informed before entering a vehicle. That's not so easy, because it's like with anything, if people here are asked a question they would tell one whatever just to be 'polite' and not to 'lose face' by showing that they don't know the answer. Therefore it requires asking several people. Also officials give frequently wrong informations out. Besides, if one has no matching money, it's sometimes not easy to get the change back...
I personally inform generally about the fare price before entering a bus. When the driver or the guard then want me to pay I ask them again, how much it would be. Almost always they ask for too much. When I give them then the usual price without any further comment, they just accept it. They never seem to be embarrassed. They have no sense for that. Cheating and lying is an accepted and normal behaviour of all-day-live.
Another experience was at a busstop in Yogyakarta, where I asked a newspaper salesman for the price. Instead of giving me the correct information (of 10,000 Rupees) he said: "15,000". When the bus arrived he went to the bus driver, told him that and got a commission of 2,000 Rupees for that. They didn't care that I was watching the event. Eventually I paid the real price; the driver first asked for 15,000, but after I shook my head he accepted the 10,000.

Not seldom there are mosquitoes in the busses.

A guitar player and singer who entered the bus at a small bus stop, entertaining the passengers and collecting money. That happens on any bus trip several times. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

And a lot of weired things are going on on the streets on Java.
An observation I did on a bus trip in Yogyakarta was a bus guard leaving the bus at a redlight in the rain to wash the windscreen - with his bar hands and a little peace of soap, using the rain water. After finishing there was no clearing - the rain washed the windscreen clear. No trace of working windscreen wipers. On the left side nothing, on the right side a cripple of a wiper. When the driver somewhat later used it, it was rumbling in an asthmatic way over the screen and showed no cleaning effect at all. The only effect was that it left dirty, brownish stripes on the just before cleaned window.

Another impression on the same bus trip was a young women who performed a dance show in front of waiting vehicles at a redlight. Afterwards she went around collecting donations. A few days before I saw a young boy waiting at a redlight. When vehicles queued there he went around and cleaned (rather symbolically) a few vehicles with a flannel. Some people gave him a small donation for it. Here and there are people making music on the streets and collecting small money for it.

There has been a bad change with the bus stations in Southeast Asia. In the past the bus stations were all in the middle of a town or city. The contemporary bus stations are usually far outside of the destinated city. It's sometimes another ten, twelve kilometers to the city center from there. That means the traveller needs additional transport, spents more money for that and has to change the vehicle with his baggage and losing unnecessarily time. My explanation for that is that the public transport system is systematically made unattractive. It's a political decision. People shall be pushed to buy cars, what's much better for the economic growth. Besides, the outside bus stations bring some extra jobs for taxi drivers.

Though, here on Java it's not that bad. The bus stations are outside, but there is at least a microbus system transporting people around the city, and it's even not expensive (though, also here the drivers try to overcharge a foreigner sometimes by a multiple of the price). Also the waiting time is short or there is none, because the micros go all the time. Except in the evening, when one needs them most they might don't go anymore.
On the other hand the busses waste sometimes a lot of time by being very slowly or stopping frequently in expectation of collecting more passengers on the way.

The usual bus station is a peculiar place. There are guys hanging out, many of them are becak drivers. They all tell one weird stories about difficulties and that there is no such bus one is looking for, but you can go with them on the becak of course. The bus drivers around all tell contradictive stories. Barely there is somebody official or an information point where one could get 'reliable' (what for a strange word in Indonesia) information.
Then, suddenly, there is somebody more trustworthy looking, who tells one that there is a bus - but in one hour. Well, one thinks, then there is time for lunch now. Just received the food, suddenly the bus appears and one has barely time to pay and to catch the rotten bus. Next, the driver wastes a lot of time by collecting other passengers and waiting a great deal of time here and there. Nothing is really organized and the 'informations' which locals give are just interest-based or they tell one what they think one wants to hear.

There is normally no 'authorized' information at the bus stations. Sometimes (e.g. Surabaya) there is an information office, but it's closed. Sometimes (Magalan) there is an information, but the uniformed officer (always with a cigarette in his hand) is not able to give information. There are no schedules. There is no overview over the transport system given in a map or whatever. As a newcomer in a Javanese city one has great difficulties to orientate about transport. Normally there is no information at all, but bunches of touts around the arriving traveller, keen on making business for a phantasy price. Most people go the easy way then and take a taxi.

'Peak season' for domestic travelling on Java is from June to September [!]. Indonesians travel usually in big groups. That makes not only accommodations booked out and, if still available, (much) more expensive, but also fills the transport system with masses of people. Travelling by train requires a booking of at least a week beforehand.


The trains are not so bad on Java. Therefore there are several restrictions for travelling on the train. I made the experience, that there are the same fares for trains, doesn't matter how far one goes. The train from Bandung to Yogyakarta (some hundred kilometers) costs the same fare as to the next train station (maybe 20 kilometers away). That makes trains on shorter distances very expensive.

I mentioned already that trains are often booked out long before. That's so in the long peak seasons as on weekends, holidays, ramadan et cetera.

Then the railway stations are crammed with people, and there are queues at the ticket offices.

The train stations are fenced and heavily guarded. There are uniformed gunmen around who check everybody who want's to enter the platforms. One comes in there only with a valid train ticket.


Walking in developing countries is nowadays, in the time of mass motorized traffic, a real punishment. Pedestrians are considered 'remaining traffic' for the city planners. They don't bring tax money to the government and no profit for the car and oil industries (what again is part of the crucial military-industrial complex). So, the most natural kind of moving is getting punished. There are not everywhere sidewalks, and if, they are not for walking but for parking and any thinkable purpose to deposit crap of all kinds on them. Vehicles take all the space on the roads and the sidewalks - they leave not a squarecentimeter for the walker - they take it all. A walk means the permanent surrounding of all the obstacles on the way. Many times one has to dodge on the street, where is massive traffic going on. That's dangerous and strenuous. The sporting driving style on Java does not increase the situation. Vehicles pass by closely all the time.

Bad enough that there are so many cars and that the drivers are so rude; in the past the cars were also smaller; nowadays they are so big and high, that it's no more possible to look over them to check the traffic behind. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Crossing a bigger road is a really risky enterprise. Normally there is non-stop-traffic, waiting does barely increase chances to come over a road. There is no redlight, zebra crossings are meaningless. There might be five or six lanes, all are filled with cars, trucks, busses and, above all, masses of motorbikes. Because of the masses of vehicles it's very difficult to estimate their different speeds and chances to come across. Particularly motorbikes sometimes accelerate quickly and approach much faster than first estimated. They appear sometimes in dozens, and they don't like to use their brakes (rather their horns). Sometimes the drivers don't look ahead but to the side or elsewere, or they are distracted by the use of a mobile phone. Sometimes they come from the wrong side.

Also many cars and other vehicles are so tall that one can not see over them, stealing one necessary orientation. Passing such a vehicle means not foreseeing that maybe a motorbike is coming next around. If one does not carefully checks that before continuing it might lead to a heavy accident. Though, the drivers additionally set unnecessary pressure on the pedestrians by going on in high speed and threatening them.

Motorbikes come unexpectedly out of the smallest lanes and appear frequently unexpected from between bigger vehicles.

Walking on the roads in such big cities is a bit like moving in enemy territory. You might get killed or injured in friendly or enemy fire, being a collateral damage for the sake of the car industries.

One reason for the dramatic increase of traffic on Java is that the banks recently gave out cheap credits for the masses with the purpose of buying a new car or a new motorbike. It's really a contrast that despite to the crying poverty around most vehicles look pretty new, if not brandnew.


The time of the bicycles is over. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

In the mid-1990s there were masses of people here riding bicycles. Nowadays I don't see any bicycles here anymore. All the masses of people ride motorbikes nowadays. That causes a huge traffic problem, an enourmous noise pollution (masses of young men even sew holes in the exhaustion pipe to make their motorbikes louder and drive them in a way to get out a maximum of noise), and much more air pollution than in the past. The bicycle is literally extinct. Motorbikes and also cars are sold on the base of certain credits from the banking system to feed the industries and the notorious economic growth.

Everywhere in Java's cities are 'becaks' around - that's bicycle rikshaws. That's very old, rotten vehicles, in which the passenger is sitting in a very much leaned back position. This position Asian's appreciate much. The price is negotiable and, as not otherwise to expect, the drivers start high. Bargaining them down is not easy. In many cases, when dealing with a foreigner, they refuse to go for a usual price; they rather don't go at all. Another disadvantage of the becac's is that the vehicles are open, therefore exposed to the city smog and they are most vulnerable in case of a crash.

Becak drivers, waiting in front of a hotel in Yogyakarta, in hope to get a customer. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

The always repeating bargaining is (for me at least) no real fun and takes (better: wastes) time. And it seems relatively expensive. For 10,000 Rupees, a fare one drives the 70 kilometers between Solo and Yogyakarta on the bus, a becak driver goes a kilometer. Above all, the drivers are so puffy that they don't appeal much to ones sympathy.

By the way, these becak drivers not seldom offer obscene invitations to the next brothel (where they get commissions then).

Hitch Hiking... very difficult in Java. One must be really lucky to get a lift. Normally sometimes somebody stops and if he wants a huge amount of money. On the other hand I had it three times that, when I was walking, that vehicles stopped without a sign of me and took me without asking for money.

In one case a man offered me a short lift on his motorbike and emphasized he wouldn't want any money. He brought me to a nearby hotel and at arrival he asked me if I could give him some European coins. He would be a collector. I explained him that I wouldn't travel with foreign coins, because they were useless abroad and no bank would change them. Then he told me that paper money would do it as well.

A neighbourhood petrol station in Yogyakarta. The petrol is stored in the one-liter Coca-Cola bottles in the shelf. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Also he denied to me getting a commission from the hotel (he got 5,000 Rupees for bringing me as the receptionist later confirmed). Then he wanted to make a deal with me for next day, to bring me to my planned destination. It wasn't easy to get rid of him, this evening.



"If a well-to-do, stand-up ethical person
would be thrown into a poor city with nothing,
deprived of all his resources,
there is a high probability
that this person would start to lie,
to cheat and to steal, just in order to survive."

Zeitgeist Orientation Guide

As mentioned in other parts of this website, people are different and it's difficult to describe a population as a whole. There are reasonable and intelligent people on Java, no doubt. There are moderate and kind people, who have good manners. It's only, that they are pretty rare here. A thoroughly rotten mentality of dishonesty and fraud is predominant here.

One can read much about Java and Indonesia to prepare for a journey. One of these books about foreign cultures is in the 'culture shock' series. 'Culture Shock Indonesia'. Though, the real shock here is the complete absence of culture. Just while I write this sitting in a restaurant there is a man behind me noisily burping and chumping. Not for a moment - for long. Such and many other much more weird observations suffers the traveller every day manyfold in Java.

Welcome to Indonesia! Extreme poverty in the shadow of the modern scyscrapers of Jakarta, where a great number of the global players have their branches. Generations of poverty degenerated a whole population and deprives them of any lifeworthy future. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Generally, that's here as it is mostly everywhere, people in the countryside are much more friendly and relaxter than people in the urban centers. In Java there is not much countryside left. It's said, Java would be the most overpopulated island in the world. The cities are big, and towns and villages stretch everywhere over the countryside, interrupted by rice paddies and impassable mountains. Almost all what is not urbanized is cultivated until high up into the mountains. That comes together with a high traffic level even on remoter areas.


The vast majority of people here is very low in behaviour. Touts scream their 'mister' here, 'mister' there, 'mister' everywhere. But in a ridiculous way, nothing serious in it, not seldom at the brink of impudence or a step further. Many people stare permanently to a Western traveller. Drivers try all the time to make business and at the beaches of e.g. Pangandaran or Cilacap many guys permanently want to sell a boat trip. "MISTER! -- MISTER! -- BOAT!", from the distance of 30, 40, 50 meters. Not a perfect starter for a sales talk.

The touts at the bus stations might even follow a tourist to the toilet, where one hears them in the background shouting: "Mister, mister!".

When you are in an elevator and after the door opens you want to leave it, the people waiting outside don't give you any time or space to do so. They immediately enter the lift.

When eating, people leave more or less food remains on the table. When the waiter later wipes the table clean he might do it so hefty that people sitting on neighbouring tables might get their share on their trousers. If the waiter realizes that, what he normally wouldn't, then he is laughing about it. Javanese humour.

The kind of approach to a foreigner is generally distanceless. I am asked about 50 times a day by bypassers without any introduction where I were from. Sometimes they are anywhere behind me and I don't even see them. They anyway don't care for eye-contact, when asking their stereotype questions.
Almost every man who sees me is asking me the always repeating same question: 'Where are you from?' In the background are normally others who laugh then (about what are they laughing, actually?).

That's not to mix up with another question, the 'Where are you going?' (Mau ke mana?). That's annoying many foreigners, but it's just an Indonesian equivalent of 'How are you'; nobody would tell the asker then how he really feels and what happend today and so on; that's the same with the 'Where are you going?'. One can just reply 'Having a stroll' (Jalan jalan) or whatever. Though, not seldom it's meant as a starter for a sales talk. And, in many cases, it's another clumsy approach and does not at all fit to the situation.

The Javanese have also the tendency to behave in an authoritarian, commanding way. Where to sit in a restaurant, to queue properly in a line or to do whatever they think is a 'must' to do. The only thing they might learn in school is marching and singing patriotic songs, lifting flags and celebrating rituals. Everything what has to do with the military is adored. Nationalism is strong.

Noise Pollution

Asian's are notorious noise-makers. They say, they like music, but in fact they like it only noisy. It does not make a difference for the most people here if they run their crappy, noisy music at the highest possible volume with the maximum of basses or a standig car or motorbike. They can not stand silence.

Big noise is always great, silence is scary. Karaoke is the right fun for everybody, not only for ongoing pop- and moviestars. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Even if they clean their motorbikes or are waiting for anything for long they let them run. It's all they have - they live mentally empty lives, noise helps them to 'fill' the inner emptiness.

A few guys around might have a loud talk together for some 30, 40 minutes. If they are eventually gone on their noisy motorbikes, a loudspeaker announcement from the next mosque might start. This guy might talk very noisy for another 40 minutes in an aggressive, impertinent style. Followed then by heavy noises coming from any machinery out of the neighbourhood or a nearby building site. That's all socially accepted all-day-life. Nobody disagrees with the heavy noise pollution or would offend the noise-makers.

Lying and Cheating

A great deal of people here lie and try to cheat all the time, in any restaurant, at any booth were one wants to buy a bottle of water or on the busses. If they see a Westerner and are asked for a price, one can see the mosquito brain runnig hot while thinking over how much they could demand in maximum without making the victim declining the deal and leaving. When paying anything at many occasions they try to peculate the change.
When I am paying anything, all the people around me get really long necks and try to get a deep glance into my wallet. Meanwhile I use to hold it in a way that they can not.

Even in such internet guides as are the prices given too high. The authors of the articles were deceived as well. There are certain prices, the difficulty is to find them out, for they are not displayed in public.
Fraud also happens in supermarkets, where the prices at the goods are not according to the prices given at the cash desk. And, in my observation, it's always to the disadvantage of the customer. Sometimes are prices given which don't exist. A price of 7,310 Rupuees can not be payed, because there is no smaller unit than 100 Rupees. The customer pays then 7,400 Rupees. Or 8,000, one can not be sure about it - nothing is reliable.

Poverty is huge, many people are homeless. Here somebody is resting in front of the Bank of Indonesia, Yogyakarta. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

The mass of the Javanese people has been exploited since a long time. In the 350 years of Dutch rule much of the country's wealth was taken away, and since the independence it didn't change much. Now it's the world market on wich the Javanese elities are playing together with the international companies, the 'global players'. They grow rich and superrich. For the mass of the people remains nothing. Seen it so, the cheating and lying of the Javanese is just the trial to take a very little back of all the wealth what is stolen from them. The difference is, that cheating and lying in a direct, interpersonal relationship appears obviously as a nasty trait, while business based on law is generally accepted (though, after all, much more desastrous).


The widely known traveller website '' gives advice (in the Borobudur section) to be friendly to the local people, although they were so pushy. A smile and a simple 'no' would do it. Unfortunately it's not so. They don't let go. You can tell them three times, five times, thirteen times you wouldn't buy anything, they don't stop annoying. After you got finally rid of one of them, the seller next door, who watched it all, starts it all again from the scratch. And then the next one. That can be very unnerving.

Javanese's business behaviour is really peculiar. They don't seem to realize that they have no chance of making a business when it's denied by the expected customer. They don't realize or accept limits. They stubbornly and repeatedly try it again and again, against all odds. They seem not to learn. There is something retarded about that psychology. However, in modern western vulgar psychology it would probably still being labelled as 'positive thinking'.

Masses of drivers are everywhere and permanently trying to make one their customer. A usual approach without any introduction is: "Okay! 50,000!" They simulate in the opening an agreement, although there is not even an eye-contact established. Sometimes it comes from behind. They have not the slightest sense for a proper approach.

Sometimes, when I completely ignore the salesguys, after addressing me four, five times they start to whistle and, when that doesn't help either, they drum with a stick on something.

The puffery is for me sometimes so repulsive, that I even don't enter a restaurant although I was first actually willing to have food there.

It's also impossible to have a calm look for anything in a shop. Immediately there is a tout on one and start's to push one to buy anything.

I tried over years a lot of different behaviours to deal with that. My best experiences in such extreme cases are to completely ignore them. I act, as they weren't there. That saves me a great deal of energy and doesn't cause a single problem.
If one is friendly to these salesmen or drivers he rather encourages them in being more surreptitious.

By the way, my experience is that people who behave so bad cheat each other also all the time if they anyhow can. It's nothing particular against foreigners. They are so. It's their 'culture', if you want so. Or what's left of it. Degenerated masses of poor people. Depressing to see that. Populations sink very low in long-term poverty and hopelessness. It's even worse in India.

Trouble Makers

Young Javanese, in a group as mostly. Noisy, uncultivated, not seldom impudent, non-stop smoking, driving dangerously and knowing no limits of whatever they do. They make it really difficult for a foreigner to like them. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

The significant problem group here are male between six and seventy years old. The very most of them are completely uncultivated and uneducated. Women therefore are very much under control of men, particularly when they are Muslims. Must be quite a privilege to be guided by such gentlemen through the whole life. An overwhelming number of women, defenitely the majority, is wearing a kerchief (hidchab) nowadays. That's a change from the mid-1990s, when this number was much smaller, a minority. It's particularly a pity for the children to grow up in such a degenerated society, which can not offer them any positive future. Children are often abused to beg for their parents. Young boys can become troublesome when begging and not knowing any limit. They receive no education, develop no personalities and become anomic.


Mosques are everywhere and dominate the neighbourhoods. You get their message, like it or not. Here a small mosque in the countryside. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

There are five religions accepted by the Indonesian state. It's Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Buddhism. Being not a member of one of these churches is considered as a criminal act under the Indonesian constitution [!]. Atheists for example are considered as criminals and there are examples for that atheists are persecuted by the state. Born Muslims, who want to leave their religion, face serious consequences. There is a recent example of a young Muslim man who was heavily sued merely for confessing on facebook being an atheist. During the trial there was an angry mob outside the court demanding a death sentence for him.

By the way, there are some interreligious marriages. It's not often the case, but it's possible for Muslims and Christians to marry without that one part has to convert his religion.

Burning rubish in the garden: A sofa and other old furniture. Nobody was watching the fire. I wondered, if the shack would start burning. Image by Asienreisender, 2012


Everywhere around is litter. Many people literally throw their rubbish out of their house' windows. That's particularly so in the countryside and the slums of the cities. Directly around the houses piles all kind of rubbish up - plastic and organic stuff. Part of it attracts mosquitoes, flies and other vermins and animals. Frequently I see people of all ages and social status dropping litter wherever they are without the slightest concern.

Treating Animals

On the pet market in Surabaya: two young macaques for sale. In the background, it's said, one can buy any animal available, doesn't matter if highly protected or not. It's just a question of the price. Orangutans, Slow Lorises... whatever. Animal hunters go into the National Parks and catch animals for sale, also on order. Jakarta is home of the biggest pet market in Southeast Asia. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Watching Javanese (Indonesians in general) treating animals is disgusting. They have no sense for other beings at all. They transport cages full of birds and turn them upside down to squeeze the cage into a bus, they chop living fish with knifes, they torture and kill without conscience. They rather respect dead things like cars, their bloody motorbikes, TV's, mobile phones, music devices than living beings. Many times I see birds hanging in cages in front of houses in the bar sun all over the day. If I ask them why they are doing that, they tell me they would love birds.
On the way down from the Mount Merbabu peak I saw a young monkey, a macaque child chained at a garden fence. The holders made him a ring through his testicle to fix the chain in there.


Generally there is a very high rate of retarded people in Java. Social deprivation is a huge and, as it seems, a growing problem. In Purwokerto I saw an about 25 years old man walking on the road. Completely naked. Many people talk to me, many of them approach in a really weird way. If I try to communicate with them, it comes out that they are not able to. Younger people giggle and laugh at many occations when they see me. They must be under great social pressure or completely unable to come along with such a for them unusual situation to use such a ludicrous bad habit as a valve.
In a bus in Solo I saw a man (about 40 years old) picking in his nose and smudging it on the seat in front of him. He took his time to clean his nose.
In Probolinggo I saw an older man on the roadside, throwing a pair of trousers and a shirt on the street and watching the cars and trucks driving over it. Then he threw an old can and some stones on the road. When I passed by he first begged me for some money, then he waved me through like a policeman.

When I am in a shop and I have a look for bottled water, then there are the people staring at me and there is for sure somebody telling me that it is water what I am going to buy. When I am on the street and I watch a cat, somebody, who is all the time staring at me, tells me that this is a cat. When I take a cup of tea somebody who is staring at me is telling me that this is tea. When I have a look at a picture on the wall, it's the same thing - no word about what is on the picture. When I have a look for anything, anybody who is staring at me tells me, what it is. It seems sometimes, they consider me as a stupid animal - might that be a reflection of what they are?!
Also many people have the bad habit to ape me. When I am for instance ordering something in a restaurant, there is a big chance that anybody will ape my ordering. Other guys are laughing then about that. That occurs in many all-day-situations.
Sometimes, when I order something in a restaurant and another guest, who is just sitting around, didn't understand my order, he askes the waiter what I ordered. Then the two might talk that over. Sometimes the waiter might forget me about that. It's real comedy here.

Asking a Javanese for anythink makes him normally hesitating, then requesting at anybody else around. He needs to be reassured. Only then he gives an answer - if he gives any.

In the shops are many young people employed as salespersons. They have not the faintest clue what they are selling and are unable to give the simplest information about it. When a foreigner appears, they completely don't know how to behave. They start giggling and laughing and uttering comments about the foreigner among each other without addressing the foreigner. They laugh and laugh and laugh, doesn't matter, how one behaves. That might be amusing at the first times, but in long-term it's certainly not. They haven't learned anything and they lack any manners, not only in such (for them strange) situations.
If I need anything (information or a merchandise from the shop) I normally won't get it in such a situation. The youngsters are just not able to react reasonable anymore. Out of order.

Another experience is, let's say at a hotel reception, when asking for a bus connection and the staff doesn't know the answer, they just completely ignore the traveller. They do anything else and one is suddenly just air for them. You can ask them again then, but there won't be any response anymore. They don't know, how to behave anyhow properly. They never learned that. To avoid a 'lost face', they act ignorant.

Also remarkable is the observation, that many younger men here have a really shrill kind of laughing. It comes in a high voice and sounds really mad. A bit like a noise uttered in despair. These comes from youngsters who listen to somebody else with a higher social status and might express agreement. I have heared people uttering these shrill laughters for two, three hours repeatedly again and again, when being in conversation.

There is no joke too stupid in Indonesia not to be made and laughed about in the shrillest tones.

Together with the high rate of mentally retarded in Java comes also a high rate of physically handicaped people. I see several daily.


Women are fairly banned from public life in very contrast to the most of the Indochinese countries. They are much more out of business, decision making and anything what comes together with public appearance. Many wear kerchiefs and are kept in the households, in the background. It's a Muslim country. Men do most of the jobs here. That might be another reason, why the general standards here are so low. The verymost men here seem to be good for nothing.

Women on a freshmarket. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Women depend very much on men here. All the basic decisions of their lives are made by men, either their fathers or later their husbands. Also whom to marry is for the most not a free decision. They have, apart from unemployment and a lack of qualifications, no freedom of choosing a job.

Women are of course not 'better' than men. They are in the background, men are in the foreground; that makes male misbehaviour much more displayed than female's. Women spit their poison in gossip and intrigues. They have a more subtle influence. Sometimes they appear as dirty as the men do, when cheating and lying and misbehaving as well. Also they have the tendency to unload their frustrations on their children, what can be a heavy burden for those.


Funny thing here in Indonesia: the Indonesians pronounce the 'r' sometimes in a way as it could be described as 'rolling it in their throats'. When speaking Indonesian and not 'rolling' the 'r' enough, it's sometimes not well understandable to them. This 'rolling' is funny because in the whole of Indochina it's completely unknown. There the people have rather problems pronouncing even the English soft 'r' but, instead, pronouncing it as 'l'.

Another remarkable observation here in Indonesia is the Indonesian's passion for chess. Many people are seen playing chess here in restaurants or on the street. They also play an interesting style what is, of course, very different from the classic way one learns e.g. in a western chess club. It's really thrilling to play a game with a local here and there.

Indonesians have the strong tendency to tell one what they think one want's to hear. If you ask them for the way, they give a pleasant answere, even if they have not the faintest clue. If not that, they tell one what they want is true. That has mostly to do with monetary ambitions.

Despite long-term travelling in Indonesia (a year in total) and having contact to Indonesians also in Europe I have to say, that I never got a good idea or an fascinating thought from an Indonesian. It's all banalities, superstition and consumerism. In the middle-class it's additionally about making a career and again about money-making.

When Asian people in general rise from a poor or simple background up to middle-class, they skip any cultural development or education. They immediately become decadent consumer idiots, without developing any deeper understanding or interest of their history, environment or society. Just escaped starvation, they are first longing for a big car, followed by TV's and all the other consumer accessoires of a western middle-class lifestyle. They show no or little depth and no interest in a deeper understanding of life.


In the 20th century there were strong secularly movements like liberalism and socialism; religion lost influence over people in Indonesia.
After the coup de etat of General Suharto against the Sukarno government 1965 many leftists were persecuted or killed (at least 500,000 killed, many imprisoned in camps for years). The coup was supported by western powers, particularly the USA. The Suharto dictatorship tried hard to exterminate all leftist ideas and to consolidate total power for himself and his cronies in congruence with the manipulators in Washington. Suharto was one of the 'white dictators', growing personally rich (with his family and a certain circle around), supporting western interests.

'In a Javanese Restaurant' by Asienreisender

In a restaurant in Yogyakarta. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Since the 1980s the neoliberal revolution made it step by step around the globe. The extremest kind of capitalism. Living conditions of the masses decrease since then. That is very apparent here in Indonesia. Also the system change from the Suharto dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy had no or only few positive results for the masses of the people. Corruption, environmental destruction, poverty and social injustice seem even worse now than they have been before in the ruthless, bloody dictatorship.

As a reaction to this restrictive modernisation religion is on the rise in Indonesia. Religion gives the people somewhat to believe, strength, an imagined explanation of life, an identity, a seeming meaning, and comforts them in their misery.
The message is: If you suffer a great deal in this life, be ensured, next life will be much better - so far you strictly believe and follow the sacred rules. This life is just a transformation to the next life. That keeps people calm and willing to stand all the annoyances and injustices they have to tolerate all over their miserable lives long. It keeps them dull and abusable for the interests of the people behind the scene and profit from all the fraud. It keeps the rich safe from unrest and uprises. Most of the times, at least.
Organised religion is always allied with the state. They work together to keep the people silly and poor.

Both, the neoliberal revolution and the reemerging religion come unavoidably together with a sharp decline of intelligence.

Since the capabilities of planning and organizing and the technical and artisan skills of contemporary Javanese are so low, I doubt that they could perform such kind of a 'world wonder' as the Borobodur monument or as the great temple complex of Prambanan nowadays. Contemporary Javanese society is far behind it's cultural level of the medieval age around 1,200 years ago.

I don't see that Indonesians have any vision or concept for their future. No idea about improving the country and the living conditions of the people. It's all just about money, business, fun for the moment, no long-term, not even mid-term thinking.

Since I don't believe in Indonesia's economy for it is absolutely not sustainable, I could imagine that the country will face bad times soon. The Javanese society is a society with an iridescent past, a poor present and without a future.


Many children who see me say only one single word to me: "Money!". The sweetest word ever. They are taught begging by their parents or by peers; the peers then are taught by their parents.


Before deciding travelling Indonesia one should really consider what to do here. When coming for a certain purpose it can be worth the journey. But, since the people here are so low, one has to be aware of all the annoyances coming with that. If one want's to spent time in a tropical country with culture, a phantastic nature and nice people with good manners and respect for others, it's defenitely more recommendable to go to Thailand.



If you are a smoker in Indonesia, you are very happy - you don't need to smoke your own cigarettes anymore. The men here smoke so much, that there is an abundance of smoke everywhere. You always get your share.

Ashtray by Asienreisender

The most important piece of furniture in Java is the ashtray. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

When sitting in a restaurant it normally does not last long until a Javanese man with the unavoidable cigarette is taking seat near you and tries to start a silly small-talk. The best method to get rid of him is to ignore him completely. They find that very irritating and disappear after a while. Explaining them anything about the disadvantages of smoking is futile.

It seems that almost every male is a smoker here. Indonesia is the last country in Southeast Asia, in which smoking is so common. There is a certain kind of carnation cigarette popular in Indonesia which smells peculiar and strong. The tobacco is densly plugged, so that the cigarettes last much longer than the western brands. Smoking is almost nowhere prohibited, so they smoke in the busses, in the hotels, on the motorbikes, in the elevators, in the toilets, in short: non-stop smoking everywhere around. If smoking is anywhere exceptionally forbidden, they don't care. The more talented guys here do smoke and eat at the same time.

Nowadays it's not allowed to smoke on the trains. But, it wouldn't be Indonesia if the guys accepted it. They just keep smoking.

Women don't smoke. At least far not as many and not in public. It's socially not accepted.

Visiting Indonesia as a tourist one has to consider the heavy smoking all around as an additional health risk while travelling here.



That's a short chapter. I don't see any education here in Java. I see entertainment all around the clock, but no education. The schools and the teachers fail totally. I wonder, what the Javanese learn in their religious schools and in the mosques...



Having a glance for most of the toilets on Java makes that you don't need it anymore. At any public toilet are one, two, three guys hanging out and cashing the customer.

A glance into the most kitchens is not much better. An old traveller rule is that the hygiene of toilets and kitchens in a place are corresponding with each other. Some Javanese themselves have provisos against much of the food here. It's for example a good idea not to eat meat. Particularly when the meat is hanging the whole day open on a hook in the heat with all the flies, street dirt and dust on it.
One can not expect clean glasses, cups, dishes, cutlery.

Handwashing is not common in Indonesia. Many of the public toilets, although usage always cost money, are not equipped with a possibility to wash hands. Generally very few places are equipped with soap.
I have seen official posters in schools with kind of manuals of how to wash hands properly. And recommendations to brush teeths and how to do that. That's not a common standard.

These sweet little fellows appear often in great numbers near restaurants where food remains are thrown. Nobody cares... Image by Asienreisender, 2012

The habbit to throw any rubbish just around, also around the houses in the villages and cities, attracts insects and rats and certainly does not maintain a healthy environment.

In supermarkets there is sometimes a very bad smell. That comes, of course, when there is no care taken with food cleanliness. If in a supermarket durian fruits are sold, it makes also a very bad smell. Well, Indonesians generally love it. In this case it does not necessarily mean a lack of hygiene. It's a matter of taste.

The traditional Indonesian bathroom has no shower. Instead there is a 'mandi', what is a tiled pool filled with water. With a dipper one takes water out and pours it over the body.

In the cities are a lot of rats, living a shadow life as culture followers, feeding from human litter. Sometimes one can see many of them around dustbins. In Surabaya a rat was passing under my chair while I was eating in an outdoor restaurant. Seemed very used to humans.



Indonesia is one of the most corrupted countries in the world and, according to transparency international, the most corrupted country in Southeast Asia. Corruption is rampant. Even the pupils learn in school that it is necessary to bribe their teachers to get good marks. School for life.

Everybody who has any power about anything uses it to make extra money out of it. That's particularly so with officials. As higher their rank, as more trouble they can cause and as more bribes they can demand not to. That does not only mean that companies and small business people have to pay money to bribe authorities, but at the end it comes down to the consumer prices. Bribes are at the end business costs. So, the consumer pays the bribes after all, if he realizes it or not. And the bribes are so expensive that it drives the prices considerably up, so that even Indonesian companies suffer from it, because despite to the slavelike wages for labour in Indonesia the Indonesian export goods become too expensive to cope on the world market with products from other cheap producing countries.

There is much talking here about corruption; it appears in TV, the papers, on posters in the public. The last Indonesian president Yudhoyono started a campaign against corruption, promising the public a lot of improvement. The results after years was about zero. It's just idle talking, to give the people the imagination something would be done. Corruption is undefeatable.

Eric Ambler gives a lively example of government corruption in his novel 'The Night-Comers'. You find an excerpt of the passage here.

And even the money bills, where money is concidered the most important thing ever, are merely dirty snippets of low quality. Passing everybodys unwashed hands, money bills function as desease transmitters.



Wildlife is really poor in nowadays Java. Although the formerly magnificient island was inhabited by the richest fauna and flora on earth just a few decades ago, most of the species are extinct and others are on the red list of endangered species. The exploitation of nature is huge here and among the worst in the world. Indonesia has reached in 2014 a deforestation rate double as high as that of Brasil.



There is a really good point in Java as on any Muslim country: there are very few dogs. That's a boon not to be barked at at every corner by a dog of which one never really knows if he might be bad. Man's best friend causes a lot of trouble.



Javanese normally don't use forks and knifes. They eat with their hands. Easy going. With their right hands. The left one is the toilet hand. If they use cutlery, than it's a fork in their left and a large spoon in their right hand. They shovel the food with the fork onto the spoon and eat from it.

Since cleanliness is not a favour here, it's smart to avoid particularly meat. A great replacement for that is 'tahu', soy products who are available in great variety in most restaurants. Together with some vegetables and rice it makes always a good dish.

An all-day scene in a street restaurant in Java. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Drinks come mostly with a 'footbath', part of it on the saucer. If there is a saucer. If not, part of the drink ends up on the floor.
One sees Javanese sometimes pouring hot coffee or tea from the cup onto the saucer and drinking from it. It's faster cooling on the saucer.

Sometimes I find little stones in my rice when chewing the food. They crush then with a very loud noise in the head and for a moment I don't know what is broken now - the stone or my teeth.

Overweight is a problem in contemporary Java. Although food is quite expensive, a lot of people weight (much) to much. Too much food and particularly too much fat and oil is eaten... The Javanese have also no consciousness for a healthy life.

There is one thing really to praise on Indonesia. This is a country where one get's tea in every restaurant. That's defenitely an advantage compared to Indochinese countries where tea is generally absent

The cakes here are generally, as everywhere in Southeast Asia, much lower in quality than they are in Europe.



Although the majority of people in Java are Muslims for whom alcohol is strictly forbidden, drinking is widely common. But not in public - they keep the shine. Officially alcoholic beverages are highly taxed; a bottle of beer here costs in the supermarket almost as much as in Europe in a pub. But there is a black market for rice whiskey, where selfmade alcohol is sold. It's comparable with the stuff which the simple people drink in Thailand and Laos (lao lao).

I didn't hear much about other drugs in Java. Marijuana from Banda Aceh is used by some youngsters as I heared. I have no information about amphetamines, who are so common in Thailand. Laws are very strict here, and probably social control is as well. I personally have never been offered drugs here.



A look inside of one of the bombasic shopping malls. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

What I see here in the warehouses is mostly textiles of all kind, fashion, shoes, handbags and so on. Mobile phones and and a lot of mobile phone equipment is very popular. As in all of the modern shopping centers there are also a few restaurants. Verymost of the merchandise is very low in quality, not to speak about the taste behind. Juwellery is also frequently sold.

When paying a price and one gets a change back including some hundreds of Rupees, the hundreds are frequently peculated by the cashier. That's so also in the so called 'better' shops and supermarkets.

Remarkable is to see that everywhere is so much entertainment around. It comes with all kind of computerized devices and allows the people to watch and listen to the messages of the culture industry. The culture industry therefore provides a huge market for really bad tastes.



Remarkable also that I barely see a laptop or computer here around. There are some wifi's at certain places like in better hotels, but not many. The degree of computerization in Indonesia is generally low. There are very few computer shops here. The few shops who sell computer equipment are not at all comparable with Indochina, particularly Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, where are computer shops all around. The few shops I saw are extremely ill-equipped. The laptops are cheap and mostly outdated. If you need simple spare parts like a certain electric cable, it's really difficult to get it.

In Java are many shops for the unavoidable mobile phones in a greater number, but also not so many as in the other countries around.
The internet connections are rare and bad. It's said by expats that it were a kind of hidden censorship. The government seems to keep a certain state of isolation on the country. One can get a high-speed internet connection, but it's very expensive. Although the costs for the operators are low they everywhere keep the prices high. Telecommunication operators are oligopolists, make price-agreements and run their (mostly defectiv) services extremely profitable.



TV's are unavoidable, dosen't matter what's broadcasted. Particularly football, although completely insignificant for everybodies life (except for the careers of the playing millionairs themselves) is considered of great interest. Image: Asienreisender by 2012

As the masses of people everywhere in the world the overwhelming number of Indonesians are heavily TV addicted. There are too many TV's in public places, in any home anyway. After light bulbs a TV set is the first thing Indonesians buy if they get electricity in their homes. And then it's running every day from the early morning until deep into the night, some 18 hours a day. Some people sleep in front of it. In Wonosobo, when I left my room one morning at six o'clock a group of locals was sleeping on the floor in the common room. The first of them who woke up used his big toe to switch the TV on. First thing he did while still lying on the floor.

Content doesn't matter anyway, they watch what's coming. Sport, music, action, the daily (bad) news and the notorious commercials. It's all fine for the consumers. A great distraction from the depressing socialeconomic truth.



A planned Lady Gaga concert in June 2012 was forbidden by the Indonesian authorities. It would harm the public moral. If you read what I wrote above, you get quite a clear idea of the level of morals here in Java. It's coined by corruption, hypocricy, lies and fraud.

When entering Indonesia one always has to fill in these custom declarations. One of many stupid questions is if one brings pornography into the country. It's obvios that they mean to control sex here very strictly. Any kind of sexual expression out of the accepted (religious defined) norms is forbidden, including homosexuality (what is defined a crime in Indonesia). That's all declared amorally. The state and the organized religion protect what they define as morally.



The budged accommodations are very basic in what they offer: no soap, no washing basins, oriental toilets (a hole in the ground) or, if western toilets, then quite small toilets (baby size), sometimes no towels, sometimes even no blankets for the beds, no tissues or toilet paper. Most accommodations lack cleanliness.
As in everything in Java there is little middle-class in accomodation. When the budget accommodations are too dirty or shabby, it's quite a price-gap up to something better. One has then not seldom to pay five or six times the price for something half-way decent.
In the most places there is no city map available, or the map is bad. So, the only usable source are the maps in the travel guides, who are mostly very helpful.

That's it from the Javanese section of the global madhouse.

Asienreisender Up to the top!

Published on July 11th, 2012

Last update on January 24th, 2015