Archive | November, 2011

T-minus 1 month until Asia

28 Nov

As of yesterday it is only a month until I head off on my next trip to Southeast Asia! Needless to say I am rather excited.

So where am I at for planning? Pretty much everything is booked except my accommodation in Indonesia which I’ll organise when I get there which is daunting for an obsessive planner like myself. Apart from that Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and my two stopovers in Malaysia are all over and I just need to buy travel insurance and my trip home from Sydney.

So what am I looking forward to? This is my top 5

  1. Seeing all my friends in Indonesia (both Indonesian friends and Aussie mates studying there)
  2. Working for an NGO for 2 months
  3. Angkor Wat- I’ve dreamt about that place ever since Lara Croft went there.
  4. Phnom Penh and the Killing Fields which are going to be tragic and awful but it’s an important part of history
  5. Eating Vietnamese food- I’m pretty keen to spend a whole day eating in Saigon.

I think most of all I’m just excited to get back into the Asian holiday pattern of chilled out, slow travel getting in touch with culture and really immersing myself in life there.

Also the recent sales at the adventure stores around town (especially Kathmandu- damn you summit club membership) has resulted in me spending far too much money on new clothes for my trip. Hiking pants are so comfortable that buying 3 pairs doesn’t seem excessive. I’ve also invested in Birkenstocks and I must say they are actually the most comfortable shoes my feet have ever had the pleasure of wearing. They are the equivalent of track pants for the feet. No matter how ugly they might be (they aren’t that bad) I love my new birkies!

That’s it for now. I’ll update in a few more days I have a few more posts in my head just need inspiration to write them!

 

Advertisements

South of the 17th Parallel- Ho Chi Minh City.. or Saigon?

21 Nov

Whether you call it Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon the major city in the south of Vietnam is bursting with colonial charm, fantastic flavours and enough sights to easily fill a few days. When people ask me what part of Vietnam is my favourite I honestly can’t decide. Every place I visited had its own unique twist to it and inspired me in different ways. Even the North and South were equally incredibly and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to either. IMG_1368

I managed to spend just over 2 days in HCMC at the start of the year and got a good feel for the city in that time. Arriving from Malaysia and seeing the sprawling lights from the city from the plane (while somewhat delirious from travelling for 12 hours and being incredibly sick) I was expecting that HCMC was going to be a typical large Asian city, polluted and crowded. Driving to my hotel it was crowded with motorbikes as is to be expected but also there were a number of green areas throughout the city and a good mix between modern and colonial architecture. It is a city that is rich in history particularly from the War and has more than enough to keep the military history buff interested for a while. As I am quite fond of my military history I’ve compiled a top 3 sights.

Cu Chi Tunnels- They are a bit of a hike from HCMC but it’s a nice drive through the countryside and well worth the trip. It can be argued that there are many better tunnel complexes in the country but these are very accessible (and popular). The Viet Cong used the tunnels to fight the Allies during the war and were quite self sufficient in them and tunnels proved to be an effective tactic in waging war. IMG_1392 The complex these days can seem like a bit of a theme park but with a decent guide there is a lot to learn and you can even get down into the tunnels (widened for tourists). There are a few access tunnels that they get a few of the visitors to try climbing into as an example of how small they really were. I tried and at 6ft found it rather difficult and couldn’t imagine living there. So apart from tunnels, old military hardware and sampling some of the root vegetable and tea diet of the fighters there is one attraction which draws a crowd- the shooting range. Having gunfire in the background at all times while exploring the complex is an experience in itself however I could not resist the temptation to shell out a few dollars and have a crack at firing an AK47. There were also M16 and other machine guns to try out and it is understandable that some people have reservations when it comes to shooting but it was good fun and I’d happily have another go at it. IMG_1407 Reunification Palace- The former seat of government in HCMC some of the most memorable pictures I remember from my history course are those of the North Vietnamese tanks crashing through the front gates of this place. It’s a bit of a labyrinth with it’s many levels and rooms however it has been kept in spectacular condition and is good to have a look around. Also you can go up on the roof and see where the helicopters evacuated from and stroll around the grounds and see various planes and tanks on display. I wouldn’t mind going back as last time I was there I was still recovering from the last traces of the bug from Indonesia and couldn’t really take it all in.IMG_1364

War Remnants Museum- I feel that this is somewhere I will never be able to remove from my memory. The museum shows the War from the Vietnamese point of view and is confronting and tragic. A modern building in the middle of HCMC, I’m glad I had the chance to spend a bit of time there and see everything properly. IMG_1379 - Copy Other than displays of weapons and other hardware there are some horrific displays of photos and preserved foetuses showing the effects of Agent Orange and an excellent exhibition of photos from photojournalists during the war- most of whom died or are missing and the museum explains their stories incredibly well. I think the most shocking part of this museum was seeing the War from the other side’s point of view. It’s very easy to stick to what we learn about at school and not consider what other people went through and it really makes you question what you think about the War.

On a lighter note there is much more to HCMC than war history. For shopping you have everything from the huge Ben Thanh Markets (among others) with amazing fruits and vegetables on sale to the high end shopping in the centre of the city. There is food everywhere with all different restaurants and street stalls. It was here I learnt that Pho was very different to what we had at the takeaway down the road- delicious! There were also a number of rooftop bars that a worth checking out, the Rex Hotel bar and Saigon Saigon spring to mind. Neither are cheap but they have quality cocktails and are a good place to watch the sun go down and by Western standards they really aren’t expensive (roughly $7 for a good quality cocktail).IMG_1381

HCMC was full of surprises. I felt comfortable walking around the city by myself although I often had the company of cyclo drivers who seemed keen for a chat even when I told them I wasn’t interested in a lift. The food, culture and people were great and it was a perfect introduction to Vietnam for me. My only real regret was not having enough time to see everything, there is so so much to see. Luckily for me though I’ll be back there in 2 months, much sooner than I expected to be so will be trying out some new restaurants, shopping up a storm at some of the markets and getting lost in new parts of the town and of course reporting it all back here.

The time I almost got detained by immigration

18 Nov

Generally when travelling I have had a fair bit of luck with the authorities and have never had any real major issues. I mean apart from one immigration official referring to me as Sir (short hair in Asian countries is sometimes deceiving) and somehow getting into another country with a visa that didn’t start for another 2 days yet Air Asia were still more than happy to let me onto the flight, I’ve had pretty smooth transitions through Customs and Immigration.

However there is one exception where I had to endure possibly the worst, most nerve wracking 20 minutes of my life. For the sake of the story I’ll keep the name of the Southeast Asian country involved anonymous (although those who know me will have either heard this story before or figure it out straight away).

It was 6am which really isn’t a good way to start a day and I’d just left a few friends on our last night in said country where we had decided to spend the night in the luxury of a 5 star hotel. I was sick- I had been sick for about a week and lost 5 kilos having survived off flavoured water and Pocari Sweat and was completely wiped after trying to enjoy my last day in country despite feeling somewhat delicate. Check In was surprisingly good and I was ushered straight up to the counter so I bought a bottle of water and decided to head on through immigration. As I approached the counter I smiled and handed over my passport. It should be noted that this is a fairly small airport with probably only 3-4 international flights a day if that. The immigration officer looked at my passport then sternly looked back and said,

“You’ve overstayed your visa.”

Whaaaaaaat? I had a 60 day visa for the country and had only been there for 4 weeks there was no way in hell I could have overstayed. I looked at the stamp and saw it. I’d arrived on New Years Day and they had forgotten to change the year on the stamp so it was still the day before. My visa clearly showed that I had got it after the date on the stamp so I was rather confused as to why this was an issue. I started worrying about how much I was going to have to pay to get out of this mess when the officer made the mistake of turning to his colleague and saying in his language (that I just so happen to understand quite well) “We stamped her passport wrong,” before turning back to me and reiterating his point that I’d overstayed my visa. I turned back to him and pointed out what he’d said to his mate only to be led off to the side to another officer who said,

“This passport is stolen. That’s not you.”

Bloooody hell. I was sick, tired and really just wanting to get on the plane and sleep rather than go through this mess. Now I had all kinds of pictures going through my head of me ending up in an immigration facility or worse jail and having to deal with a ridiculous amount of bureaucracy in order to get home. Realistically the passport was a bit old and I looked at the time nothing like I did at 15 when I got the passport. It took some explaining that this was clearly me in the passport, I had not overstayed a visa and providing them a heap of details about what I’d been up to during my stay there before they finally relented and let me pass through immigration. Only to get to the security screening and have to drink my bottle of water which I’d foolishly left in my bag. Sure it’s quite possible that a bribe could have got me out of the issue but I wouldn’t really want to risk bribing airport security!

Thankfully this is something I can look back on and laugh despite how horrible it was at the time. Also I can say that I’ve left the country a number of times since through the same airport and not had any issues. In fact the immigration officers have generally been more than helpful when I’ve passed through so I have no criticisms against that country or their immigration authorities; in fact generally speaking they are some of the best. Most importantly I learnt the hard way that you should probably check your entry stamps when you enter the country.

Taal- My Philippine Volcano Adventure

17 Nov

There is something particularly awe inspiring about volcanoes. They are a direct connection to the Earth, playing a role in creating and destroying the world as we know it. Without notice they can change landscapes, wreak havoc on communities and make us realise how insignificant we truly are. Cultures not only fear the wrath of these mountains but worship and respect them as vital parts of their lives and history.

Coming from a country like Australia without any of these living mountains on the mainland, I always took particular interest in volcanoes. I remember first arriving in Indonesia and my friend pointing out the highly active Gunung Merapi of Central Java and watching it puff out smoke and steam and being amazed. This is the first I had seen of these creatures and something I always assumed was a thing to be feared suddenly became an obsession, a love and most of all something I wanted to understand better. When I was asked to go to the Philippines the first thing I did was look on google for any volcanoes close to Manila which I could explore.

Mount Mayon looked amazing, its conical shape considered to be one of the most perfect in the world. However it would require me to fly there which was not feasible in the time that I had. Mount Pinatubo also intrigued me with its ferocious nature. It is the perfect example of a volcano completely reshaping a landscape, blowing out the side of a mountain when it erupted last century. This left one volcano, the closest and most convenient judging on the time we had available Taal Volcano. When I was told that Taal only stood 300 metres above sea level I was quite disappointed, this seemed like nothing compared to the 3200 metre monster I had attempted to climb in Indonesia, however all it took was a photo to convince me Taal was worth exploring. The volcano is situated on an island in the middle of a lake which features a number of active cones under water. It is considered to be the World’s smallest volcano on an island in a lake on an island.

We arrived at Tagatay, a small town on the shores of Lake Taal at around 3pm in the afternoon. This worried me, I had read that it was still at least an hour’s climb to the top and I didn’t want to miss the boat back. We hired two boats which were noisy and blew diesel fumes into the air but provided a perfect mode of transportation to Volcano Island in the centre of the lake. Looking down on Taal from the ridges around the lake there is a prominent cone which one would assume is the volcano itself, arriving on the island we were told this wasn’t actually the active cone which instead could be found to the rear of the island. In the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia we decided that we would hire some mangy looking horses to take us up to the rim of the volcano rather than walking through the dust. As we set off, the air was soon full of dust, getting in your eyes and up your nose which combined with the heat made for a horrible experience however my guide decided that the dust the rest of the group was kicking off was not for us and we quickly took off up the trail leaving the others behind us.

My guide of course had no idea that I was rather frightened of horses and riding them was not particularly a favourite past time of mine so without thinking decided to make the guide rope into a set of reins for me and told me he would run behind me while I rode up the volcano. This made me feel quite anxious which soon turned into a feeling of utter fear when we reached the ridge with steep drop offs on both sides and a two metre wide track. Finally though we reached the top leaving a short walk up the steps, and as is an all too common site in Asia, a battle through a number of people trying to sell you drinks and other useless souvenirs which of course can be bought on the shores of the lake for half the price. Reaching the edge of the crater was spectacular. The volcano came from nowhere and the crater itself probably was at least a kilometre if not more in diameter. The crater itself, was filled with turquoise water, swirling steam at a constantly warm temperature. It was an amazing sight and as the sun was slowly setting, sending reflections of orange and red across the landscape, it really made you feel small, like the World was so much bigger and more powerful than you. It was time to leave to make it back to the boats in time.

This meant that it was time to take the horses downhill which was not a prospect that thrilled me, especially with a guide who thought that I loved to ride. As I got back on the horse he told me that once again, I could ride the horse and he would run along with me. To enhance my experience he seemed to think it was a good idea to keep hitting the horse so we would take the downhill journey at a trot. That said it was not all bad and I did eventually get used to the riding and even start to enjoy it. We tried to converse in broken English and he informed me that my horse was named Likea because he Likea me. I told my guide about horses in Australia and the Melbourne Cup as that is about as much as I know about the equine world. We rode slowly through the small village and stopped at his house where I tipped him generously for helping me overcome my fear of horses and he directed me in the way of the beach.

As I walked across the beach, again bombarded with villagers try to sell me their wares, the sound of cock fights and requests to come and play volleyball. I stepped into the boat and as we took off across the lake in the glowing, setting sun, I looked back at Volcano Island and Taal Volcano and realised that even what may seem small and insignificant can be absolutely incredible.

from April 2010

South of the 17th Parallel- Wonderful Hoi An

15 Nov

Oh Hoi An, beautiful Hoi An. A town which captured my heart with its wonderful charm and vibrant colours. The town itself has had the influence of many different forces from the Vietnamese to Chinese and Japanese and the Old Town is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The UNESCO rating does wonders for the place with strict rules on development and no cars or buses allowed in the town centre making it easy to walk around in peace (except the odd motorbike) and the town centre is closed entirely to traffic on some nights. IMG_1421 It was in Hoi An that I realised how much I loved my SLR camera with hundreds of different coloured lanterns and old colonial shopfronts. Another thing to do is get a pass which allows you into some of the old houses, museums and meeting halls as well as the Japanese bridge. I think the pass only cost about $5 all up and provided an interesting insight into the history of the place.

Realistically though the best thing to do in Hoi An is shop. There are hundreds of tailors in town all of whom will make clothes to order for you in a few days.IMG_1492 I found a great one (we were tipped off by a waitress at our hotel- a bit dodgy I know) at 39 Tran Phu (I think) and had a 3 piece cashmere, silk lined suit, 4 business shirts and a pair of leather heels made for a grand total of $250. It’s a high quality suit and has served me well since I got back. I also had a light summer dress made for only $20 which I’ve worn a number of times as well as buying a lot of silk and cashmere scarfs (and a silk sleeping bag liner for only $5!) I have never been a fan of shopping at all but Hoi An was great fun to shop in and all the staff at the shops were really friendly. Can’t go wrong with good customer service! There is also many art galleries with photos and artworks for a reasonable price.IMG_1506

The food in Hoi An like Vietnam generally is amazing. I spent many a night having a drink and dinner down beside the river and tucking into a delicious local dumpling called White Rose as well as awesome minced pork on lemongrass sticks. There are cafes throughout the old town which combined with the lack of traffic makes people watching enjoyable as well as a number of cooking skills which unfortunately I didn’t get to try out. IMG_1501 I would however recommend a walk through the markets where you can see all kinds of produce and unusual fruits and vegetables and experience an assault on all of your senses from the noise, scent and sights.

When I was there I stayed at one of the big beach resorts at Cu Dai beach about 5 km from the old town. The beach runs all the way from Danang and as much as it would have been nice to stay in the old town you can’t really complain about getting to wake up each morning to a view of the South China Sea and Cham Islands. IMG_1573 The beach is full of massive resorts and there is more and more development occurring thankfully nowhere near the town itself. From the resort we were also able to hire bikes and ride through the farming areas for a few hours to see some of the local industry and as the area is completely flat riding was a breeze despite the heat. The beach had a number of water sports such as jet skis but I didn’t have time to partake in any water activities preferring to spend time exploring town.IMG_1520

One thing that is a must in Hoi An is to have a trip out to My Son. Comparing it to Angkor Wat and Borobudur (as the onsite museum does) is probably a bit much but the temple complex is incredible and you can spend many hours exploring. The tragedy is that a great deal of the area and many of the temples were destroyed during the war which has also left a great deal of unexploded ordinance in the area. As one of our guides told me in Vietnam the man should always walk in front of the women in case of landmines. IMG_1522 All jokes aside however (it’s not something that should be joked about really) if you stay on the path you should be fine. It also provides an insight into a different side of Vietnamese history and was a good introduction to the Champa empire who played a pretty large role in Southeast Asian history many centuries ago. It takes about an hour to get out there but you get to see rice paddies and agriculture on your way out so it is a nice drive.

Driving to the airport in Da Nang you get to see the Marble Mountains. If I had of had enough time I would have definitely paid them a visit as they looked incredible, particularly as you fly in, jutting up out of the flat landscape. Hue is also a few hours away which is another place I missed out on seeing.IMG_1550

Hoi An in my opinion has pretty much everything you could want in a town if you want to chill out for a few days. Interesting sights, walking and cycling friendly, plenty of restaurants and cafes and a beach (not necessary in my opinion but I understand the attraction of it). I was only there for four days but I can safely say I fell in love with the place and can’t wait to head back there and do nothing some time in the future.

North of the 17th Parallel- Part 2 (Sapa)

14 Nov

So after a few days in Hanoi and the cruise in beautiful Halong Bay I headed up to Sapa to do a bit of hiking an see the hill tribes. This meant an overnight train trip where a hilarious Vietnamese tour guide (whose group was in another carriage) in our room who coincidentally has a friend who lived a few suburbs over from me in Australia. She also was great fun particularly with her advice to drink beer and take some sleeping tablets to enjoy the train ride. Only following the first half of this advice the train ride up to Lao Cai wasn’t too bad with it being pretty easy to sleep once you got the hang of the rhythm and the sudden stops.IMG_1837 (It should be noted I can sleep anywhere.. except on planes strangely)

Arriving in Lao Cai it was straight into a van to drive up to Sapa. Upon arriving we had some breakfast (pho of course) before having a walk around town. As soon as I walked out the door of the hotel I was mobbed by women from the hill tribes trying to sell things. While the history and lives of the tribes is interesting the constant harassing to try and sell you things gets very frustrating very quickly. They all speak enough English and follow you through the villages and on treks. The good thing is however they speak enough English for you to get a good idea about their lives and families. After a while in town I started speaking Indonesian whenever they approached me which slowed the down a bit. IMG_1879 This soon turned into a spectator sport with watching tourists get off the bus and be surrounded. The best one was when they got really angry at two British guys and started throwing things at them (I laughed and took photos)

In terms of trekking the scenery is spectacular. It was shrouded in mist at times (was there in March so at the end of the winter season) but as the fog cleared there were miles of rice paddies to be seen. Also you wound through farms and villages stopping by schools and stores with some restaurants having little performances.IMG_1865 My favourite village was probably Cat Cat (although it was very commercial) with it’s beautiful waterfall and Ta Phin (I think) which was a bit further out and we were mobbed by Red Zhao. So who are these ethnic minorities? The two main ones you encounter or the Hmong (Flower or Black) who wear dark navy clothes with vibrant colours and the Red Zhao who are distinguishable from their red head dress. The latter will follow you for miles trying to get a sale but at the end of the day it is important to remember that this is their livelihood and many of them walk for miles to get to Sapa in the hope of selling there wares.

What else is there to do in Sapa? Eat! The markets are also fun to look around but there are some fantastic restaurants (funnily enough some of the best ones I visited were Western). We ran into some people from our cruise on Halong Bay who recommended we got to Delta- an Italian restaurant in the centre of town.IMG_1884 This place was incredible- there are some bad reviews on the internet but I thought it was great. Following 2 months living in Indonesia an antipasto plate (with prosciutto) and a bottle of Chianti hit the spot. Another excellent café was Baguettes and Chocolate which had great western style coffee and a chocolate tart which was to die for. It also is a feel good café as all the staff are underprivileged youth and who doesn’t like French pastries really? This said we did eat some Vietnamese food and had steamboat overlooking the valley which was perfect on a freezing day. I also sampled Vietnamese coffee which I didn’t mind. Other people I was travelling with weren’t keen on the local coffee but I really enjoyed the rich nutty flavour, that said I also like kopi luwak which a lot of people I know don’t like.IMG_1813

So it was time to return to the train station and my fantastic trip to Sapa was almost complete, unfortunately I left Sapa far too early and ended up in Lao Cai for far too long. Lao Cai is an incredibly depressing place. On the Chinese border it’s mainly a transit town for border traffic. We went to the border to look at a temple (it was actually quite interesting- typical Vietnamese style) after this I took some obligatory “look that’s China behind me” photos before heading back to a restaurant near the train station and eating oily spring rolls and pineapple pancakes and being constantly approached by people wanting to shine shoes or sell cigarettes. One thing I did find funny was looking across the Chinese border and the first thing you saw was a massive KFC billboard. Globalisation at it’s finest!IMG_1931

Another train ride through the night to Hanoi and another incredibly friendly Vietnamese tour guide later I arrived in Hanoi just short of 4am. Luckily the hotel I was staying at let me sleep on a massage table in their day spa for a few hours and use the awesome showers in there which was more than enough to be refreshed for another day of sightseeing in Hanoi.

Sapa was an adventure. While people might complain about how tourism has taken over and hill tribes are now forced to cater for the tourist market and despite the fact being asked to buy things 27/7 is annoying unfortunately that is what globalisation is doing to the world. I’m pretty keen to return to Sapa one day and visit some more remote villages and possibly tackle Mt Fanispan. All in all though Sapa was truly amazing and featured a rich culture, worlds different from the Vietnamese culture you saw in other parts of the country, and was unlike anything I’d seen before.

A Spirit Raging

12 Nov

This article (by yours truly) was first published in Monsoon- The publication of the ANU Asia-Pacific Studies Society in the Autumn edition 2011. As part of the Island Southeast Asia special feature some of these stories may be a bit familiar.

Incredible India. Malaysia- Truly Asia. It’s slogans like this which invoke emotions and passion in a traveller when making their way through the mazes which are the major airline hubs of Asia. Compare this to the tourism campaign of our closest Southeast Asian neighbour and a country I truly love- Wonderful Indonesia. Sure it is pleasant but it’s not the kind of awe-inspiring, drop everything and buy a plane ticket slogan that I’m sure the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism was aiming for.

Unfortunately Indonesia is a country that for many Australians presents all sorts of negative connotations thanks to DFAT and Today Tonight, and the word wonderful is quickly replaced by words such as terrorist or fundamentalism. While there is no doubt Indonesia faces its problems, such comments are unfounded and in no way reflect the significant progress made by Indonesia in the past decade.

Now let me introduce you to the Indonesia I love, an Indonesia far removed from the drunken, hedonistic paradise of Bali. Indonesia is a country which screams diversity, with hundreds of ethnic groups coexisting in a single country. This still creates social and cultural problems however the positives derived from this diversity speak far more loudly than the negatives. It is this diversity that I experienced while studying at an Indonesian university in a small town in Central Java. Within 100 kilometres of this town there were ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples (Borobudur and Prambanan), modern cities and tiny villages which still followed traditional farming practices. All of these places hold memories that will stay with me forever from sitting in an unusually empty Prambanan and contemplating life at sunset, trekking through tiny villages and seeing farmers who had most likely been working the same plot for half a century with betel stained teeth and shy smiles to having a tropical infection pulled out of my arm with very little anaesthetic in a surprisingly modern hospital in Semarang. (Capital of Central Java Province)

Indonesia is a nation which is strongly patriotic as is evident through its history and fierce battle for independence. My first visit to the country was just after the passing of former President Abdurrahman Wahid (or Gus Dur to the population) and witnessed a country awash with respect for a man who was largely ineffective as a President yet highly revered as a figure of post-New Order reformasi (reformation). The sight of a nation adorned with the merah putih (national flag) was repeated on my most recent visit following the tragic loss of the Indonesian National Soccer Team to their arch-rivals Malaysia in the final of the 2010 ASEAN Football Championships. This patriotism reaches from the state ideology of Pancasila taught from an early age at school to the national emblem, the Garuda seen everywhere from government buildings to the bumper stickers of the scooters which clog Indonesia’s roads.

This is a country of resilience, where hardship is a part of daily life for millions across the archipelago. Following the devastating eruption of Mount Merapi in October-November last year there is still an immense hope for the future. I was slightly worried however by an Indonesian friend who told me, “If the house starts shaking in the middle of the night don’t worry it’s just a cold lava avalanche from the eruption going past.” Driving through the areas which were hardest hit by the eruption leaving many dead, some of the only reminders are the blackened scars on houses and the newly erected signs which warn of the danger from hot gas eruptions. Another case of this was buying petrol from a roadside stall for my scooter in an isolated village and being served by a man with most of his skin covered by horrific burns yet battling on to keep earning a living, a fitting symbol of an Indonesia which doesn’t give up.

Indonesia is a country which cannot be encompassed in a single word. From the repetitive, hypnotic pattern of the gamelan, the enchanting, mysterious Javanese dance or the aroma of a rich Beef Rendang to the wild traffic, rich youth culture and the blaring dangdut, a truly unique music style which one must learn to love. This is Indonesia- colourful, beautiful, diverse and rich in culture, history and suffering and a nation which should be allowed to liberate itself from the negativity heaped on it by Western governments and media.

Note- I never explained the title in the original article. It’s a quote from Sukarno in 1945 “Independence can only be obtained and secured by a nation that has its spirit raging with determination: "independence or death" I think it’s a powerful quote