John and Yvonne in Jakarta

I was working in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1993 when I met my future wife, Yvonne. (This is Yvonne, pictured in the rain atop a volcano near Bandung, Java.).

There's a lot that isn't good often said about this city of over 9 million, capital of the fourth most highly populated nation on Earth. But Jakarta (then, as now) retains a distinct pithy quality which I for one would not like to see disappear. Contrast the fate of nearby Singapore over the past fifteen or so years (since I last lived there). One might debate whether or not Singapore has really progressed?

Most regretably Indonesia is suffering a very difficult transition currently. As it has moved to democracy and moves gradually toward a less corrupt economy. In the long-term one must suppose this can only be a good turn-of-events. Unfortunately the changes are making life very difficult for the interim. In the space of a few years since '94/95 Indonesia has changed from a nation accelerating toward developed world status: To one in appalling economic crisis with some significant social unrest (in parts) following former President Suharto's demise. Aside from the huge exodus of institutional and private investment the significant reduction in tourist revenues serves to make life even more tough than it used to be for all but a very few Indonesians.

But all is not as grim for the traveller as popular conception has it! Returning from Java and Sulawesi recently (September 2000) and from Lombok in January, I urge anyone wishing to travel in Indonesia not to be dissuaded by occasional stark news reports emanating from Ambon, Aceh and Timor. This is a vast country in which freely travelling hundreds of miles will not bring one anywhere near such 'trouble-spots'; which are well known and easily avoided. Beside which 'foreigners' are not targetted in those isolated areas of unrest nor in other areas into which the tension occasionally boils over.

Relating back to the time I was last living in Jakarta - in admittedly more prosperous and predictable times when a more considerable expatriate community was in evidence (1993/94) ...

It is a small world! After only five days in Jakarta (specifically in a rather notorious bar) I bumped into a college friend who I hadn't had any contact with since our paths last crossed in Singapore twelve years earlier! All I knew was that he probably was still somewhere in SE Asia. It turned out we were now living just a few miles from each other. This is Nick and his wife Ria, pictured in Greenwich Park, London with Yvonne (summer, '96).

Another close friend (and colleague) in Jakarta at that time was that infamous Scotsman: Evan Ferguson. This is us with Evan and his wife, Ariane (and a friend called Lily, in the foreground) - in one of Jakarta's better curry houses (you'd never know you weren't in Birmingham!). Evan and Ariane live in Houston, Texas now, you might enjoy visiting Evan's home page. There are some light-hearted views on expatriate life in Jakarta, sports and airline links and an excellent Indonesia home page. Why not pay him a visit? Link from here.

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