Indonesia Expat
Featured Observations

Yours Lovingly

Celebrating Valentine's day

In the past, in an age of corner shops and pubs, it was enough to give your loved one a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers on Valentine’s Day.

These days, in the age of Amazon and cocktail bars, chocolates and roses might seem old-fashioned. A more exotic token of your affection may be required. Or even a dramatic stunt, like dressing up as Sir Galahad and sweeping your loved one up onto the back of a galloping white horse. Failing that (it could get you arrested for kidnapping), here’s a short list of Indonesia-related gift possibilities.

For simplicity, I’ll be referring only to the two traditional genders, male and female, a.k.a mum and dad, and avoiding the multiple genders available to Facebook users. However, if you do identify as, say, “pangender” and you have a “gender non-forthcoming” partner, this list is still for you.

His and Hers Wayang Puppets
If your shared lives lack drama, set up your own wayang theatre and invite the neighbours over for a fictionalised account of your relationship rendered by the shadows cast by wayang puppets. It’s even better if years of living under the scorching tropical sun has made you resemble the typical puppet, with its leathery skin and gargoyle-like face. Wayang celebrates Indonesian culture, and a single show, with hypnotic gamelan music playing in the background, can go on from midnight to dawn. Should wayang theatre be too long and wearying, you could try a Punch and Judy show instead. This violent staple of the British seaside resort is better suited to the more boisterous relationships.

Wayang puppets

Cruise Tickets for Two
Greet one another each morning with the words “Hello, Sailor” on the deck of a cruise ship. Indonesia’s archipelago is 3,200 miles long and made up of over 13,000 islands. That’s a lot of coastline, which is ideal for a romantic tropical cruise. Many companies, including legendary P&O, offer cruise packages that include Indonesia stop-offs, especially Bali, with its mystical Hindu culture. Another popular stop-off is the Komodo islands, where you can pretend to save your loved one from a dragon (the world’s largest lizard) as knights like Saint George once did in the chivalrous days of yore.

A Pair of Sarongs
A sarong will make you look like a stylish Asian Tarzan and your girlfriend like, well, an Asian Tarzan’s girlfriend. The sarong is not just a loose, comfortable garment suitable for both men and women. This amazingly versatile length of cloth has many uses. It can double as a bedsheet for you both to snuggle up under. It can be a curtain, a windsock, a holdall, and a light-duty towel. It could even be hoisted as a sail if your cruise ship (see above) sinks and you find yourself adrift at sea on a small raft. You’ll never be short of solutions to any practical problem if you wear a sarong.

Indonesian Sarong

Kopi Luwak
If your loved one enjoys a cup of coffee at Starbucks, he or she is bound to swoon with pleasure at this gift of coffee beans that have been pooped out of a small animal’s anus. The animal in question is the Asian palm civet, and the price in question, I’m sure your bank manager will want to know, is between US$35 (Rp477,700) and US$80 (Rp1.01 million). The elephant in the room – or in the café in this case – is the ethical question of keeping wild animals captive. Can your love abide this cruelty? As a footnote, Kopi Luwak is the ultimate treat for people who are both coprophiliacs and coffee lovers.

Luwak coffee

A Romantic Weekend Break at a Bali Beach Resort
Why Bali? In most of conservative, Islamic Java, where the nature of a romantic relationship is everyone’s business – from the families to neighbourhood officials –unmarried couples sharing a hotel room is frowned upon at best. Hotels are occasionally raided, and unmarried young couples are pulled apart, frogmarched outside, and paraded before the press. Expect especially harsh treatment if you’re a gay couple. There are banners strung outside some schools and other institutions in Indonesia that read Wujudkan Lingkungan Dari LGBT dan Narkoba (Keep the Environment free from LGBT and Drugs). That sums up the country’s current attitude toward LGBT.

A couple covering faces

A Shared Bottle of Wine
If you want to get rid of someone, give them a wad of cash and instructions to go off and buy a bottle of wine in Jakarta. They won’t return for a very long time, if ever. They might even have to be collected from the hospital, having fainted over the price of the wine at a bottle shop hidden away in an upscale supermarket. Diamonds, Rolex watches, Russian caviar, and wine are only for the well-off in Indonesia. You might find some bargains online, of course. A box of decent plonk can be delivered to your door for as low as Rp450,000. You and your sweetheart can then sit by the Ciliwung River and imagine you’re on the banks of the Seine in Paris, as long as you have completed the task of hunting down good cheese and baguettes in the city (and have clothes pegs clamping your nostrils shut).

Bottles of Beer

Share a Cheap Bottle of Beer Instead
In Jakarta, be sure to ask for your bottle of Bintang dingin sekali (very cold), or you might be served a tepid one. In fact, many Indonesians prefer to drink their beer with ice – a sort of Bintang on the rocks – which I guess has a beneficial hydrating effect, like being attached to a saline drip while you consume your alcohol. While beer may not be as romantic as wine – being associated with German tankard-swirlers and British lager louts – there are people online who take it seriously which one might even say soberly. One website describes Bintang as having “a very slight bitter grassy note from the hops, slightly woody aftertaste.” Few Bintang drinkers I know would recognise this highbrow description: “Goes down a treat, but slightly vomity aftertaste when swigged after a belch,” would be more their thing.

See: The Long Way Home

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