Tag Archives: Bali

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Festival Day

This gallery contains 8 photos.

by Erin Among the over 17,000 islands in Indonesia, Bali has a truly singular culture. Over 93% of the population is Balinese Hindu, a strain of Hinduism quite distinct from Indian Hinduism. Balinese Hinduism is a syncretism of traditional Indian … Continue reading

Gallery

Photo Update: Bali, May 22

This gallery contains 9 photos.

The economic impact of cultural cluelessness

by Tonia

I came to Indonesia to find out something about the economy. To all appearances, Indonesia is an economic success story: in the 13 years since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, it has experienced remarkable success and growth. But roadblocks to economic development and foreign investment still exist. Explaining whether and how Indonesia can overcome them is the goal of my research. In Jakarta, I found a lot of “official” answers to my questions: carefully crafted policy assessments couched in staid financial language. In Bali, I found a contrasting opinion that unsettled my picture of the Indonesian economy.

During our week in Jakarta I met with an array of experts — a representative from the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, the head of the world-renowned  microfinance operations at Bank Rakyat Indonesia, and researchers from the central Bank Indonesia — who were all more or less on the same page. After speaking with them and conducting some of my own research, I’ve been able to pinpoint several key reasons behind the success and growth of the Indonesian economy over the past decade since the 1997 crisis, and also some of the key challenges which the country faces in the future. Most gave similar reasons for why they felt there are still major roadblocks to Indonesian growth and why many foreign investors are wary of investing in the economy given these challenges (some of which will be fleshed out in upcoming articles in the Globalist).

But this week I met with someone in Bali who held a unique perspective on the reluctance of foreigners to put their money into the island’s economy. Unlike the officials from prestigious financial institutions, my Bali source had no qualms about giving his blunt, honest opinion. He held nothing back, and I’m glad he didn’t.

I met this source — an American accountant and consultant who has lived in Asia for over 17 years — at a popular German bar in Kuta on a sweltering Friday afternoon. Bali has many expats living and working on the island. Some come for the lifestyle, but others come to make a buck by navigating the island’s economy for clueless foreign businessmen.

While he admitted that corruption, mercurial laws, and other structural challenges do play a role in deterring foreign investors from entering the Indonesian market, my source claimed that the biggest problem is those investors’ limited world view. They are, he explained,  “completely ignorant about emerging markets in Asia.” According to him, Western businesspeople just don’t get the intricacies of Asian markets and consequently fail to see the growth potential of places like Indonesia. He did admit that some of the concerns my previous sources had listed–infrastructure, corruption, legal problems, reliance on the informal sector–did exist, but those who were truly perceptive  would not hesitate to work around these issues and invest in Indonesia’s economy.

Throughout our conversation, he provided us with colorful stories from his past experiences with businesspeople who still felt that Indonesia was a “bastion of deficiency” and had absolutely no conception of how the Indonesian economy actually operates. These businessmen ranged from bankers to blog writers on Yahoo! or Google. To him, this was American ignorance in action. Despite being American himself, my source was comfortable lacing his stories with utter disdain for his former countrymen.

While his stories grew increasingly long-winded as the afternoon progressed (he even told one about once taking his Javanese driver to a rock concert), the expat was more honest and frank than any of the experts I spoke to in Jakarta. Most of the officials we met with earlier were careful to choose their words according to the interests of the firms they worked for, but the expat just said what he thought: a reporter’s dream.

There are many successful expats on this island, and I’m sure their points of view vary. What I could take away from this interview was that investing time in truly understanding how a country works isn’t just respectful and rewarding — in places like Indonesia, it’s actually good for business.

About Ubud: Bali’s Cultural Capital

by Uzra

All you Eat, Pray, Love fans can be jealous. Today the eight of us reporting in Bali spent all day with Mario. For those who haven’t read the book (I hadn’t until this trip), Mario used to work at the Ubud Inn, where author Elizabeth Gilbert stayed on her trip to Bali.

Ubud is the cultural center of Bali—a quaint little town simply oozing character about an hour’s drive away from Kuta, the coastal town where we are staying. My eyes were glued to the window as we drove past villages with gorgeous Hindu temples decorated with gold and orange and stone statues, little huts packed with everything from colorful butterfly kites to intricate woodcarvings of Rama and Sita (“Romeo and Juliet,” as the carvers called them) and silverware. Each house/hut/any sort of establishment had a pengor outside it: a long, curved bamboo stick adorned with palm fronds and lanterns to make it resemble a dragon. These pengors are built to shield the little stone containers that are used to make offerings to the gods. On one particular sacred day in Ubud, all the pengors are burned—only to be remade on another sacred day after six months. Mario talked to us about his life and Balinese culture in between our visits to ninth generation traditional medicine men and medicine women, as well as modern clinics in Ubud (watch out for an article in the Globalist soon!).

What immediately struck me about Ubud was its pulsating culture and distinct sense of identity. Jakarta was, to me, a city with a bit of an identity crisis. After having spent five days there, I still am not quite sure what Jakarta and its people are all about. The indescribable and unexpected extent of consumerism in the city (I saw more KFC’s and Dunkin’ Donuts in Jakarta than in the United States) was impenetrable. To me, the true personality of Jakarta was lost somewhere in translation. However, Ubud, even with its huge tourist population, has not lost its distinctiveness, and its simplicity was a breath of fresh air.

A typical pengor on a street in Bali

The Globalist Takes On Indonesia!!

Dear Reader,

Welcome to our travel blog. From May 11th through May 25th, 22 members of the Globalist staff and Editorial Board will be traveling to the country of Indonesia in Southeast Asia (for more information about the Globalist click on “The Globalist” at the top of this page).

Rich in political, cultural, and religious complexities, Indonesia is the perfect destination for our annual research and reporting trip. Our journey will begin in Jakarta where we will be meeting with representatives from the Jakarta Post, UNICEF, the University of Jakarta, and more. Most of these meetings have been scheduled by trip participants who are working on articles in the specific field of that contact. We will also be traveling as a group to some larger meetings that are for informational and networking purposes.

From Jakarta the group will split in two, half traveling to Bali and half to Banda Aceh. These secondary destinations are as fascinating as they are different from one another. Bali, Indonesia’s primary tourist destination and the only non-Muslim majority region of the country, is located near the geographic center of Indonesia, on the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands, between Java and Lombok. The island presents rich religious diversity, a highly-developed arts and dance scene, and an array of important social issues that often take a back seat to wondrous temples and welcoming beaches. On our trip to Bali we hope to dig beneath the surface and uncover some of the issues that matter most to the Balinese people.

5000 people gather for prayer at Pura Tanah in Bali

Banda Aceh, at the northwestern tip of Indonesia on the island of Sumatra, became world-famous for the devastation that occurred there on December 26, 2004. A massive tsunami triggered by an earthquake of magnitude 9.3 killed approximately 283,000 people, 167,000 of whom were in Aceh alone. Reconstruction efforts took years, and only recently have NGOs begun to pull out. From the 1970s until 2005 Aceh was plagued by violence. A separatist movement called the Free Aceh Movement became exceedingly popular, and government efforts to quell disruptions led to quasi-war in 2003. Oddly enough it was the tsunami in 2004 that caused the two sides to come to terms; peace was an absolute necessity in the process of rebuilding the city and the region. On our trip to Aceh we will research and report on a number of these issues, including the post-war political status, the presence and strictness of Islam in the province, and more.

A ship beached by the tsunami rests on one of Aceh's beautiful beaches

Check back on May 13th for our first post from Indonesia! And to receive our updates by email, click the “Sign me up” button in the upper right corner of this page. Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,

Jeff Kaiser

Editor-in-Chief, The Yale Globalist