Prabowo or Jokowi: does it really matter?

With two televised debates down and three to go, opinion is divided on which of Indonesia’s two presidential candidates is looking most, well, presidential…..


Not-quite remembering Tiananmen Square

Late last night, one of the many friends who helped me celebrate the launch of Indonesia Etc reminded me of where he and I had been at exactly that hour 25 years earlier. We were both Reuters reporters at the time; Andy Roche was being banged up by Chinese cops in the backstreets not far from Tiananmen Square and I was in the Square itself. I was watching as tanks rolled towards me and trying to figure out how I…


Extraordinary Indonesians: Menuk Suwondo remembered

After what seems like a loooooong gestation, Indonesia Etc. is finally born today (at least in the UK; the US and Indonesian triplets will follow very shortly). When I got my first copy of Indonesia Etc from Granta a couple of weeks ago, I took it straight to the post office and sent it to Menuk Suwondo in Magelang, in Central Java. I don’t know if she ever saw it; I do know that what I learned from her over…


Can a movie cure blindness? Jalanan reveals urban poverty

I got an e-mail today from film-maker extraordinaire Daniel Ziv. His documentary Jalanan, about street musicians and urban poverty in Jakarta, has been playing to great acclaim around the world, noticed by publications such as The Economist and the Wall Street Journal, that tend to devote more column inches to the winners of Indonesia’s erratic growth-fest than to the losers. The film deserves their attention. But in his e-mail, Daniel was rightly more excited about the attention the film is…



Test-drive the Indonesia Etc enhanced e-book (for free!)

The big, solid, heavy-in-the-hand, proud-on-the-bookshelf hardback version of Indonesia Etc will be out in less than a month in the UK and Asia, six weeks in the US. But I’ve spent the last few months working on something that I think is at least as exciting: an electronic version of the text, which also has embedded videos, photos, recordings and other things that I think help convey the sights, sounds and oddities of Indonesia. I recorded most of the material…



Albinos, dwarves and royalty: the magic of Java

Last month was the 15th anniversary of the coronation of the Sultan of Yogyakarta; here’s a belated tribute. I covered the coronation for Reuters in Indonesia, accompanied by the fabulous photographer Enny Nuraheni. Here are some of her pictures, rescued from the trash. The dwarves, albinos and albino dwarves that the Sultan keeps at court are supposed to concentrate mystical power around his person. He’s not all mystical though; he is a businessman who once had presidential ambitions and has…


An easter treat: Catholic kitsch from around Indonesia

There are just seven million Catholics in Indonesia — a drop in a mainly Moslem ocean. Yet they have managed to make their mark aesthetically, with an astoundingly wide variety of statues, murals, graveyards and churches that range between Kitsch and High Kitsch….


More Moslem than expected: the real surprise of Indonesia’s polls

Commentators on Indonesia’s parliamentary elections have been surprised by the relatively poor performance of front-runners PDIP (see the FT, the Jakarta Post, the Jakarta Globe for examples). But the real surprise is surely the much better than expected showing by Islamic parties. Islamic parties have seen their share of the vote slide steadily over the years. Just last week, the New York Times predicted that the PPP, the oldest Islamic party, would fail to make the threshold for parliamentary seats…