Don’t Cry for Me Indonesia

17 05 2017

Today, on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, two Sumatran men were sentenced to public whipping with a cane. Their crime? Consensual gay sex in private. The victims had been apprehended by a gang of vigilantes who broke into their private room to catch them “in the act”. Its a chilling development in an alarming trend: Indonesia’s slide into the ranks of countries ruled by religious extremism.

The judgement follows on from the appalling, racist and transparently political incarceration of Jakarta’s governor ( a double minority, being Christian and Chinese) for “blasphemy”) an offense that a) it is clear he did not commit and b) should not be illegal anyway in any modern country. The courts have sent a clear message – they will side with the loud voices of religious conservatives.

The same law has been used to persecute the Gafatar minority, whose unorthodox and syncretic blend of Islam – arguably much more representative of Indonesia’s own culture – was deemed to be sacriligious for, among other things, allowing Muslims the choice to pray rather than labelling it as compulsory.

It is a scary time. Despite Jakarta’s new modern art museum and Hooter’s outlet (!) there can be no doubt that one of Asia’s most famously tolerant societies is slipping into a religious dark age. Wake up Indonesia, before its too late!

Southeast Asia Weird

17 05 2017


In just about the least horrifying news out of Indonesia this week (scroll up) , the decomposing body of a “sea monster” washed up on one of its beaches. It is, most likely, the carcass of a whale.


Meanwhile Bangkok experienced a new food fad, with a bakery in Pathum Thani gaining online fame for this adorable/creepy dog-shaped coconut puddings. Can’t wait to eat on of these puppies…literally.


And finally in Singapore, a new “vending machine” for luxury cars opened in the form of an arrestingly designed showroom where with the flick of a switch you can “select” the car you want to test.

Tales of the city

28 11 2016

Last week the Guardian newspaper launched an interesting experiment – a one week feature on one of the world’s great under-reported cities, Jakarta. The paper ran a series of articles on everything from the Indonesian capital’s breakout hip hop star Rich Chigga to its problems with football hooliganism, notorious traffic, redevelopment plans and the (to me, surprising) fact that the city has actually suffered a net population loss since 1990. Like many third world megacities it is apparently now losing more people than it attracts, a startling reversal of fortunes.

Read all about it here or my own impressions of the “big Durian” here.

Summertime, the living is easy…

23 07 2016


As my long Summer break ambles on, I’ve been enjoying balmy evenings and blazing days around town, sampling some of the city’s new hot spots. It’s a hard life. 😉


Omotesando Koffee, the first outpost of the super-hip (and now defunct in Harajuku) Tokyo brand was disappointing . Despite massive queues at its sleek Wanchi store when it first opened, the coffee I had there was just OK for the hefty 50 HKD ( $8.60 AUD) pricetag. I’d say: give it a miss.


I also went for a late afternoon dip at Deep Water Bay and returned to one of my favourite hangouts of last summer, the Thai restaurant atop the changing rooms next to the beach. It seems to have changed management and gone a little bit “fancier” but you can still order a coconut and a som tam and sit outside watching the sun on the water and feeling the salt breeze.


By far my best new discovery though was the recently opened Potato Head, a branch of the famous Bali bar and restaurant, now set up in Sai Ying Pun. Whereas HK’s other Balinese import Mamasan was disappointing in its local incarnation, Potato Head seemed to get everything right. I ate at the restaurant there called Kaum (there is also a small homewares/fashion store, bar and events space) and loved it: funky and forward-looking tropical design, friendly service, great music and delicious nasi goreng made a place I’m looking forward to getting back to.


Perfect for Summer.


23 07 2016

Rich Chigga is a 16 year-old in Jakarta who learnt both English and hip hop via the internet and describes his main thing as “twitter” with music as a side project, a true creation of our times. Despite this, his song has caught fire online and attracted seven million views. Many of the viewers came to the song as a joke (that name, the pink polo shirt and fanny pack) but then suddenly realised that it was pretty….good. Now Chigga has been picked up by a management team who also have Keith Ape on the roster, leading to speculation of a new Asian trap-rap movement.

2 07 2016

Eko Nugroho Art Work

By Eko Nugruho.

All around the world

12 05 2016


Above, poster for WordUp bar in Tokyo. Below, Adria A in Brazil.

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Okunte Kinte in Uganda.

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And Eko Nugroho in Indonesia.

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