Monday, August 20, 2007

Votes, Boats and TV Woes

Hello again sports fans. It's been a busy week in Jakarta, what with Mr. Bowo snatching election victory by a moustache’s width at the finishing line. Indonesia's only satirical TV show, Drunken Republic, depicted Mr. Bowo sporting a huge plaster on his upper lip after the Governor elect had urged voters to pierce his moustache on their ballot papers. Well done indeed and long may the show continue to puncture the proud and pompous leaders of this land.

Actually, a colleague of mine told me that his Indonesian wife had taken their young son into the polling booth and simply asked him which candidate she should choose. "The lovely moustache mummy, like on TV," he replied, pointing at the ballot paper. Now six-year-olds don't actually have the vote in Indonesia, which does beg the question why Mr. Bowo seemed to pitch his election advertisements to exactly that age group.

So then, another five years of the backroom boys for the capital. Personally, life in Fauzi's Jakarta has already turned sour from me with the removal of English Premier League football from our screens. PT. Direct Vision Astro, a company I would bet few people here had ever heard of before last week, have outbid Kabelvision, Indovision and the free local terrestrial channels for the rights to show English soccer.

Whether this hugely annoying occurrence will provoke a stampede for Astro connections remains to be seen. However, when we tried to phone Astro from my office last week all we could get was an answer phone message, so I guess that answers my question. I wish we had all been told a little sooner about this epochal change; as it stands it's probably going to take weeks to straighten this mess out.

Your average Indonesian chap, of course, is quite partial to watching the EPL of a Saturday evening on the local channel TV7. In the wake of its absence, your workaday, down at heel Jakartan gentleman will have to seek out some other low-cost entertainment to indulge in after dark on Saturday. Perhaps there will be a mini baby boom nine months hence as a result. What use is my Kabelvision connection now though? Am I going to have to watch the insufferable Oprah Winfrey smugly backslapping celebrities and ex rehab patients from now on? It doesn't bear thinking about.

In an attempt to prove that there must be more to life than soccer and shopping plazas, I thought I'd head up to one of the few places in town that I haven't yet denigrated in the Sunday Post, namely Sunda Kelapa, the old colonial and still active port at the top end of Kota. After getting a taxi to Jakarta's northernmost border from the end of the busway and accidentally giving the driver Rp.100,000 instead of Rp.10,000 (curse these new notes) I found myself breathing in clean(ish) sea air.

The docks themselves are wonderfully old and dilapidated and you can spend a very enjoyable afternoon wandering around, letting the ghosts of the colonial past wash over you. There are plenty of colorful and weather-beaten ships to take pictures of. Most of them are crewed by even more colorful and weather-beaten old coves. I took a few snaps and after a while, I sat down and had a rest from the walking and the endless cries of, "Yo ho ho, hello mister" that were being launched in my direction.

Then, over the battered warehouses and loading cranes, I spied something. I stood up and saw a brand, spanking new building called the Marina Batavia sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the decrepit functionalism of Sunda Kelapa. I walked around to the entrance to investigate.

A security guard was a nice chap and told me that Marina Batavia, Mr. Sutiyoso's final great project, was just nearing completion and should be opening very soon. Ah!! Even up here I couldn't get away from the city administration and their pet projects. Mr. Security took me on a ride around the complex on his scooter and told me what was going on. Apparently, the new marina is set to rival the one at Ancol just a little bit further east along the coast. It will soon be running trips and tours to the Thousand Islands chain (Pulau Seribu) whilst the huge marina building itself will house restaurants, billiard halls and even karaoke lounges.

I made a mental note to return when the place opens and headed back to the civilising calm of (ex?) Governor Sutiyoso's dubious legacy project, the busway (alas, there's no karaoke at the bus stops yet). I've written about the Thousand Islands before in this column but would again urge people to have a few days holiday there, either via Ancol or the new, sexy Marina Batavia when it opens. Too few people seem to know how close they are to paradise. It's simply a question of navigating a path through the 15 km wide band of effluent and industrial pollution that engulfs the capital's coastline before alighting on the clean tropical atolls at the far end of the Thousand Island chain.

Anyway, rest assured I'll be back soon to check out the Marina when it opens. I'm sure it will all be very decadent, the next best thing to Mr Sutiyoso's original idea of establishing a casino/gambling zone in the Thousand Islands themselves. It's a pity that one didn't come off (I believe the Sharia law brigade poured cold water on the idea). Floating croupiers, bow ties, Martinis, palm fringed glamour. One can but dream. Oh well, back to reality I suppose. I'm off to phone Astro's answering machine again.