Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Letter to the Jakarta Post - April 2014

I travel widely in Southeast Asia and recently visited Indonesia after an absence of several years. I was disappointed with the state of tourist infrastructure at the budget end compared with other countries in the region.  In particular hotels are of poor quality and overpriced. For 250,000 rupiah (US$27) in Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia you can expect a number of features including; cable, modern air-con, hot water, internet, and a degree of comfort in a clean and well appointed liveable space.

Compare this with hotels to be found in cities in Sumatra and Java where room features were a complete lottery and generally of poor quality. Aside from including a basic breakfast; rooms were often small, dark, dated and bathrooms poor. Travel information was often hard to come by and coordinated tourist advice lacking.

Not everything of poor quality was old however. Take terminal three at Jakarta airport, the Air Asia terminal. Brand new but every departing passenger I saw was surprised by the departure tax. Seemingly none had been advised in advance of this requirement for which card payments are not allowed. I didn’t know about it as no travel agent had provided advance knowledge of this requirement.

Once through immigration, which passengers are required to clear at least one hour prior to departure, no provision has been made for drinking water. There are no vending machines or drinking fountains, and because of security procedures passengers are prevented from bringing in their own water.

When I asked Air Asia staff what I could do for drinking water, they shrugged and pointed to the coffee machine. While immigration and airline staff sit around drinking water from their own bottles, passengers are forced to go without even when the afternoon sun turns the building into a greenhouse.

Perhaps Indonesia’s new tourism board can improve the situation but from what I have seen, it will have its work cut out. May be.

Indonesia has many fascinating highlight to offer. In many other areas, it lags substantially behind other neighbours in the region for straight out convenience, comfort, range of options and organisation. It needs to move onwards and upwards in order to keep up with other nations in the region.


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