Developed countries’ towns are usually very clean; hygiene and safety are above everything else. The buildings are lined neatly, no trash can in the middle of the street, and most of the people follow the law. Government maintain the cities and public transportation well – people queue in the bus stop and even though traffic jam often occurs, it can be handled professionally.

After 20+ years living in this ‘Parisj van Java’ after comparing things I observed when I was abroad, I realize there are things so unique in my hometown that nobody ever ask why since they are too common and have become part of our culture. Here are first list of my findings:

Nothing can beat famous public transportation called “angkot” or “angkutan kota” or “city transport” in English. They are usually mini (i*uzu) van or old toy*ta k*jang with modification, passengers sit on the sides and they use scrolling door instead of usual one you may find in private cars. Unlike the ones in developed country, this angkot can be found everywhere everytime (except 10PM or above), stop everywhere (including in the middle of the packed street and yeah you can get in…in the middle of the street!), stop everytime you call it to stop (including when someone makes it to stop few meter after it last stops), drop you off everytime the driver wants to drop you off (sometimes because it’s a hassle for riding just one passenger), no time expectation to destination (for just 5 km it can take either 10 min or 30 min), no sign or information about how much you need to pay from one place to another so you should either ask or just give some money… sometimes each angkot demands different amount, the price of this public transportation’s calculation is so absurd and no formula can define it, the passengers are usually 12-13 persons per car, and you can experience being stolen, kidnapped, taken to strange area, etc. Everyday is adventure, right?

Traditional market is another story. When I went to Kanazawa fish market (which I think it’s more traditional than usual marketplace), I can listen to the seller’s shoutings, wide concrete floor, burstling people, all fresh vegetables and so on. I was asked by a professor about traditional market in my country. I just said ‘dirty and narrow’ – since I was hesitant to give him the full details. Traditional market or “pasar” is the same as every traditional market in anywhere in the world. It sells fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and so on. Including butchering living chicken plus washing their fresh blood and pulling their intestines, chopping on living-and-still-walking crab’s hard shell to pieces, hanging pork feet in the stall… like it is nothing, well, they do it everyday. You can choose and browse these ingredients on your own, including ‘testing’ fruits, pinching meat, negotiate the price. Most of the people are using either Indonesian, Sundanese, or Hokkien Chinese language when telling you the price. “Tilu saparapat kilo (three and a half kilograms in Sundanese)”, “setengah liter (half litre in Indonesian)”, “lima ribu (5000 Indonesian Rupiah)”, or usually “go ban (5000 in hokkien)”, “sa ceng gou (3500 in Hokkien)”, or Indo-Chinese merchant will say either in Chinese “yi wan wu chien (15000)” or Hokkien Chinese “ban gou (15000)”. You can pick one of the three languages you want. Fix price is quite rare, so here you can try on your negotiating skill. If I told these things to people in Japan winterschool back then (it was dinner time), I was afraid they lose appetite in a second.
Recently in rainy season, we can go offroad in the middle of the town, and you can do it for free and with high speed to enjoy the thrill. The road is so horribly bumpy that might deliver every shockbreaker in shame. I tell you now not to use sedan or luxurious cars. Use military jeeps or a hovercraft instead. If you love adventure, you can go full-throttle with your bike, but I don’t guarantee your safety.

Because of too many bikes (motorcycle… not bicycle) we townspeople own, and too many traffic jams, you can learn how to zigzagging lines of cars without brake, jump to trotoaar (sidewalk), or cutting through red traffic lamp and feel the survival game yourself. Safety not guaranted. You might or might not be cursed by people or busted by police, though. You might need negotiating skill to negotiate with police.

Someone told me that few months ago he accompanied a Japanese professor from Jakarta to Bandung. The professor asked how many kilometers left, and he said about 100 km. The professor thought it was still 2 more hours and went to sleep. Actually it only took one hour. That meant the average velocity was about 100 km/h. And this is usual in the highway. The topspeed of travel buses are 140km/h… In the city, we usually go 40-60km/h, and 80-100km/h in highways. So…enjoy your ride?

Food. Nothing can beat Indonesian food. We are always so noisy about food and each provinces have their own tastes. For Sundanese people “if we haven’t eaten rice, we haven’t eaten anything”. For Padang people “it’s all plain without chilli”. For Central Java “mendoan or sweet tea”. And so on. The rich flavor of Indonesian cuisine are so famous and we will always say Indonesian food tastes better. And how they are cooked are really something to take note of. Brewing sauce for two days? Grinding peanuts with stone (“ng-ulek” with “mutu”)? Eating raw vegetables with peanut sauce? Putting fish meat above tofu? Mixing spices, chilli and sweet soy sauce, or wrapping (almost everything..heh) with pandan/banana/papaya leaves? The difference of fried rice, sotos, curry, opor, from Sabang to Merauke… We Sundanese can’t eat without “kerupuk” (fish/prawn crackers), chilli, sweet soy sauce, rice, and sambal (mixed hot chilli sauce which is richer in flavor than tabas*o). And lalaban (raw vegetables literally). Don’t forget sambel terasi (terasi sauce? Haha), sayur asem (literally sour vegetable with mixture of sweet corns, small corns, “asam”, peanuts, red beans, waluh), ubi Cilembu (Cilembu extremely sweet potato), jengkol… How can these chef prepare those hard-to-make recipes, I wonder.

Speaking of food, wikipedia said “beware of food poisoning in Indonesian street vendors”. No. It’s not poisonus. It’s just you guys’ stomaches are weak for eating too healthy food. Oh well, I admit they are rather dirty and if you see how they wash the plates you might want to spend dinner in restaurant instead. But we managed to survive this wilderness. If not typhoid, perhaps just diare.

People here don’t usually treat fever with block of ice or warm water being put on the forehead. We have hard way, called “kerokan”, that is literally “to scratch the patient’s back with metal coin until it formed red lines and then put the muscle balm on it”. It is believed “to get the WIND out from the patient’s body”. I. still. do. that. And super effective. Don’t know why. You might want to try. Oh yeah, some children might scream (because scratching your back with metal coin hurts a bit), but it is definitely NOT a children abuse. I don’t know why today’s people are so overprotective to their children that every ‘hitting/ scolding’ a child is considered children abuse. But it is for another story.

The last list for today is something that no northern/ southern hemisphere countries can do. If you throw whatever seed or Banana stick to the soil… they’ll grow on their own. We have bunch fertile black soil here and you can plant whatever tree you want (not Sakura tree in Bandung please). Traditional agriculture. I saw and tasted huge strawberries in Japan back then, but it wasn’t as sweet as Lembang small tiny strawberries. Two kilograms papaya equals about 12000 (yesterday) or about 1.2US$, or about 120JPY. Cheap, huh?

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