In April 2005, after flying from Hong Kong, the first thing that I noticed on my inaugural visit to Jakarta, Indonesia was the plume of of kretek, or clove-cigarette, smoke idling right outside of the arrivals hall of Soekarno-Hatta Airport. Whoops, no that’s not right. The FIRST thing I noticed was the impenetrable quality of the visa-on-arrival (VOA) lines, followed by similarly styled passport control lines and lastly the “seriously, we don’t care” customs lines. Then came the touts, those wily scabs trying to get you to take their meter-less taxi/bus/ferris wheel downtown.
After all of that though, while waiting for a taxi, I took a minute to digest this:
Great to be here! What’s even more telling is that these days, I think the sign has been replaced by a less harmful (ie, we’re glad that you made it as opposed to we know why you’re here and that’s all we’ve got) greeting. For those of you who have visited Jakarta before, you might then be wondering what kind of message the government is sending. Sarcasm aside, what’s common in Southeast Asia is, if you check the customs declaration for Indonesia, the old immigration slip for Malaysia and Singapore’s immigration card, you’ll soon realize that you’re not in Guatemala anymore. I’m fascinated by the blunt message, so much so that I’m reminded of the screen that popped up whenever you played a game at a video arcade in the US in the early 1990s.
A question remains: Is this more reassuring than my country’s current slogan, “Welcome to the USA/Enjoy it With No Government?” Debatable, but Indonesia gets my vote for having a year-round supply of calamansi juice.
On your travels, have you seen any signage that causes tourism officials to have sleepless nights?