Bikes, Beras, Borobudur

Nov 8th, 2011, in Featured, News, Travel, by

After last week's episode where competitors spelunked, danced and generally made a fool of themselves in various locations around Yogyakarta, the author wondered what they could do to top that.

The answer was:

1. amazing-race-bike-yogyakarta 2. Liz Amazing Race Salakmalang 3. Jeremy and Ernie Count Buddha Statues at Borobudur

  1. Bikes: Ride old-style bikes in Dutch-era uniforms.
  2. Beras: Go to Salakmalang village and perform daily farming tasks, e.g. planting rice seeds ("beras" in Indonesian).
  3. Borobudur: Visit the famous Buddhist temple and count four different types of Buddha statues.


You can watch the action here:


Now that "The Amazing Race" has left Indonesia, it is appropriate to discuss some more general questions:

Did "The Amazing Race" accurately portray Indonesian life? Why/why not?

At the start, the answer was no. Competitors ran through immigration and customs, magically appeared at Gambir railway station (35km away), and upon arrival in Yogyakarta at 2 a.m. had taxis waiting for them.

Dating Divorcees Jeremy SandyBut it got better from there. Entering the taxis, racers encouraged their respective taxi drivers to go fast, then became concerned when they saw their taxi driver's driving tactics. Surprisingly, there were no issues with traffic jams, dodgy meters or a taxi driver's inability to reach the agreed destinations. And the only time a taxi had a mechanical issue, it didn't matter - the taxi of dating divorcees Jeremy and Sandy died a short distance from Borobudur, so they paid and jogged the rest of the way.

Interestingly, this contrasted with competitors' experiences during Episode 5 in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand.

Ernie and Cindy Amazing Race IndonesiaIronically, the biggest transport problem any team had in Indonesia was with a bicycle.

Ernie's pedal broke on the way from the Sultan's Temple to Fort Vredeberg, in Yogyakarta City. The ensuing repairs caused Ernie and Cindy to drop from third to eighth (second last).


Some other doses of Indonesian reality:

  1. Satpam IndonesiaThe smiling SATPAM opening the entrance door for competitors at Borobudur.
    SATPAM (an Indonesian acronym for security guard) are a common features of many public places. Despite the perception tourists may get from overly alarmist travel warnings, SATPAMs rarely have much to do. So they often double as doormen or customer service, especially at banks and hotels. (Indonesia seems to dislike automatic/electronic opening doors).

  2. Cathi Takes a Tumble in Salakmalang, IndonesiaVisitors falling over on Indonesian farms, despite trying to tread carefully.
    Like riding a bicycle or bouncing a basketball, walking around farms (especially rice paddies) is a skill learned best when young. Little Indonesian children can walk through rice paddies faster than tourists, and fall far less frequently too. Cathi (above) wasn't the only competitor to fall over, but what made it funny was how she would always say, "I'm ok" straight afterwards.

  3. Overcrowded Commuter Train JakartaA brief shot of an overcrowded commuter train at Gambir Railway Station in Jakarta.
    However, viewers could subsequently see the competitors' executive class night train to Yogyakarta had no such problem. A new policy of reserved seating on economy-class trains (and no standing) will hopefully end this common but very dangerous practice.

Would this portrayal of Indonesia in "The Amazing Race" encourage more foreign tourists to visit Indonesia?

Would you like to re-trace "The Amazing Race" competitors' steps? Please see the guide and Google Maps here.

More generally, there is some evidence of "The Amazing Race" raising the profile and tourist numbers at lesser-known/remote locations, such as Iceland.

Yogyakarta currently receives few international flights; currently only Air Asia operates flights from Yogyakarta to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, Silk Air also flies between Singapore and nearby Solo.

Mau Ke Mana Flight Memory IndonesiaSo many tourists often fly to Yogyakarta via the larger international airports in Jakarta or Denpasar. Looking at the Mau Ke Mana flight statistics page on Flight Memory, Yogyakarta is currently #6 for most popular airports. Flights from Jakarta to Yogyakarta is the 7th most popular flight route, closely followed by Yogyakarta to Denpasar.

It will be interesting to see if the airport and these flights' popularity increase over the next few months. Alternately, perhaps people will prefer to take the train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta, as the racers did.

Perhaps the previously unknown Goa Jomblang will also become more famous and well-frequented, after its starring role in the show.

If the "The Amazing Race" was to return to Indonesia, where could competitors go and what would they do there?

Here are some ideas for East Java:

  1. Stairs up Mt BromoCount the number of steps up Mt Bromo.
    This would test racers' stamina and concentration, at altitude.



  2. Sulphur Rock Collectors, Ijen Plateau, East JavaCarry 35kg of sulphur rocks from Ijen Plateau to the nearby weighing station.
    Despite the acrid sulphur fumes, locals can carry 70kg at a time in their bamboo baskets, earning $US0.07 (Rp600) per kg. This would test racers' strategy; they could carry a large weight and not need to go up/down many times, or carry a small weight and complete each time up/down more quickly.

  3. Mud Eruption PorongVisit this "mystery location" .
    Sometimes racers get a cryptic clue, like "Go to this place" (photo supplied) or "Go to the world's tallest building". Racers will need to work out that it is the man-made Mud Volcano eruption site in Porong, then how to get there.



Finally, some ideas for a local celebrity could greet competitors at the the pitstop (end) of this leg of the race:

1. Chris John 2.Dewi Persik 3. Inul Darutista

  1. Chris John: An Indonesian boxing world champion, he also once trained atop Mt Bromo for a local energy-drink commercial.
  2. Dewi Persik: East Javanese signer, dancer and actress, also Oigal's nomination for Indonesian Tourism Ambassador.
  3. Inul Darutista: Another East Javanese native of singing and sexy dancing fame.

Suggestions welcome for other locations in Indonesia, e.g. Jakarta, Bali, Lombok, Medan.


3 Comments on “Bikes, Beras, Borobudur”

  1. avatar Oigal says:

    Well if nothing else I am sticking with Dewi…

    I still think it would have been fun to show them trying to meet a time line while grappling with the traffic from the airport to the city. I recall having a child in convulsions trying to get from the airport to the hospital, I would have put any of the amazing race tantrums to shame that day. Our regular jakarta driver is still on a ‘side-swipe’ bonus for every a’hole he gets who is blocking the emergency lane (although most days far too many to worry about).

    So ya, if you were sitting in the emergency lane and you copped a new dent, it was probably us and we will do it again.

  2. avatar Oigal says:

    Oh new Slogan for Indonesia ‘Visit Indonesia Your BiPolar Destination”.

    Honestly explains the glaring contradictions we see everyday. Although TII is probably the most common term heard amongst expats to explain the daily challenges and joys facing foreigners here.

  3. avatar Chris says:

    If the “The Amazing Race” was to return to Indonesia, where could competitors go and what would they do there?

    We’re about to find out.

    The 21st series of “The Amazing Race” is starting today (on satellite/cable TV channel AXN, Mondays at 19:10 WIB) and will include a return visit to Indonesia.

    James LoMenzo
    Indonesian viewers will probably be supporting former White Lion and Megadeth bass player James LoMenzo (above left), who most recently toured Indonesia with Megadeth in 2007. (White Lion singer Mike Tramp is married to local celebrity Ayu Azhari).

    It is not known whether Indonesian immigration officials would have deported these contestants – similar to Maria Ozawa – if they had known their day job was Chippendales:

    Amazing Race Chippendales

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