Indiana Jones and the “Temple of Jakarta”

Oct 26th, 2011, in Featured, Travel, by

A fan/local perspective on the recent visit of American reality TV/game show “The Amazing Race” to Indonesia.

After years of visiting neighbouring countries (e.g. Malaysia) multiple times, “The Amazing Race” finally touched down in Indonesia earlier this year for two legs – Episodes 2 & 3 – of the current 19th series. (It is not known how much a personal appeal to the Indonesian Tourism Ministry to get TAR impacted this).

Want to watch it? YouTube is your friend:

“The Amazing Race” Series 19, Episode 2
*Please note that it is about 43 minutes in length, and may take a long time to load in Indonesia due to the slow broadband Internet speed.

One part of Episode 2 the author was looking forward to see was how racers dealt with their international arrival in Jakarta, especially:

Long queue in Indonesian Airport
Welcome to Indonesia

1. How the different teams dealt with the famously long queues at the visa on arrival and immigration counters while in a “race”.

Damri Airport Bus Jakarta

Damri Airport Bus

2. Working out transport arrangements for getting to the main train station, Gambir, in Central Jakarta. Would they get accosted by various touts offering “Taxi, Mister” even on camera/international TV? Would they get stuck with a taxi driver who either didn’t know the way or didn’t have any small change when they arrived? Or would they all just travel together on the DAMRI Airport bus to Gambir?

Justin and Jenny, Amazing Race 19

Justin and Jenny

3. More generally, how would the racers go when they clearly had little knowledge of Indonesian geography and culture? Only one team, Justin and Jennifer, managed to say “Yogyakarta” remotely correctly.

Unfortunately, this part was not included. The only footage at the airport showed racers jogging down the arrivals hall past the money changer and visa on arrival counters, suggesting some kind of expedited arrival arrangements had been made in advance. Suddenly, all competitors were at Gambir (some 35km away), waiting for their overnight train to Yogyakarta. Alas, being an overnight train, competitors didn’t see the many interesting sights and pretty scenery along the way.

(There are many flights to Yogyakarta, too; probably the choice of overnight train was made so competitors completed all the subsequent tasks during the day-time).

Racers’ first task: Travel by taxi to Goa Jomblang.

Goa Jomblang
Goa Lomblang, near Semanu, Yogyakarta

The author’s first thought was “What? Where’s that?” To put it in perspective, Goa Jomblang isn’t just not a Lonely Planet highlight of Indonesia, it’s not even in the travel guide at all. It’s not on Google Maps of Indonesia. Heck, it’s not even on Indonesian maps of the Yogyakarta/Central Java region. About the only webpage about it in English is this article in local newspaper “The Jakarta Post”. Apparently, it’s 57km south-east of Yogyakarta City, near Semanu.

At Goa Jomblang, racers had to spelunk/rapel/abseil down into the cave, where they collected a Javanese mask and kris (Javanese ceremonial sword), then climbed a bamboo ladder back up to the top.

Andy and Tommy

Andy and Tommy

Despite being hot, tired and possibly jet-lagged also, the racers were most impressed by Goa Jomblang. Professional snowboarder Tommy Czeschin was seemingly lost for words in his enthusiasm, describing it as:

like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Jakarta

despite being in the province of Yogyakarta, over 500km away. Perhaps Tommy didn’t sleep so well the night before…

Racers’ next activity: return by taxi to Yogyakarta City and choose between two menial tasks:

Liz and Marie Shake Their Money Maker
Liz (or is it Marie?) Busts A Move

  1. Shake Your Money Maker: Wear a Javanese costume (including mask) and dance at a busy Yogyakarta City intersection while the other team member plays a gamelan until they have earned Rp30 000 ($3.40) in tips.
    Kaylani and Lisa Amazing Race Indonesia

    Kaylani and Lisa

    Unfortunately, unlike some tasks there was no timer on how long each team took to earn the required amount of tips. Some would suspect the female teams – especially former Las Vegas showgirls Kaylani & Lisa and blonde twins Lisa and Marie – might have finished the task more quickly. However, perhaps the Javanese masks and costumes “levelled the playing field”, so to speak.

  2. Ticket takers Mal Malioboro
    Zac and Steve in action as Motorcycle Parking Assistants

  3. Ticket Taker: Both team members wear a uniform and work as a motorcycle parking assistant (“Ticket Taker”) at Mal Malioboro until they have earned Rp15 000 ($1.70).

    If you’re wondering why such a job is necessary, it is two-fold. The parking assistants manage the parking area and stop people parking just anywhere. They also help prevent theft of/damage to motorbikes while parked. Another fringe benefit: it gives unskilled workers a job. The price is usually Rp500-1000 per motorcycle, and double that for cars. In addition, motorcycles are cheaper to buy and operate, a key consideration for many. This is one reason why there are far more motorcycles in Indonesia than cars, so the motorcycle parking assistant is a common feature of Indonesia’s shopping malls.

    Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to any locals giving funny looks or thinking, “Why is the bule parking my motorbike?”, let alone a crowd of amused onlookers. The latter seems to happen fairly frequently in other episodes, especially in non-European and developing countries. Or perhaps people were choosing to not let their true inner feelings be known, in Javanese style.

Regardless, I am sure the dancing buskers and caucasian parking assistants added colour to many motorists’ day, and would have been more interesting to watch/listen to than the average busker/parking assistants that populate many major Indonesian cities.

Yogyakarta Orphanage The Amazing RaceThe racers’ next task: visit and donate your money to the Panti Asuhan Putri Aisyiyah Yogyakarta, a home and school for girls orphaned by last year’s volcanic eruption at Mt Merapi.

Curiously, there is no mention of the donations or the visit by “The Amazing Race” on the orphanage’s webpage, just the usual selection of photos of buildings and the students engaging in self-development activities. Maybe the orphanage does not wish it to be known locally that they received a large donation, in case local donations dry up. Another possible explanation is that receiving donations from an American TV show could also be a little controversial for some people; last year, a few local Muslims protested a Church helping Muslims who had fled their home during the Merapi eruption.

Many teams didn’t read the fine print that they were also to donate all their other money to the orphanage, and so had to make a return visit.

The racers’ final task: Travel on foot to the Sultan’s Palace (a.k.a. Kraton Yogyakarta Hadinigrat), Yogyakarta.

Amazing Race Pistop: Sultan's Temple, Yogyakarta
Sultan’s Palace, Yogyakarta – not the “Temple of Jakarta”

As well as the home of the Sultan of Yogyakarta (also the Governor of the province of Yogyakarta), and a major tourist attraction of the region. The official website is in Indonesian, so you might want to either view it with Google Chrome (which can auto-translate it) or use another website like this one. Admission is less than $1, and for a little extra you can get a tour with one of the Sultan’s fearsome bodyguards:

The Sultan's Bodyguards, Yogyakarta The Sultan's Bodyguards On Tour
Don’t mess with these guys

Would you like to follow the trail blazed by contestants in “The Amazing Race”? It’s not difficult.

You can take the train to Yogyakarta from Jakarta (like the racers did) or Surabaya, East Java.

Alternately, you can fly from Jakarta, Surabaya or Denpasar/Bali. Flights between Jakarta and Yogyakarta are the most frequent; Surabaya is the closest.

Here are some customised Google Maps to help you find your way, after you arrive:

Yogyakarta Province/Region
Places marked: Yogyakarta Tugu train station, Adi Sucipto Airport, Goa Jomblang, Salakmalang Village, Borobudur Temple, Mt Merapi

Yogyakarta City
Places marked: Yogyakarta Tugu train station, Mal Malioboro, Panti Asuhan Putri Aisyiyah, Kraton/Sultan’s Palace, Fort Vredeberg

Some places on the Google Maps appear in Episode 3, to be discussed in a future post.

Coming Soon: The Amazing Race in Indonesia (Part 2) – Bule, Bikes, Borobudur

11 Comments on “Indiana Jones and the “Temple of Jakarta””

  1. David says:

    I don’t mind Kaylani and Lisa…particularly the former.

    Seems to have had that ‘bule masuk kampung’ feel to it in part.

    Goa Jomblang does rather sound like one of those (very) hidden gems that in any other country would be flocking with tourists… or at least the dedicated adventurist types in this case.

  2. ET says:

    How the different teams dealt with the famously long queues at the visa on arrival and immigration counters while in a “race”.

    Maybe they were able to enjoy the inflight immigration service Garuda is presently advertising.

  3. Oigal says:

    I would love to know what flight that service is actually on. I have been on three international in last two months and yet to see it

  4. Chris says:

    Hi guys,

    To answer your questions/comments:

    I don’t mind Kaylani and Lisa…particularly the former.

    Alas, Kaylani and Lisa got eliminated at the end of Episode 3. Having said that, they almost didn’t make it off the starting line after Kaylani managed to lose her passport on the way to Los Angeles airport. Fortunately, the guy who picked it up worked out who it was, and that she was probably heading to the airport.

    Maybe they were able to enjoy the inflight immigration service Garuda is presently advertising.

    Negative, they all flew from Taipei, Taiwan on the same China Airlines flight. If you read the Garuda website promotional material closely, all it does is let passengers skip the visa on arrival queue, not the immigration queue.

    I would love to know what flight that service is actually on. I have been on three international in last two months and yet to see it

    From the same website:

    Aside from the Tokyo-Denpasar route, IoB will also be available for other Garuda Indonesia international routes heading to Jakarta and Denpasar, including the Tokyo-Jakarta route, the Osaka-Denpasar route, the Amsterdam-Dubai-Jakarta route, the Sydney-Jakarta route and the Seoul-Jakarta route. Garuda Indonesia also plans on expanding the IoB service to other routes.

  5. Lairedion says:


    So far only on the Amsterdam-Jakarta route I have learned from kenalan2

  6. Chris says:

    Yes Oigal and Lairedion,

    Reading it again, I notice how it says:

    will also be available

    without specifying a date.

  7. Chris says:

    Hi Oigal and Lairedion,

    A Garuda brochure I saw recently says its expedited visa/immigration processing arrangements are available on flights from Amsterdam, Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth), Middle East (Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh), Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya) and Korea (Seoul).

  8. Oigal says:

    Thanks Chris, that is great…now if I can just the b*ggers to fly to Adelaide

  9. Chris says:

    Hi Oigal,

    …now if I can just the b*ggers to fly to Adelaide

    Garuda once did Denpasar to Brisbane and Denpasar to Darwin, but both have been canned. So, I don’t like your chances.

    What about Pacific Blue? They fly direct Denpasar to Adelaide, right?

  10. Oigal says:

    We have gone the Sg Air route..not cheap but avoid the Bali milk run

  11. pinoy says:

    Seeing that the orphanage website was last updated sometime in 2009, just like a lot of Indo websites out there BTW, I would say they just neglected putting the donation news up. No sinister undertones there.

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