Indonesia

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Cirebon, Java's Smelly Armpit

Jun 15, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Lots of Pros working in bars

Cons:Lots of Cons looking to lighten your wallet

I spent a few months there on business so my review may be tainted by the length of my stay. I don't want to impune the gentle pleasant character of Indonesian people. In fact, that is what made the stay there tolerable.

The tourist attractions are nondescript. The "palace" is old, musty and delapidated. Indifferent minions shuffle dazedly from hallway to hallway. There is also an outside Princesses Water Palace outside town. This place is described in tour books in very glowing terms, but it really looks like a giant sand castle. Little dank rooms and passageways are more suited for peasants then for nobility. Noisy kids race around in this playground. Graffiti covers the walls. Giant bugs the size of your hand make their homes in these ruins. Any wonder at the antiquity and faded beauty of this construct are ruined by hordes of local picnic goers, vendors and little kids.

Outside the general tourist traps one can also visit the Monkey Hill. There you'll be able to buy peanuts from little old ladies then trudge up a hill to be assaulted by troupes of demanding screaching monkeys. Those little beasts can get pretty aggressive, so make sure to carry a stick in case one of them decides to relieve you of your nut stash.

Getting around is also difficult. Two lane roads typically carry 8 lanes of traffic, so driving yourself is not the smartest thing to do, unless you're the type that gets off on playing russian roulette. Within town you can take taxis, for which you will be grossly overcharged. You can rent a car and a driver for about the same price as renting a car in US. I recommend this option if you're not strapped for cash. Or you can get around on 3 wheeled bicycles called baychaks. These are pedalled for you by various hustlers, pimps and scammers. If you're a single male you will be solicited to get a hooker from the moment you get on one of those things. If you're a single female, you will be propositioned in the most graphic manner.

Prostitution is a growth industry in Cirebon. It is unlikely that you can spend time in any bar without being approached by the local talent. In some of the better hotels don't be surprised to have some of these girls sell their services door to door late at night after the bar scene has died down.

Water is definitely not safe in Cirebon. We aware in the shower and don't open you mouth. One of my colleagues spent a week in a local hospital with a particularly nasty stomach bug. The hospital was not your typical suburban haven. Pray you don't end up in one of them. Various beatles, roaches and lizards roam the hallways. Most of the staff, although pleasant, still believes in leaches and mustard treatments.

On the positive side, Cirebon can be bypassed on the way to more interesting Java destinations with a minimum of hassle.


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