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The conmen of Parangtritis YOGYAKARTA - What should have been a nice day driving around, became a very funny little adventure. Especially about some remarks that would be made in Parangtritis. Thinking back to this in fact ridiculous fact where four people can laugh about for a long time, it's time to do some efforts to go back writing a little bit. We go back just two days. Not too early the four of us get in the rental car (license plate starting with AB, so we are just like real Yogyakartans), to drive around for the afternoon; some beach, a little bit of disaster area south of Yogyakarta and then simply back home to eat.

The road to Parangtritis, directly to the south seen from Yogyakarta, is in fact one long tape of urban buildings, in some places opened up by ricefields in the flat lowlands behind the hills of Gunung Kidul, which separate the direct coastal ares with most villages and cities towards the inland. However the hills are not the same height everywhere, they form a nice play of colors from a short distance; hills in the back are more light than those in front. This is only when the weather wants to help a little bit. The road to Parangtritis is in fact a downhill road from Yogyakarta all the way to Parangtritis, it ends at sealevel. While driving you will cross some rivers which you can also cross more than one time if you don't use the main road. We followed the main road, also to be a little bit of a disaster tourist while driving.

Like I noticed several weeks before, the heavy damage from the earthquake that struck 27 May 2006 is not repaired. Since the time I saw earthquake damage for the first time with my own eyes, there has hardly changed anything. In some places there are new piles of rubble, in other places taluds of bridges and roads and the road itself are repaired. Directly along the road the situation is often pretty helpless. Empty sheets of concrete with used bricks neatly put together. They will be used again for the same purpose when the building will be reconstructed. Too bad in many places new walls have been erected already, more thin and less strong to hold out any new earthquake, mainly because there is no money and probably also because the chance of an earthquake of this magnitude in Central Java is statistically low. But well, Mother Nature doesn't look at chances, this is clear evidence.

After we drove slowly for almost the entire trip - in this way we were able to look what was happening between emergency shelters, piles of rubble and rebuild houses - we entered the area around Parangtritis. In a car I didn't want to enter any desa, because I prefer to have a more 'equal' image. I rather use a motorbike. In this way I can stop anywhere where people want to talk to me (as 'the foreigner with the camera' or something like that), or I am the one who wants to talk to people when I think I see something interesting. From the car it looks like you are just one of the people that bring some emergency aid to be named on television and in newspapers to disappear soon afterwards again. I don't have to tell anything different than the truth when people ask me why I want to see something; "Because I want to make pictures for internet".

Conmen of Parangtritis

The infamous ticket that will probably be put in a prominent place in the house. A parking fee of 10.000 Rupiah and still dare to ask why tourists stay away.
The infamous ticket that will probably be put in a prominent place in the house. A parking fee of 10.000 Rupiah and still dare to ask why tourists stay away.

Before we encountered one of the most absurd things I have encountered in the years that I visited Indonesia, we took care of some small things as well. At the entry gate to the tourist area of Parangtritis - this automatically means that you have to pay however it's not a big amount - indicated a payment of 1500 Rupiah per person, excluding 250 Rupiah 'insurance'. Furthermore another 500 Rupiah for the car. Funny detail was that the 'insurance' used to be 100 Rupiah until not too long ago. This must have been raised after the earthquake and the tsunami, because insurance companies succeed in receiving money for everything. The last time I was here - just a day after the earthquake and tsunami near Pangandaran, I didn't have to pay anything because there was no official. I don't know if prices were already raised then, but looking at the easy way they changed the price - with a blue stamp and the old amount scratched away with a pen - I suspect not.

A little ahead are the 'Black Sand Dunes', as they are described on the Periplus map of Java and Bali. It's not much more than some sandy hills which are mostly overgrown and for the other part excavated by the local population to earn another few cents. These few cents are much more easy to earn a couple of hundred meters ahead because some tourists go there that have to pay ridiculous parking tariffs. We didn't know that at that time, because I didn't have to pay for that either last time, a nice thing then but now we would pay it back more than double. We entered the most easy way towards the beach. Completely filled with food stalls, losmen and many covered parking spaces - all empty. Several 'parking attendants' woke up from their afternoon nap when hearing the sound of tyres on the loose stones. We slowly drove towards the beach and entered one of the many empty spaces. As a lion on it's prey a somewhat dark man quickly approached us to push a ticket in our hands (see picture above).

Almost scared I started talking Indonesian loudly. "Wah, mahal sekali, parkir di sini!" ("Ooh, expensive, parking here!"). I was really highly amazed by the completely absurd prices which were printed on the tickets. For a motorbike they simply asked 3.000 Rupiah and a car had to pay 10.000 Rupiah. That's enough for two persons to have a proper meal, so my friends from Bali had to go hungry I was thinking. The man smiled friendly, probably he was somewhat shocked by the fact that I spoke out loud about what I was thinking. Soon the question raised about why parking was so expensive here.
"Well, because there is a pavement".
"Yeah, but that was here last month as well", I said because I was here before of course. Again that smile, but he maintained the fact that these tickets were the valid ones. That seemed pretty strange to me, because these kind of prices were more standard to The Netherlands, not a remote and dirty beach where you can hardly find proper services. Okay, I agree that the earthquake did some damage here, but still, before that quake there wasn't much to see as well. Once parked I wanted to move the car, on the beach or something because that didn't belong to 'someone' for sure. But well, already too late nog. In fact the situation was so stupid that I had to laugh about it when I walked away. And the best part still had to come.

Paying per minute

When walking to the beach we would see much more empty parking space. Not a single person did any effort to look over his newspaper or even to move one muscle. We already had a parking space of course. Where you normally find yourself in the middle of a group of people trying to offer you a becak or something -in and around Yogyakarta -, it stayed quiet here, very quiet. Like everyone here already knew we didn't agree with price tags like that. I hoped they would already know. I might be Caucasian (and rich and tourist in the eyes of many) but there are borders I don't want to cross for sure. Okay, forward to the very funny part, enough complaints by now.

 Paying per minute is probably something much more ridiculous than paying 10.000 Rupiah for a parking space. We had a good laugh about this of course, especially when we found out that it wasn't a joke at all. What if your zip didn't want to open when you are already inside, then you have to pay and not only to fix your zip.
Paying per minute is probably something much more ridiculous than paying 10.000 Rupiah for a parking space. We had a good laugh about this of course, especially when we found out that it wasn't a joke at all. What if your zip didn't want to open when you are already inside, then you have to pay and not only to fix your zip.

Just on the beach the rows of toilets and washing cabins are deserted. There was simply no one. They weren't cleaned as well, and that with a price tag of 1500 Rupiah. Doesn't sound like much? That's right, but that wasn't all, this was a per minute rate. When I saw that, I grabbed my camera to record it. This was just amazing to see. The text was probably added with pencil or dried out market, but in general things like that are just as valid as the original works of 'art' of many. There was no one around to check if it was meant like this. Only on the way back from the beach, after we walked to the Queen of the South hotel and we had a drink on the beach - there was a strong wind which wasn't really pleasant when drinking - we found out.

Back to the car it was about time to ask someone about some things. It soon became obvious that parking was indeed really expensive, "but negotiating was possible of course". Yeah, probably it is, but the dark guy with the smile had been paid already. That smile would stay on for the rest of the day, that was a given fact. Using the toilet or washing cabin (a room hardly bigger than one by one meter with fresh water in a sink) wasn't cheap here as well. You can use it for 1500 Rupiah per minute. Using the internet is much cheaper, about 50 Rupiah per minute. For one hour of mandi - long, but just as an example - you also have a cheap hotelroom for one entire night. It's just what you want to make of it, but for me it was nothing short of a joke.

Parly because we were given the reply "Just eat here as well" when asking about the high prices, we decided to have a late lunch/early dinner just across the area. Not an extensive one, but just to be enjoyed. Every once in a while I was able to look at the guy that had already earned his income for the day. At first he was sitting outside, later on his own terrace and not too much later behind the kaki lima and eventually he disappeared until we were back in the car. There Mister Smile showed up to show us the way out. Time to go and not to come back by car for some time. With a motorbike you can do much more tricks. The next time I will probably just enter the beach so I can stop somewhere there. That's not something special by the way, because during the weekends the beach here is almost just as crowded with motorbikes as downtown Yogyakarta.

It's always my target to stimulate people. I know that tourists - foreigners, but just as well people from Indonesia - are extorted on tourist destinations like these. However I very well know that it's pretty useless to do being a foreigner, it's a nice expenditure of time. Probably a few people will be left behind somewhat amazed when I get on my motorbike (today by car for exceptions sake) only to return in a short period of time. I really don't have to teach anything to anyone, but secretly I hope there are people who will use their brains a little more often and they also start thinking about the words 'future' and 'investment', because that's a still missing link here.



Posted in Culture @ 25 August 2006 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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