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A lesson from Malaysia YOGYAKARTA - One more time I would like to look back to Malaysia a little bit. However I was only there for a week, I still had time to look around more than enough to get back to it for (maybe) one more time. Maybe it's just that I have too much time here, but I think it's rather because I would like Indonesia to have something of it as well. They will have to do most of the work however, I don't have much to tell here of course. I can at least tell about my ideas a little bit on the internet, to get it of my list and probably to never get back to it.

This time it's comparing with Jalan Petaling, for those who have never been there, I should explain it a little bit, but for those who have been there already, I certainly don't have to explain anything. If I have to, please grab your photo's you most likely made here and take a good look again. Jalan Petaling is a semi-organized market which starts in the morning hours and lasts until the late hours of the day. Over the day, different products are sold here and people who sell their goods seem to change with the hours as well. In fact you can buy everything you want here, what you don't see you just ask for. It's available for sure, but the price is another story. A little bit like Harrod's, but less luxurious.

The street itself is pretty long and runs through Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown, the old center of the city. Zip code is 50000 because of that. Just a little part of it is free of traffic for the biggest part of the day. In the early morning the street is just like all others, a road where little shops are 'parked' on the pavement. The street is clean and the cars use it for now. Even before lunchtime the street changes into a pedestrian zone where there is no place for traffic. They have to follow a short detour around it on the still available roads.

The pavement is pretty wide, but is used by the small shops for the better part of it. The entire street is one line of small shops. It's hard to find a spot to cross the street because of these rows of shops. The shops behind it, should not count on visitors to see their windows as well. The street is finished off with a 'floating' roof-construction which keeps visitors dry when they are shopping and it happened to rain as well.

People from different cultures and ethnical backgrounds work next to each other here. Each of them has it's own products for sale. Some sell cheap watches or DVD's. (it may be clear that those are illegal and thus be hard to bring back into your own country). Others sell bags, jeans and shirts. Most of it are standard tourist products, but if it's sold, why not? I don't want to buy it, but new products are brought in at a daily basis, so they sell it with a nice profit here and in other places.

This part of Jalan Petaling has a roof so visitors will stay dry when they look around in the many small shops here.
This part of Jalan Petaling has a roof so visitors will stay dry when they look around in the many small shops here.

Compared to 'Malioboro'

What comes closest to Jalan Petaling is Jalan Malioboro, also a jalan (street), only a few thousand kilometers away in another country. Because Yogyakarta is my place of residence, it's more directly related to this place than other places in Indonesia, so I use this street to compare with. Of course it's not just a street, Jalan Malioboro as well is located in the center of the city and offers a big number of small shops that open in the afternoon. But here, the shops close at nine in the evening, there where Jalan Petaling continues for another three hours or so. That's probably the first small point of improvement. Keep them open a little bit longer so people have more time to look around when they are spending their evening in their hotels.

Of course that is not the only thing that should happen. Longer opening hours would be one of the steps to take, together with a number of other 'points of improvement', in my eyes that is then. The street should become traffic-free for the biggest part. Cars, motorbikes and other forms of transport should leave the biggest part of the street. With the earlier change of flow of traffic in Jalan Pasar Kembang, directly along that the Tugu train station, improvements were made to connecting roads outside Malioboro, but this one is hardly used at the moment, whatever the reason may be.

It must be a pleasure to walk around over a 'quiet' Malioboro. When this is actually the case, we can continue to the next step. The street itself should be revamped as well, and not just a little bit. Of course it should be possible to reach it in any case, not only because some government buildings are located along it. But that doesn't mean the black asphalt has to stay, get rid of it as soon as possible. At both ends of the pedestrian zone, a nice row of flower gardens, benches and some big trees should make a nice border. You will need a few guards however, that's a fact.

Landscaping

When it has become more quiet, it's time to do some landscaping. Too bad there are billboards everywhere, and a mix of old and new traffic signs and street lights. Two sets of not working traffic lights complete the chaos that hangs around this place at the moment. Nice that there is no traffic anymore, everything can be removed right away. New street lights, low on energy usage, will be used here to keep the costs down a little bit. For sure something nice can be made out of it.

Most likely there will be a forceful removal of billboards and those advertisements that are way too bright. Nothing will be removed by the owners of course, but for the sake of the old city, those simply have to go away. Between these billboards and advertisements are Dutch colonial buildings. Building of that kind are also present in Jalan Petaling, but there they are just as badly maintained as those in Indonesia. Elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur they look a lot better. Buildings like that we don't really have in Yogyakarta, so let's start maintaining them here as well. There must be some kind of government fund for this, as it draws in tourists.

Ridiculously high 'antennas' with advertisements just have to go away, all of them. Then the cityscape will look much more quiet and small signs in front of the doors are enough for advertising then. The little shops that are now close to the bigger shops, under the gallery, have to move to the central part of the street, so that the gallery will be clean and empty. The street itself has been replaced by a nice pavement of easy colored stones, not those bombastic bright-colored things you see everywhere here. They can use that for something else if they have to.

With this kind of remarkable signs as maps, it must be clear that this is not a smoking area. Tobacco advertisements however are to be seen everywhere here, it's a part of life so to say. These advertisements will be hard to fit in the new 'Malioboro'.
With this kind of remarkable signs as maps, it must be clear that this is not a smoking area. Tobacco advertisements however are to be seen everywhere here, it's a part of life so to say. These advertisements will be hard to fit in the new 'Malioboro'.

With some water, a bunch of bushes and some big trees this place should really turn into a nice place. In some places people are allowed to sell their products, but regulated otherwise it will turn into a chaos almost instantly. Trash cans will be seen more here than you will find them today. There are not enough of them and they are not regularly cleaned. It's also possible that people just don't want to walk another two meters to throw away their garbage, but that's another story of course.

This set of rules should be enough for now to turn this area into a maintainable place. As I said earlier I don't have anything to say here. I don't even want to as well, so I can tell anything with ease here. Some probably will get the feeling that I behave like a colonial. Feel free to do so, but be assured that it's not true. Probably they don't know me, that takes a lot of the prejudices away. Over here I'm not the only one that is complaining about the dirty city, there is just no one that will shout out loud what they think. Just let me offer a helping hand to showing what I would do with a couple of million (Rupiah's is not enough, euros is better).

Amazed

Several weeks ago I returned from Kuala Lumpur. It took a while before I had to be in Jalan Malioboro. It's not a really inviting place at the moment, so I don't go there just for fun. Luckily the entire street is pretty easy to avoid when I have to go somewhere. In general the main via main roads and if not, then via the somewhat smaller roads where huge amounts of motorbikes are pushed through.

I noticed that several places now featured masonry places, finished with cement. On both sides of the street they were erected. However there used to be flowers there before as well, those were gone now and bigger and longer places were built there now. Where all the green was rigorously removed until not too long ago, now it's slowly returning to the inner city again. Now, the 'green' had completely gone here though, probably because they were not finished yet. Ahead more work was done as well. The entire length of Jalan Malioboro, from the railroad until the Bank Indonesia intersection, got it's fair share of new places for 'green'.

Work is being done to erect new places for trees and bushes in the city. Whatever the result may be, it must be clear that the people are at least thinking about 'greening up' the city.
Work is being done to erect new places for trees and bushes in the city. Whatever the result may be, it must be clear that the people are at least thinking about 'greening up' the city.

There is still hope that Jalan Malioboro will become more 'green' soon, however I don't have the expectation that traffic will be reduced there as well. The local government forgets about a big tourist attraction here if you ask me. Why do people visit former colonial places in Malaysia? Because their buildings are perfectly maintained and often still in use. They also provide good conditions for pedestrians and there is enough green. It's clear what's wrong here, however people here don't seem willing to learn from a foreign country. They rather look for themselves what's good and are inventing the wheel for the third or maybe even the fourth time.

What not to adopt from Jalan Petaling?

Of course there are things that better not be adopted here. This is more in the hands of the 'little man', than those of the local government. In Jalan Petaling you will go completely crazy from people who are shouting at you, sometimes even from meters away. Not giving any reaction doesn't always help as well, because they will stop right in front of you. This directly reminded me of Bali, a clear way how not to do business if you ask me. Bali has improved this slightly, but it will take a long way to change that culture. Please let this not be introduced somewhere else, it's something really tourist unfriendly.

Two times I have seen that a bunch of police officers arrived in Jalan Petaling. This caused panic among a number of merchants here because of their illegal products and probably also because of missing permits I can imagine. However this is not a bad action at all, the shouting of the people and nagging at each other will cause some tourists to feel slightly wary about the situation. It's better to work more at an undercover way about these things so tourists don't have to see every detail of these actions.

Most likely the situation above is somewhat of a dream, but as a tourist here you might expect somewhat of a spoil as well, and not only between the walls of your hotel or rental car. The city itself has to be an ongoing event where you can spend your time during your holiday as well. For the residents it would be a relief for sure when they have their very own inner city park, outside the so-called 'city gardens' that are erected in many places here, small stretches of pavement between lanes are transformed into little green islands. That is something good which many people don't seem to look at, but the city's appearance improves because of this. Maybe that is a start after all.



Posted in General @ 06 October 2006 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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