Faces of Indonesia

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Becak drivers are a dying breed.  Rideshare applications like Uber and Gojek mean travel is more convenient and efficient then ever, but traditional forms are becoming obsolete.  A becak is a three-wheeled rickshaw, some are powered by a modified motorcycle engine, others with pedals and a sturdy pair of thighs.  Becaks were banned in Jakarta in 1936, believed to exacerbate the city's traffic problems (ranked the worst in the world), but in Jogjakarta, where this image was taken, they are still a popular means of travel and an icon of the city's strong tradition. 

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Across Indonesia are millions of food stalls.  Called kaki lima, or five feet, they are nicknamed for the five-feet wide colonial foot paths, which they occupy. These are a vital part of the Indonesian economy and a point of pride for many of their operators, and are often emblazoned with family slogans and mottos.    While each stall serves only one particular dish, you can find vendors selling everything from fried rice to snakes blood (a purported traditional aphrodesiac).  

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A man prepares chicken satay outside a Padang restaurant, where all food is pre-prepared and arranged a la carte. Padang food, originating from its namesake in West Sumatra, is one of the most popular of all Indonesia's 34 regional cuisines, and many Indonesians I spoke with identified Padang beef rendang as their favourite food.  You can find Padang restaurants in any part of the country, and traditionally, the food is spicier and richer than other regional cuisines. 

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Jon is a coconut vendor at Pasar Mencos, the closest market place to my place of residence in Jakarta.  Every morning I would walk past his stall on the way to uni, and later, work; and I often stopped to pass the time and drink a coconut.  Initially he was cautious of a foreigners presence, but over time, as my language skills developed we began to exchange the information of our lives and a friendship blossomed. He taught me how many business operators approach their trade in Indonesia - with a kind of slow freneticism.  

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On an excursion to the coastal fringes of Jakarta, our lecturer warned us not to venture into the port. "It's a rough place," she said, "and I would advise you not to go in there.  If you do, be very careful of your belongings, and remember it is a working port and the men can be really rough, so stay out of the way."  This declaration, of course, perked up my interest.  I ventured in there alone, and was invited to drink a coffee with this man.  He plied me with an offer to take me around the port in his rickety canoe for an exorbitant price.  Accustomed to the Indonesian sense of humour, I retorted with an invite to travel together in his canoe back to Australia. 

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Buskers at the old Dutch colonial epicentre of Jakarta. Busking was banned in Jakarta in 2007, though many buskers still operate illegally around the city.  The award winning documentary, Jalananoffers a deep insight into the plight of modern day buskers in Jakarta and paints an intimate picture of the city.  Well worth watching. 

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Smoking is a favourite pastime of Indonesian people.  The pervasive scent of clove cigarettes are an iconic Indonesian smell. There are an estimated 57 million smokers, or Australia's population two times over. In 2008, over 165 billion cigarettes were sold in the country. In 2010, a two year old boy from Sumatra, Ardi made global headlines for his 40-cigarette-a-day habit. 

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Paimin was a local fisherman in the East Javanese province of Watu Karung. He'd fished the waters here for 40 years. When the ocean was right he fished early in the morning, and spent the hottest parts of the day lounging on his porch in a trademark sarong.  He walked in a slow shuffle with his hands wrapped behind his back, and behind cataracts and pterygiums was that distant, contemplative gaze that all men who work with the elements have.