Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Chinese Tourist in Jakarta

In Glodok, the biggest Chinatown in Jakarta, I saw a street filled with lanterns, lunar calendars and all sorts of other goods for the approaching Chinese New Year. The Buddhist temple Jin De Yuan was crowded with ethnic Chinese burning incense and praying for luck and happiness. The ethnic Chinese community in Jakarta was celebrating this most important of holidays freely and cheerfully.

I talked with some high school teachers and learned that more and more Indonesian students were studying the Chinese language because of the closer business ties between Indonesia and China. And the Indonesian government has thrown its support behind efforts to improve Chinese language education in Indonesia.

Seeing is believing, as they say. So, why did I receive so much negative information before I left for Jakarta? In my opinion, the 1998 riots may still be influencing some Chinese people’s impressions of Jakarta and Indonesia. The city is improving, but most Chinese people do not have the chance to hear about this because there are no channels getting the information out, whether through books, TV programs or Web sites.

In recent years, Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism has enhanced its promotional efforts in China, including offering visas-on-arrival for mainland Chinese tourists and taking part in tourism exhibitions around China. I would suggest the ministry do more to spread the word about the harmony that is enjoyed among Indonesian’s many ethnic and religious groups. If Chinese people had the opportunity to learn more about the life of the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, and about the friendliness Indonesians show to Chinese tourists, as I experienced in Jakarta, they would get a new impression of Jakarta and Indonesia.

Full article by Kim Huang

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