Photo: Bangkok’s Foodie

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The Glorious Stink [2016:EO]

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Bangkok’s Street Foods are The Best [2016:EO]

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Lek & Rut Seafood in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown [2016:EO]

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Papaya Salad’s Ingredients [2016:EO]

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Yaowarat’s Vegetarian Food Festival [2016:EO]

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Sago [2016:EO]

Review: Snowing in Bali

The upcoming third batch of the execution of drug convict has once again triggered controversy. Supported with official data, some have stated that  the death penalty is actually not the answer to Indonesia’s drug problem. Some have even stated that those, who were busted and sentenced to death, are only courier and not big dealers. Most of them are coming from lower middle income family. I asked myself Is that statement correct? The controversy actually raises a lot of questions in my head, such as “What do we really know about drug syndicates in Indonesia? Are those who were arrested  just victims and being trapped? Or, are they professional drug runners? What do we really know about the Brazilian drug runner Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, who has been executed in early 2015? Was he just a courier? What about Mary Jane Veloso? What do we really know about the world illicit in Indonesia?” I have heard some stories but honestly it was still unclear to me. But when I read Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World, much was reveled.

Written by Kathryn Bonella, the author of Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail, Snowing in Bali highlights the drug world in Bali with interesting details. It opens the readers eyes about why people choose to enter the drug world, how the drug syndicate works, who those drug convicts are, how drug syndicates deal with the Indonesian legal system and what drugs can do to people.

One of the characters identified as Rafael, who is described as a former Brazilian cocaine boss in Bali, reveals stories of Peruvian and Brazilian’s drug syndicate in the island of God. The Bali-based Peruvian and Brazilian drug syndicate has been trafficking drugs in Peru, Brazil, the Netherland, Sweden, South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia as well as Australia.

Despite the fact Rafael appears as the main character in Snowing  in Bali , it also highlights the story of Brazilian Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira who was executed  by firing squad in early 2015. Apparently, Marco has been a long time player who started his business in the 90s as a marijuana dealer in Indonesia. He imported top quality marijuana from the Netherland to Indonesia. Among his peers, Marco was known as a Lemon Juice’s King. Interestingly enough, Rafael actually started his career as a freelance marijuana salesman for  Marco.

As a freelance marijuana’s salesman, Rafael generated a huge profit which can pay for his fancy lifestyle in Bali. Knowing how easy it is to make fast cash through drug trafficking, Rafael has turned himself from a salesman to  drug runner and quickly to be one of the biggest cocaine player in Bali. He trafficked cocaine from Peru to Indonesia as well as Australia over the years. He had huge villa, nice cars, fancy motorbike, designer fashion collection and also a hell lot of money.

Surprisingly, many people who want to earn fast cash and enjoy a good life but do not want to do a real job, some would sometimes go to a dealer and request for ‘a job as a drug runner’. Although it is a risky job, many would take it anyway.

An older Brazilian woman, who has been living in Bali for 20 years, sidled up to him at parties hustling for a chance to run. “I need a job. I can do it – nobody is going to stop me because I’m old. Let’s do it.  (p.56)

However, every party must come to end sometimes. Many of Rafael friends, includes his own wife Anna, were arrested by authorities across the globe. Not forget to mention his former ‘boss’ the Brazilian Lemon Juice King Marco who had always been very confident that he would be able to escape from the authorities or even the death. Luckily, unlike Marco and Anna, Rafael managed to escape from the authorities and did not end up in jail. Nevertheless, he still has to face another consequences. His wealth slowly went down to the drain, he could not even pay the basic bill.  Rafael then decided to leave the game.

In the end, after all the glamour, I don’t feel proud. I try to forget this shit. Because I don’t think it is cool. I poison people here with this shit just for money, nothing else. Poison people, fuck families, even make people die from overdose. I like to show off in that time. For what? Now I have different value for life. (p. 387)

Reading the 401 pages of book actually makes me thinking twice whether I have to feel sorry about those drug convicts who are facing death penalty or not. Should I feel sorry for late the Brazilian Marco or Rodrigo Gullarte in the same way I feel sorry for the Philippine drug convict Mary Jane Veloso? The answer is NO.

Marco and Rodrigo are not the same as Mary Jane. Marco is a dealer, Rodrigo is a horse and Mary Jane is a mule. So what is the difference? Well, Marco and Rodrigo were aware with the risk meanwhile Mary Jane could have been trapped by greedy heartless dealer.

Mules are not the kind of people who work for me, people who come to Bali and enjoy life, this is a real horse. But mules are really, really desperate people. Really poor people, don’t speak English and they fall like flies– Andre, drug dealer (p. 166)

Rodrigo Gularte is a 32 years old rich upper middle-class guy from South Brazil. He was the black sheep in a rich family. He’d started sniffing solvents as a teenager and despite his mother trying to set him up in various careers, he chose to traffic drugs (p.286)

Overall, Snowing in Bali is very intriguing. I could not even stop reading the book. At the end, the readers actually can see the red line between many drug cases especially in Indonesia if only  those drug cases have been exposed by the media continuously and properly. Reader don’t have to believe whether it’s objectively written or not but It is worth reading.

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Indonesia: Death Row and Drug World

Indonesia will soon make another international headline as the Attorney General Office has been preparing the execution of drug convicts after executing 14 drug convicts last year. Despite the fact AGO has not published the names and the dates,  Beritasatu TV has reported the names of nine drug convicts who would be executed within weeks.

As many of you might be aware that under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, the Indonesia government has declared war on drugs. President Jokowi stated that he refuses to grant any presidential clemency requested by drug convicts. As a result, any drug convicts, who have been sentenced to death by the court, would be executed. The government believe that capital punishment would give a deterrent impact and eventually stop drug trafficking in Indonesia. Nevertheless, this step has triggered controversy both in the national and international level.

Many argue that capital punishment is not the answer to the drug problem in the country and it is considered against human right. The government ignores the noise and carries the punishment anyway. As a sovereign state, Indonesia has its rules and regulations which could be implemented. The only way to stop capital punishment is by urging the government to revoke the capital punishment from the regulation. Yet, as I listened to the national radio program, many people actually also support the government decision to execute the drug convicts to tackle the drug problem because it is worrying.

Interestingly enough, some media reported how inhumane Indonesian government is because the government of Indonesia did not give notification about their execution to the convicts as well as the family. Is it true? I doubt it. Hence, it got me wondering “If some want to defend the drug dealers and trafficker from being executed, what do we really know about those drugs convicts? Should we have sympathy toward them?” I do not know.

So last month, I came across to two books titled “Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail” and “Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World” at a bookstore in Ngurah Rai Airport Bali. I found the title and cover very interesting. I read the blurb. It seems to be juicy, it is about crimes, drugs, sex and politics in Indonesia. I decided to buy two of them.

Yet, I was actually bit sceptical because of this book was part of a trilogy written by Australian author Kathryn Bonella who wrote “No More Tomorrows Schapelle Corby“. You might wonder “And so?

Well, Schapelle Corby was a convicted drug runner, who was found guilty of smuggling 4.2 kg of marijuana into Bali in 2004.  Denpasar District Court sentenced Corby 20 years imprisonment on May 2005. Since then, she has consistently claimed that she was innocent and fought for her release by filing appeals, judicial reviews as well as request for presidential clemency. On March 2010, she filed presidential clemency claiming that she has been suffering from mental illness. She eventually won the presidential pardon under the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on February 2012. She was then released on February 2014 but must remain in Indonesia to July 2017.

The thing is rumour has it that the release of Corby was actually part of government deal whereby the SBY government had struck a deal with the Australian government to extradite an Indonesian fugitive Adrian Kiki Ariawan, a graft convict who fled to Australia in 2003. However, former Vice Minister of Law and Human Rights Denny Indrayana denied that the extradition of Adrian Kiki Ariawan had something to do with the release of Schapelle Corby.

Unfortunately, I have a conspiratorial mind and I was suspicious. I said to myself, perhaps these books are actually forms of pressure to the Indonesian government to release Corby. Is it possible? But who is Corby? How important she is?  Was she a mule or a horse? Was she really a victim? Or did she play a victim? Is it a way for a convict drug dealer to escaping heavy punishment by claiming that they are suffering from mental illness?

And by the way, one of her lawyers was Hotman Paris. How much did she pay him? Is she coming from a filthy rich family? How could she afford him? Where is the money coming from? Or is this book just a form of comprehensive criticism to the Indonesian justice system?

I must say that it is hard to tell. Everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own agenda. We cannot just buy her stories through media, including books. Right?

So I began to read these books to find the answers and the red line. Instead of finding the answers, I actually start to have more questions. Yet, I must say that these books are eye-opening and easy to read for non-English speaker. If you want to know further, you can check my upcoming post on “Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail” and “Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World“‘s review.

Ride the bus

Photo: New York City

Many rappers often use the word NYPD and or LAPD in their songs. I used to wonder what it means or stands for; so I searched and figured out that it stands for New York Police Department. Interestingly enough, many rappers always write songs about police either NYPD and/or LAPD to criticize the institution [2015: E O]

Many rappers often use the word NYPD and or LAPD in their songs. I used to wonder what it means or stands for; so I searched and figured out that it stands for New York Police Department. Interestingly enough, many rappers always write songs about police either NYPD and/or LAPD to criticize the institution [2015: E O]

I can't remember the name of this park [2015: E O]

I can’t remember the name of this park [2015: E O]

It is a plate of overrated pasta in NYC's Little Italy. Lesson to learn: Do not  eat at the tourist trap; go to the joint where the local people go, better value, better taste.  [2015: E O]

It is a plate of overrated pasta in NYC’s Little Italy. Lesson to learn: Do not eat at the tourist trap; go to the joint where the local people go, better value, better taste. [2015: E O]

I was going to Brooklyn via Manhattan Bridge [2015: E O]

Touring to Brooklyn via Manhattan Bridge [2015: E O]

There will be the famous NYC Green Taxi in the near future. Can you spot the Green Taxi?  [2015: EO]

There will be the famous NYC Green Taxi in the near future. Can you spot the Green Taxi? [2015: EO]

The Little Italy of NYC [2015:EO]

The Little Italy of NYC [2015:EO]

It was so hot in NYC so I decided to get myself a cup of ice cream. However, I did not pay attention closely that soft ice cream is very different from gelato. I will never get soft ice cream anymore [2015: E O]

It was so hot in NYC so I decided to get myself a cup of ice cream. However, I forgot that soft ice cream is very different from gelato. In fact, I should have noticed that it is a soft ice cream truck and not a gelato truck. It was horrible! I will never get soft ice cream anymore [2015: E O]

Another tourist attraction, Rockefeller Building [2015:E O]

Another tourist attraction, Rockefeller Building [2015:E O]

As soon as I arrived in Times Square, I just wanted to leave immediately. It was too crowded [2015: E O]

As soon as I arrived in Times Square, I just wanted to leave immediately. It was too crowded [2015: E O]

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Notes: Fine Days in Gangga Island

Sailing...... [2009:E O]

Sailing…… [2009:E O]

An outboard engine was started by a fisherman, its rattle breaking the morning. One after the other, boats are moving, making a line, moving in the foreground as the sun appears from behind the horizon. It is 6 am. The island is still quiet as the fishing boats pass from view and out of sound. Sometimes a late sleeping fisherman disturbs the peace again as he makes his way across the coats to catch up with the fleet.

This is a unique stage portrait of Minahasan life which is passing by me as I am enjoying the early morning tropical breeze by the beach on Gangga Island. Gangga Island is an isolated white sand beach destination in 150 hectares of natural garden setting 3 kilometers north of the coast of North Sulawesi. Minahasa is one of the races in North Sulawesi.

Subsequent to having breakfast, I am getting ready to explore the world under water by catching the boat to one of the snorkeling spots. I am sure, it will be an excellent experience, as this area is the part of the world’s Coral Triangle. However, I am not going diving but I am just going snorkeling.

Surrounded by the silence of the island, I walk down to the wharf, where a sexy locally made boat has been waiting for our group.

“Hello, good morning. How are you?” said Ayoub, a Minahasan boat crew, greeting us with a friendly smile before we get into the boat. The engine comes to life and we are ready to sail to the waters of neighboring Tindila Island.

Moving further away from Gangga Island, leaving a trail of bubbles which disappear into the sea after only a few second we reach the snorkeling spot above a reef tinged in light blue after only ten minutes sailing.

While we are waiting patiently to jump into the water, we are given some guidance by Anton, the snorkeling guide, which must be listened to for our safety under water. Afterwards, one by one, my group slips over the side into the sea.

“Wow! This is wonderful” I say to myself. It is so beautiful and so different with the world above water in which I live. I feel as though I am flying freely like an Alap-alap hawk in the air, watching the fish peacefully lead their lives in an around the reef.

I can see a blue star fish, which look so calm and still, gumming itself to the ground. Or, over there, there’s an active small blue fish with a yellow tail. They call them Chrysiptera parasema, which like to move here and there. Pretty clouds of fish of many varieties swim all around me. On one occasion, Anton shows us where hundreds or might be thousands of fish are moving here and there in a large group. “It is indeed a wonderful world of fish.”

They are magnificent. They look like a great group of human being who want to move somewhere, whether because they feel panic or excitement as we approach them.

I don’t know how to describe this beautiful life under the water, although it is my job to. An amazing natural ecosystem seemingly without any human touch upon it. However I can see part of the coral that has been bombed. Destroyed and dead. A sign that our fishermen once used dynamite instead of their nets and their talent.

But local government, cooperating with the community are working together to restore these broken fish reef homes and preserve coral ecosystem. It is a great chance that I have to be here. On a clear sunny day, I am exploring the world under waters around the Tindila Island for more than an hour. But, unfortunately, we must finish our trespassing because suddenly the currents bring a sea covered in garbage.

“It is strange that so much rubbish is floating in this area. The local government should have taken an action to keep this environment clean. Well, not just the government actually, but also the local people and passing ships who throw the garbage in the sea.” Tommy Davis, a Canadian tourist, who is disappointed with the floating garbage.

The garbage forces us to stop snorkeling, and after a short break on Tindila Island for few minutes before we sail back to Gangga Island.

Once again, I would say that this is a special part of the world. But the occasional wave of rubbish atop the sea almost ruins a spectacular setting; however there is more to see. The blue water, the tropical rain forest, the local fisherman and the underwater world are just part of a unique isolated paradise off the north coast of North Sulawesi.

While wondering about the secrets of this little island, Anton and Ayoub circumnavigate Gangga Island. In only 150 ha, this island has just two villages. Comically named Gangga Satu and Gangga Dua. From the boat, I can tell that Gangga Satu and Gangga Dua are two very different villages but similar at the same time.

Different in how the way they build and develop their fishermen village and facilities. But both remain undeveloped and poor. Interestingly, one is noticeable for its several mosques, and the other two Church spires. While a handful of motorbikes busied themselves on the seafront one could not see any vehicles.

However, Gangga Satu is a slightly more developed village, where an environment friendly resort, “Gangga Island”, was built and developed. As the only resort on the Gangga Island, it trains and employs members of the local community. It reminds me of a conversation that I had with Hanne Harbol, General Manager of Gangga Island, last night, in which she said that they are seeking to preserve the environment both human and natural.

“We have a program for the local society, especially for the kids. Every month, we will ask them to come here and introduce them with the sea’s ecosystem. This program is meant to protect this island from the damage, whether neither in the land nor in the sea”. But the big question is what about all the garbage?

Thinking about that conversation, the things I saw, heard, tasted and smelled, it makes me speechless and I realize how beautiful this Indonesian island is, and that there are many more of them. However, I wonder how we will take care of them all. Precious that they are they are not crowded with people, vehicles, office buildings and shopping malls. The peaceful natural world is more than enough and this is what I am looking for by coming here, a white sand beach holiday which is far from the modern life and business city.

Finally, having gone around the island we arrive at the wharf. I am feeling so happy for the experience that I had today. The world under water, the garbage, the island, the people, the current and everything that I am seeing are wonderful. I am smiling as much as I ever have, as I walk back to my bungalow to get ready before having a Minahasan meal for my hungry stomach.

It is indeed a great day, but the day has not ended yet as the blue sky is slowly turning into red as the sun dips towards the horizon. Under the vanilla sky, I sit by the beach, enjoying the dusk with the sillouettes of the fishermen sailing past me, one by one, on their way home The only sounds being the rattle of an old outboard engine and the breaking waves on the beach.

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Photo: Istanbul in Frame 2

My first sunrise of Istanbul [2014: E O]

My first sunrise of Istanbul [2014: E O]

Christmas mass in in Sent Antuan Church [2014: E O]

Christmas mass in in Sent Antuan Church [2014: E O]

Mother Mary in The Holy Church of Wisdom, Hagia Sophia [2014: E O]

Mother Mary in The Holy Church of Wisdom, Hagia Sophia [2014: E O]

Hagia Sophia is where Islam and Christian met [2014: E O]

Hagia Sophia is where Islam and Christian met [2014: E O]

Under the blue sky, there is a blue mosque of Sultanamet [2014: E O]

Under the blue sky, there is a blue mosque of Sultanamet [2014: E O]

Inside the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul [2014: E O]

Inside the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul [2014: E O]

The view of Istanbul [2015: E O]

The view of Istanbul [2015: E O]

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