I’ve just returned from a 3-day workshop in Surabaya yet I can’t say that I’ve actually learnt much about Indonesia’s second city.
Inevitably there were problems in actually getting there; we were told that our flight on Batavia Air – motto: Trust Us To Fly – was delayed by two hours, but we could transfer to one scheduled to depart half an hour later than the one we expected to board.
Ok, we said, checked in and went off to have a leisurely cup of coffee. Then we heard our names paged. We were late boarding the flight due to depart at 5 because it was actually set to depart at the time we originally expected to leave, 16:30.
A passenger informed us that the flight we were now on had been delayed since 3pm.
Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport has recently undergone major renovation, with a dedicated toll road providing access. Its code used to be SBY but has been changed, presumably because of President SBY, to SUB.
Arriving was familiar: it was akin Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta. There were no trolleys available to shift our load of books for participants and cakes for bosses. I went outside in search of one through the one narrow doorway to be accosted with crowds yelling at me – “Taxi, Mister?” . That I actually found a trolley was something of a miracle, and that I managed to manoevre it back into the arrivals hall dedicated through the crowds exiting by the one door even more so.
We queued for a taxi but were then informed that we needed a prepaid ticket; only one company has the right to operate there, which meant re-entering the throng. At least the driver knew where the Ciputra Hotel and Golf Club is; we were booked there because it was apparently the only hotel in Surabaya with vacancies. (Really??). As it was dark, we saw little of anything and learnt less about the city as we both had problems deciphering the dialectical sludge spoken by East Javanese men.
As we reached the Ciputra Hotel, all we had been aware of was that it is plonked in the middle of a hitherto green area. There were no bellhops to greet us and carry our heavy load and it was a long, not very triumphal, trudge therough a colonade to the reception desk in the distance, and we had to ask for porter assistance to our rooms. At least the beds were comfortable, and having a hot shower in the early morning was an unanticipated pleasure.
Transport was laid on for our first day’s toil and that was when we grew aware of what what was being wrought. There were green fields on which rose grandiose mansions rampant with tall frontage columns, strange ornate ‘eastern’ domes atop, but set in splendid isolation. Not one was alike except in perverse pretensions. I couldn’t help exclaiming “Yuk, that’s ugly” at regular intervals. What seemed even stranger was that for all the size of the plots, no space had been allocated for a garden.
All seemed to announce how much money had been spent and how little intelligence (or humility) had been used in the designs. On the five minute drive to where there were people, we saw nowhere to eat; offices and salons with spas, yes, but it seemed, correctly as it turned out, that without transport of our own we were marooned and doomed to eat in the hotel’s Resto.
The food was indeed adequate, but at Rp.80,000 for a much needed large Bintang at the end of the day, not anything to write home about. (This begs the question as to why I mention it here.) I stuck with the American breakfast, and my colleague with the familiar nasi goreng – fried rice – for his.
I wrote a post about the international real estate industry ‘going green’ a couple of weeks ago, and without knowing how soon I would encounter his particular concept, used Ciputra as an example of how little the industry really cares about the environment, and thinks only of short-term profits.
Hotel Ciputra was to prove this at the last. My colleague had to stay a further night thanks to a hastily arranged presentation, leaving me to come home alone. It would have been nice to have gone back to my room after our day’s exertions. However, checkout time is 12 noon and I wanted 4pm. As far as we could tell, room occupancy was about 10%, if that; most of the ‘guests’ were there for rounds of golf.
Stretching the rules was, of course, impossible – except for a 50% surcharge + 21% tax etc. etc. so I moved my luggage into colleague’s room and vowed to never stay there again .
- My room had a dual flush toilet; my colleague’s didn’t.
- There was a small notice about conserving water – cut down laundry bills by using the same bed sheets for more than one night.
- The baths were deep.
- A few, very few, farmers could be spotted among the mansions tending their small plots.
- I didn’t see any solar panels or a solar water tank on any mansion roof.
- There was no public transport to, let alone within, Ciputraland.
- We guessed that within 3/4 years all the plots would be built on resulting in yet another middle-class ghetto, its residents living in splendid isolation.
Next time we will definitely find rooms in another hotel; we prefer to be amongst people.
As I wrote above, we saw little of Surabaya. We saw no buses and few angkots (people carriers). What did catch our eye was an extremely long yet-to-be opened shopping mall, all glass frontage. As to why it remains unopened seems a little strange: it can’t be connected to the national electricity grid which can be seen in front, pylons and cables striding across the wasteland.
So, leaving the splendid isolation of the western outer reach of the city, and leaving my colleague behind, I headed to the eastern outer reach and checked in with bags of time to spare for my flight at 19:20.
It was, of course, delayed for two hours.
Yep, I trust Batavia Air to fly, but never on time.
I didn’t have time to get to the Sidoarjo mudflow which locals have named Lapindo. It’s amazing how much hatred Bakrie has generated.