Indonesia straddles the Equator between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. While it has land borders with Malaysia to the north as well as East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east, it also neighbors Australia to the south, and Palau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand to the north, India to the northwest.
Indonesia is the sleeping giant of Southeast Asia. With 18,110 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, it is the largest archipelago in the world. With almost 240 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world — after China, India and the USA — and by far the largest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world.
Indonesia markets itself as Wonderful Indonesia, and the slogan is quite true, although not necessarily always in good ways. Indonesia’s tropical forests are the second-largest in the world after Brazil, and are being logged and cut down at the same alarming speed. While the rich shop and party in Jakarta and Bali. After decades of economic mismanagement 50.6% of the population still earns less than US$2/day according to figures compiled by the World bank in 2009. This had come down by 6% in the 2 years between 2007 and 2009.
The Gay Scene
The gay scene in Bali is open and growing. There are many gay owned and managed hotels, guesthouses, bars, pubs, spas and tour companies. There are no laws against homosexuality in Laos. Same sex marriages are not permitted. Overseas same sex marriages are not recognized. In practice gay people are not prosecuted and gay venues are permitted to operate freely without interference. Many gays from the Muslim islands of Indonesia go to Bali as it is a Hindu based cultere. Coming out to one’s own family or work colleagues as being gay is still a difficult thing for many Asian gay men,
Bali has a tropical climate appropriate to its proximity to the equator. Year round temperatures averaging 31 degrees Celsius. High humidity can be expected during the Wet Season between the months of October – April. The Dry Season between the months of May – September have also the lowest humidity. The Wet Season brings daily rain and quiet overcast days with the most rain recorded between December – February. Occasionally rainfall can also be expected during the dry season but usually at night or very early morning. June – August there is usually a very refreshing cool breeze all day long. The central mountain area is typically cooler than the lower coastal areas mainly especially at night.
Most shops in the tourist areas are open from about 8 am until midnight, 7 days a week. Bargaining is a way of life in Bali, don’t be shy. Bali is know for clothing and wood cuttings, and some fantastic deals can be made.
Major currencies can be exchanged in most banks, money changers and hotels. There is often a different rate for any notes smaller than US$100 and this applies to most currencies. If cashing Travelers checks you will require your passport.
Banks and Money Changers can easily be found in the larger towns in Bali, but you should carry sufficient rupiah (Rp) when traveling to the less popular areas of Bali.
Banking hours are from 8.00 a.m. to 12.00 noon Mondays to Fridays, and from 8.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. on Saturdays. Banks in hotels usually stay open longer while Money Changers are generally open until early evening.
Almost all hotels and other businesses will accept foreign currency, but be warned hotels usually charge a lower rate of exchange than offered by Banks or Money Changers.
All nationalities must have a valid passport and need to apply for a travel visa, except for ASEAN nationals. Visa on arrival is available at the International airport.
Most visitors will arrive at Ngurah Rai International Airport serving many international airlines and most major local airlines.
Getting around Bali is easy. Public buses and bemos, chartered bemos, shuttle buses, taxis and private cars, rented cars and motorcycles: even eco-friendly bicycles! If you really want to see the sights and make the most of your time, a well organised tour is a good choice. The budget-friendly bemo is Bali’s main public transportation and every town has a bemo or bus station.
Indonesia uses type A, B, C, E and F electrical plugs with a voltage of 220 V at 50 Hz. Some outlets offer a combination of type A and C. Type F outlets are most often found in hotels.
Most upscale restaurants add a 10 per cent service charge but an additional 5 to 10 per cent may be given, where deserved. When a service charge is not automatic,10 per cent is acceptable. Small tips may also be given to taxi drivers, bellboys, doormen and washroom attendants.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia will face legal challenges and prejudices not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Traditional mores disapprove of homosexuality and cross-dressing, which impacts public policy. For example, Indonesian same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for any of the legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples. The importance in Indonesia for social harmony leads to duties rather than rights to be emphasized, which means that human rights along with homosexual rights are very fragile. Yet, the LGBT community in Indonesia has steadily become more visible and politically active.
The national criminal code does not prohibit private, non-commercial homosexual relations between consenting adults. A national bill to criminalize homosexuality, along with cohabitation, adultery and the practice of witchcraft, failed to be enacted in 2003 and no subsequent bill has been reintroduced.
In 2002, the Indonesian Government gave Aceh province the right to introduce Islamic sharia, albeit only to Muslim residents. For example, the city of Palembang introduced jail and fines, for homosexual sex. Under the law homosexuality is defined as an act of ‘prostitution that violates the norms of common decency, religion, and legal norms as they apply to societal rule’. The following acts are defined as acts of prostitution homosexual sex, lesbians, sodomy, sexual harassment, and other pornographic acts. Fifty two regions have since enacted sharia law from the Koran which criminalizes homosexuality.
In Jakarta lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, and transsexual are legally labeled as “cacat” or mentally handicapped and are therefore not protected under the law. While Indonesia has allowed private and consensual sexual relations between persons of the same sex since 1993, it has a higher age of consent for same sex relations than for heterosexual relations (17 for heterosexuals and 18 for homosexual).