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The New York Times, February 4, 1878, p.2:

THE DUTCH EAST INDIES.

FROM SINGAPORE TO BATAVIA.

HIGH TARIFFS AND LARGE CROWDS--
THE MAIL SERVICE IN THE EAST--
SAMPLES OF "DUTCH STUPIDITY"--
SHREWDNESS OF COLONIAL MANAGEMENT--
RESOURCES OF JAVA--TRADE OF BATAVIA--
AMERICAN GOODS FOR THE JAVANESE MARKET--
THE STREET RAILWAY QUESTION.


From a Special Correspondent.

BATAVIA, Java, Saturday, Dec. 1, 1877.   
    The voyage from Singapore to Batavia [now Jakarta] is an affair of 40 or 50 hours, with a distance of 550 miles. The course is not the safest in the world, as there are numerous islands in the way, many shoals, and an inconveniently large number of currents. Possibly the dangers of the navigation may be the reason for the enormously high passage--$46 in coin, or very near $1 an hour.

    As if this were not enough, they crowd the steamers to excess, and are not over particular about white lies and that sort of thing to obtain them. For instance, I went with a friend to the Singapore office of the Compagnie Messageries Maritimes, (generally known in the East as the French Mail,) and asked if the steamer for Batavia was full.
    "Oh, no; there is plenty of room," was the reply.
    "Can we secure rooms?" was our next question.
    "Certainly," was the response, "you take your ticket here and when you go to the steamer the steward will assign your room."
    With the coolness of a block of ice that steam-ship agent lied to us, as he well knew (what we likewise knew) that he had 45 passengers already engaged and paid for, while the steamer's accomodations were for 16 only.
    Luckily, we found a Dutch steamer, an extra one, and took passage on her. We were seven passengers altogether, and as the ships left at the same time and kept quite near each other we could indulge in frequent observation with our glasses of the dense crowd on the Emirne. They had some canvas rooms or tents fitted up on deck, and the cabin was divided by a curtain for the separation of the sexes. They had a rough time of it generally, and I greatly rejoiced to think that the descendant of Ananias at the French Mail office did not succeed in beguiling me.

    The regular service between Singapore and Batavia is weekly each way, and is performed alternately by the French and Dutch lines, the latter running in connection with the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and the former with the packets of the Messageries Maritimes between Marseilles and Shanghai. From all I can learn, and from what I have experienced, the Dutch steamers are greatly preferable to the French. The table is better and the officers are more attentive, as the Captain receives a certain portion of the passage money, and consequently is interested in securing the greatest amount of popularity for himself and his ship.
    The French are addicted to overcrowding their boats when the opportunity offers, and letting passengers shift for themselves. And evidently they are not satisfied with this, if I may judge by what occurred yesterday at their office here.

    My friend and I took our return passage by the Emirne, as there is no Dutch steamer this week. The fare is payable in Dutch guilders, two and a half to the dollar. We hadn't enough gulders for the whole bill, and so paid partly in Mexican dollars. They would allow only us 2 guilders and 25 cents for $1, when it is fairly worth 2 guilders and 50 cents, and will readily sell to any shop-keeper for 2.40.

    The French Mail Steam-ship Company ought to become wealthy, and when it ceases to exist I promise to contribute to a monument in its memory. It has taken away much of the patronage that formerly went to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and for several years has been at the height of popularity. But at present there are various complaints about it, and with practices such as it makes in this vicinity it is in a fair way to lose its fame.
    In all its agencies, as far as I know, no rooms are assigned to passengers by the agent, but the matter is left to the Purser after one has gone aboard. This leaves an open way for selling twice or thrice the capacity of the steamer, and enables agent and Purser to play "Spenlow and Jerkins" to perfection. The passenger growls at the Purser, who responds that he does the best he can and all complaints should be addressed to the agent who sold the ticket; all the time the steamer is bearing you farther and farther from the agent, who is busily engaged in securing customers for the next departure. There is a general complaint at this policy of the company, and I am satisfied it has already lost many friends by it.

    The steamer that brings you here anchors in the open roadstead forming the harbor, and you have a long journey to land. You have a mile of open water, and sometimes two miles of it, and then you have two miles of canal where the boatmen land and tow the craft by means of a long line. You meet boats like your own, and you meet small steamers on their way to the shipping.
    At the Boom, or Custom-house, the inspectors ask if you have any merchandise or anything else than your personal effects, and if you answer in the negative, they take your response as truthful and allow you to depart. You seek a carriage and drive away to the hotel you have selected, and are somewhat surprised to find that the hotels are not in the town of Batavia, but at least two miles beyond it. You are inclined to set it down as a piece of Dutch stupidity in locating the hotels so far from the business centre, but when you come to pay for your carriage you find that Dutch stupidity has reached its zenith.

    Of all the idiotic arrangements I have yet seen, that of carriages in Batavia bears away the honors. The only tariff here for a cab (a light Victoria drawn by two horses) is 4 guilders ($1.60) for six hours. Whether you drive ten minutes or six hours it is all the same price, and, if you refuse to pay the necessary 4 guilders, you are summoned before the Police and duly mulcted.
    Yesterday we ordered a cab for six hours and, after driving half that time, returned to the hotel for breakfast. The driver collected his fare from the hotel and departed, and when after breakfasting we asked at the office for the missing vehicle, the clerk said "the man's horses were tired and he went home."
    We protest that it is not our affair, this equine weariness, and demand our six hours of service. The clerk shrugs his shoulders and cannot understand why we do not accept the driver's excuse as reasonable.
    "His horses were tired, his horses were tired," is all we can extract from him, and our only consolation is that we cannot be expected to furnish brains for the people of Java.

    I have had several little scenes with the Dutch residents of this island, and cheerfully commend them as the most thick-headed dolts I have ever seen. A bomb for a Columbiad is an egg-shell by comparison with the Javanese Dutchman's head--so far as I have had an opportunity to observe it.

    But somehow, in spite of their apparent obtuseness, they have managed their affairs on this island with wonderful shrewdness, and evinced a thorough knowledge of the process of running a colony. Java and the dependent islands are a source of great wealth to the Dutch Government, and no part of the energies of the people or the capabilities of the country are allowed to run to waste.
    They have developed the resources of the land, have built roads and railways, established steam-ship lines, dug canals, erected forts, have made parks and avenues, constructed warehouses--in a word, have given what Java needed. Behind their apparent stupidity is a keen perception that misses no point of advantage. The thick-headed clerk of the hotel will not neglect to make us pay for the carriage, and the corpulent merchants, whose senses appear clouded with tobacco smoke and drowned in beer, are alive to all the conditions of the market, and leave no guilders unswept up from the floor.

    The coffee and tea, the pepper and spices, the rice, the woods, and the other products of the Netherlands Indies, together give a handsome revenue to the Dutch Treasury, and will long continue in that excellent way. The authorities are slow to move, but when they make a step in any direction it is sure to be one that will increase their revenue instead of decreasing it. First and last, they have had much trouble with Java, but I doubt if any other nation can show a colony with equal prosperity.

    No part of Batavia is visible from the sea; the coast is low and flat, and there is little also beyond a forest of palm and other trees to greet the eye of the stranger. The town itself is not of great extent, but the suburbs and environs are something enormous, and make a city of magnificent distances. The houses are rarely more than of one story, and each has a surrounding of garden and tropical trees, so that a great deal of shade and recreation ground is secured.
    A canal with several branches runs through all this area, and serves a triple purpose. Boats may navigate it, people may wash their own bodies or the clothes of other people in it, and servants may empty all sorts of sewage material into it. It is suspected of supplying a goodly amount of water for use in the houses, and doubtless it is for this reason that the residents rarely drink water, but stick to gin, claret, seltzer, and other imported liquids. The canal is walled for miles and miles, and the arrangement of bridges and steps is so much like what one sees in Amsterdam that it doubtless robs the Dutch emigrants of much of their feeling of homesickness.

    The hotel where I am quartered is an enormous affair territorially, as it consists of a series of one-story buildings arranged in a large yard. Every building has its own veranda, and in front of each door is a capacious chair, where you may recline at your ease.
    The way of life here is to rise about 5 o'clock, bathe under a stream from a brass faucet, and then dress for a walk or ride. The servant brings you a light breakfast of tea or coffee, eggs and cold meat, and this must keep you alive till noon. During the forenoon ladies go about with hair streaming over their shoulders, quite en dishabille as to their general attire; white trousers, feet slippered but unstockinged, a sarong or native petticoat around the waist, and over it a white frock closely tied at the throat, constitute the morning costume of the Batavian dames and demoiselles.

    Thus they walk, ride, or lounge in the morning; noon brings a rice breakfast, whose principal dish is curry, and after that everybody who can afford it takes a siesta till 3 o'clock. Then another bath, and one dresses for a ride or walk, and with both sexes it is the custom to go bareheaded to the promenade. With the fair half it does not seem out of place, but with the beard-wearers it is otherwise, and I confess that I am still unreconciled to the spectacle of men leaving their hats at home when they go out for a walk in scrupulous exactness of garments of the body, and daintily swinging a cane in the left hand while the right is used for the manipulation of the ever-present cigar.

    The chief business of Batavia is one of export; the imports are not heavy, as the country produces the most that the natives want, and the foreign population is not very large. European cloths, shoes, and wines are the heaviest imports, and they are chiefly for the consumption of Dutch and other foreign residents. America has but little trade here save in what she buys; she sells occasional lots of carriages, chairs, hardware, ice, and petroleum.
    The latter article is the most important of all and sometimes commands a high price; so much is this the case that the native merchants buy up the empty cans and fill them with a mixture of petroleum and some vegetable-oil that burns poorly, and gives a most wretched light. The Government has tried to find oil in paying quantities in the interior of the island, but thus far without success, and the American product has full control of the market.

    The Tudor Ice Company, of Boston, has done a good business at various times, but at present its entire stock is exhausted, and people must put up with machine ice. Several importations have been made of American drillings, but thus far none of them have been profitable. The English drills have control of the market, and from all I can learn the Manchester spinners and weavers send a much better quality of goods to Java than to China or Japan. They have latterly taken to imitate the material made in Java for native wear, and so successfully that it is very difficult to distinguish between them.
    The Javanese take a piece of white cotton goods, cover it with wax, and then trace a design upon it. Portions of the design are scraped clean and the cloth is immersed in dye. When these parts are sufficiently colored the piece is dried and then other parts are scraped and exposed to other dyes. So the work goes until the whole piece is covered, and the result is a rather wild jumble of birds, beasts, flowers, and many fanciful designs. The calico machine is now imitating these goods and doing it very successfully.

    Recently a firm here has determined upon making some extensive importations of American manufactures, and I believe it has sent extensive orders to New-York and Boston. Just now it seems to me that a street railway company with proper tracks and cars would be very desirable; they have a tramway here, but the track is atrocious, and the cars are nothing but common freight cars fitted with rush seats; they are exclusively patronized by natives and Chinese; but if a good line were established, with the proper vehicles, the Europeans would take to it very kindly, especially if the present absurd arrangement about carriages is continued.
    I am told that the American street railway in Bombay is immensely profitable, and there is no reason why it should not be equally so in Batavia. Whether the Dutch authorities would approve such a thing or not I am unable to say; the question can only be determined by the parties properly interested and who make it a matter of interest to the proper authorities.
T. W. K.   
See also: Singapore News - Malaysia - Papua New Guinea - Australia

Indonesia has 3 time zones at GMT+7, +8, and +9, with no DST.

  Indonesia News



Indonesia map, from the CIA World Factbook

    The Republic of Indonesia, Asia, is located on an archipelago of about 13,670 islands spread across one-eighth the Earth's circumference in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The capital is Jakarta. The area of Indonesia is about 752,400 square miles (1,948,700 square kilometers). The estimated population of Indonesia for July, 2008 is 237,512,352. The official language is Bahasa Indonesia.

    The Dutch began to colonize Indonesia in the early 17th century; the islands were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945.

    Indonesia declared its independence after Japan's surrender, but it required four years of intermittent negotiations, recurring hostilities, and UN mediation before the Netherlands agreed to relinquish its colony.

    Indonesia is the world's largest archipelagic state and home to the world's largest Muslim population. Current issues include: alleviating poverty, preventing terrorism, consolidating democracy after four decades of authoritarianism, implementing financial sector reforms, stemming corruption, holding the military and police accountable for human rights violations, and controlling avian influenza.

    In 2005, Indonesia reached a historic peace agreement with armed separatists in Aceh, which led to democratic elections in December 2006. Indonesia continues to face a low intensity separatist guerilla movement in Papua.
    CIA World Factbook: Indonesia

Indonesia flag, from the CIA World Factbook

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  Free Books on Indonesia (.pdfs)

Sulu, Borneo, Celebes, Bali, Java, Sumatra Powell 1921
Tropical Holland Willem van Coenen Torchiana 1921
Java & Her Neighbors Walcott 1914
Pilgrims to the Isles of Penance Clifton 1911
Travels in China, Japan & Java Singh 1905
Naturalist's Wife, Eastern Archipelago Forbes 1887
A Naturalist's Wanderings Forbes 1885
Travels in the Eastern Archipelago Bickmore 1869
The Malay Archipelago Alfred Russel Wallace 1869
Indian Islands Descriptive Dictionary Crawfurd 1856
History of the Indian Archipelago Crawfurd 1820
Voyages to the East Indies Stavorinus 1798
A Voyage to the East Indies Dellon 1698
Journal of John Jourdain, 1608-17

Java, Pearl of the East Higginson 1890
Life in Java D'Almeida 1864
History of Java Raffles 1830
more books on Java

History of Sumatra Marsden 1784
more books on Sumatra

Great Forests of Borneo Beccari 1904
more books on Borneo

A Naturalist in North Celebes Hickson 1889
more books on Celebes

Pygmies & Papuans Wollaston 1912
more books on New Guinea

  Indonesia Reference Articles and Links

Wikipedia: Indonesia - History of Indonesia
BBC Country Profile: Indonesia
Library of Congress Study: Indonesia

DPR (House of People's Representatives)
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WikiTravel: Indonesia
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The Jakarta Post
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The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1878 was about $21 in 2007 dollars.

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