Monday, August 27, 2012

Guidebook discoveries from the Tempoe Doloe

To assist my exploration of the parallels and contrasts between Tempoe Doloe (the old days) and the present in this blog, I will occasionally select passages from two guidebooks that I have found, dating back to the early 20th century (before Tikus’ time) and translated from the original Dutch:  “The wonderland” by Batavia Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer and “Guide through Netherlands India” comp. by order of the Koninklijke paketvaart maatschappij (Royal packet company)
These guides will act as departing and reference points for my own excursions in and around Bandung around a century later.  Many of the itineraries haven’t changed.  Later on, Hennie, Lottie, Tikus and Hans, in happier times, would spend their holidays touring this same countryside, although the modes of transport and the time taken to complete these journeys would have been somewhat improved already by then.  And now, I also intend to follow in their footsteps.

Plantation on Java, circa 1939,  photo taken by Marianne (Tikus) Van Bael

“We purpose in this little book to give everything that is necessary for a tourist to know when travelling
through the Dutch East Indies on visiting the chief towns, crossing the interior, or the blue Indian waters, or climbing the gigantic craters. We hope to arrange the book in such a manner as to make it a trustworthy guide and counsellor, to those who do not speak or understand either Dutch or any Indian language, to those who possess in these parts neither kith nor kin, enabling them to find their way easily about, and make the distant journey as agreeable, easy, cheap, and productive as possible”. (Guide through Netherlands India, 1903)

Just like the modern Lonely Planet guidebook, there is a section providing useful language tips for the traveller: 
“Without attempting a full vocabulary a few words and expressions
are here given for the benefit of strangers. It may be necessary to
draw the attention of tourists to the fact that the Malay language is
about the simplest in the world and we hope that the few phrases
here given, may be of some help to the traveller” (The wonderland” by Batavia Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer)
Whilst the three girls that went before me could converse very well in Bahasa, I am not sure I would describe the language as simple.  Many of the words are incredibly long and most verbs seem to have different parts to them that should and should not be used at different times (I am as yet unenlightened as to the distinction).  No sooner have I embarked on a sentence than I find my mind separating from my mouth as I start to panic about what direction I am going in.  I am 10 years, and a good few Gin and Tonics, older since the last time I attempted to learn a new language, so I need all the help I can get.  My only saving grace is that you can pretty much say it as you see it, particularly when it is written in the old way……
Some of the words in the guidebook may come in handy for me:
  • Where is the W. C?  =   Mana kamar ketjil?
  • I’d like some tea or coffee =  Saja minta te (k op pie)
  • Policeman = Opas policie

Some I am glad to say less so:
  • Third class =  Klas tiga
  • Here Coolie, take my luggage = Sini coolie angkat barang
  • Don't forget before dinner to clean my bedcurtain properly from mosquitos. Remember, if you don't look after the mosquitos, you don't get your fee =    Djangan loepa bekin brisih klamboe baaibaai deri njamok. Ingat kaloe kwe tida djaga njamok kive tida dapat present.

And others….. well, I can dream…..:
  • First class =  Klas satoe
  • Bring me a bottle Claret No.10 = Kassi satoe bottcl anggoer merra
    no. 10
  • Bring me to the Concordia Club =  Pigi di kamar bola Concordia.
These guides also depict vividly the way of life of those early 20th century Europeans living in, or travelling for long spells to, the Dutch East Indies and the considerations surrounding the journeys that they made.   I particularly like the following passage which describes neatly the colonial life on Java, including Bandung as Paris Van Java, during the Tempoe Doloe :
“Rise at 5.30 a. m., drink a cup of coffee, take a bath, dress
yourself in light material, and then go out for a walk or drive. [*****]  Breakfast between eight and nine, transact your business, visit offices, shops, museums, clubs, till one o'clock p.m. [*****].  Take your "rijsttafel" (lunch) […..] at one o'clock, enjoy a siesta from two till four, or remain at least in your room, for whoever is not compelled, should not go out in the sun, during the hottest part of the day.

Afterwards bathe again, and dress yourself in somewhat better
clothing. [*****] Then go out for a drive or walk till seven p.m., pay visits to your friends between seven and eight, afterwards dine, and finish your evening, towards nine o'clock, at some public place of amusement or club, or at the friends who invited you to spend the evening with them”. (Guide through Netherlands India, 1903)

Some thoughts on this:
Rise at 5.30 a. m., I wake up early each morning (at 4 o’clock!) to the sound of the pre-dawn Fajr prayer from the mosque next door

Take your "rijsttafel" (lunch) in the hotel at one o'clock  The rijstaffel in its original form  - a banquet of at least 40 (and sometimes over 100!) small Indonesian dishes served around a cone-shaped mound of rice by a long line of waiters  - has apparently all but disappeared from the menus of restaurants and hotels, banished to history as a symbol of Colonial excess.  The fact that the guide describes rijstaffel simply as “lunch”, illustrates how integral it was to everyday life for the Europeans  – and what a life!

(Photos courtesy of Trompenmuseum )

Enjoy a siesta from two till four    Whilst even during Tikus’ time (my Oma / Grandma), it was common to have a siesta in the afternoon (often after a rijstaffel luncheon with friends or family), this again is a practice that seems to have died out now.  With all that traffic, there simply isn’t the time in the day to make so many separate excursions, let alone have an afternoon nap at home.  Sometimes, one has to multi-task:

Then go out for a drive or walk till seven p.m., Driving in this city has its own annoyances but walking is a perilous pastime these days, necessitating some tree hugging and long jumping – an obstacle course in flip flops. 

On one side, gaping holes in the pavement, as if someone had taken an axe to it, appear suddenly (sometimes too late to prevent you from disappearing inside!); and on the other side, motorbikes snake between the bumper to bumper cars, where possible swerving out onto the pavement to claim any usable space.  Falling into line, they overtake the road-bound traffic until the lights turn green again.

When trying to cross the road, I am often stranded for long enough that someone will cross from the other side to help me.  They will step out into the road, hold a hand up to the traffic and slowly but surely negotiate a safe path to the other side.

Tikus was once convinced that she had the answer to the Jakartan macet (traffic) which was already by the late 40s becoming hectic.  She recounted the story to her two growing daughters whilst visiting them in Australia: Fed up with sitting every day in the car in traffic -  cars,  becats (tricycles), Delmans (horse and carts) all jostling for space -  she decided to borrow one of the horses from the local riding school and cross town to a friend’s house for coffee.  The horse bolted off, causing complete mayhem in the middle of traffic and food stalls, securing her a mention in the local newspaper!

During Ramadan, I similarly put considerations of safety and sanity aside to jump in and join the masses (albeit less conspicuously) in what I call the great afternoon “mooch-about” and what the locals call NGABUBURIT…………………………


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