Jakarta Poverty Tour – My 2 Cents

After seeing this on the evening news on Tuesday I can’t stop thinking about it.

Jakarta Globe did a great write up about this on Voyeurism or Philanthropy? Jakarta Poverty Tours Sparks Debate and I stumble into this article on Karbon Journal.

When one of the news anchor that interviewed Ronny Poluan, the man behind this Jakarta Hidden Tour and asked: “Aren’t you ashamed to show this kinds of life to tourist?” – I got all worked up! Kudos to Ronny for his honest answer “What’s to be ashamed for? It’s reality!” Bull’s-eye answer!

Poverty stricken people does exist in this country especially in Jakarta. In fact it’s one of the biggest problems here but rarely address. Urban poverty numbers are still high even when they are circum-fenced by the skyscrapers or pushed to the corner of the city. The gap between the haves and have-nots in Jakarta are huge!

Denying it won’t make it go away! Ignorance will not help these people, pronto!

Growing up in a small mining area, with many expats around me then later married to one – I realized most expats couldn’t care less about fancy-swanky-5-stars-rated malls. They would rather ‘taste’ the local cultures, traditions and way of living. Plenty of those expats that used to live in that small town would rather take a ride on a motor powered small raft to go to the village and check out the traditional wet market like the picture below.

Why would we, Indonesians be ashamed of showing the real faces of Indonesia living if it includes the less fortunate people who have no clean water let alone solid roof above their heads?

Would love to go there myself and take pictures of real living urban poverty stricken people. That’s why I was pretty upset when I couldn’t join the Photo District Jakarta‘s  photo walk a couple of months ago, they were going into the ‘kampung’ (village) tucked behind Jakarta’s downtown area.

Seeing the hardship of surviving in such a big city like Jakarta other than raising awareness also would show others that life is hard! And maybe some of the participants would come home and be thankful for their comfy beds – when they had seen these people sleeping on a cardboard mattress.

I’m all in when it comes to the awareness but not exploiting. There are fine lines and I’m glad to hear that Ronny Poluan seems to be in a great mindset over this – unlike some of the oh-so-famous-local-reality-shows on TV here. His tour participants also donates money to these poor people out of their own pockets. To say that the poor will then thinks “Oh, I’d rather stay poor and waited on the donations from these tourists” are so sad. Yes, some people might monetize too much but let’s not judge the poor to be such a great manipulator! Some of them are actually the hardest working people in Jakarta. They have to or else they will not survive.

What’s your take on this poverty tour?  Do you think it’s wrong?



  1. May 20, 2010 / 8:53 pm

    I think that more “REAL” journalism needs to take place too. Nothing wrong with saying it like it is. And oh my gosh! I just noticed my button here. Thank you so much. I feel honored. Have a good one!

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