The other day I stumbled across About.com’s travel page on Indonesia. I was extremely annoyed to see that it started like this:
Have you ever considered a vacation in a war zone? Not many people think the idea is an attractive one. But if you go to Indonesia any time soon, you should realize that you are taking the risk of doing exactly that. And some portions of the country are more risky than others …
Granted, Indonesia has its troubles, and people should be aware of them. But to call the entire country a war zone is absurd. We’ve been here for nearly a year, traveled throughout Java and to Bali and Sumatra, and never felt threatened.
For comparison, I clicked over to the page on Thailand, which unfortunately has had a lot of problems lately. Here’s a quick review: over the past year Indonesia has had zero bombings, peaceful elections in Aceh, and some violence in central Sulawesi and Papua. During the same period, Thailand has had multiple bombings in Bangkok and its southern provinces, not to mention a military coup followed by the installation of a junta. Surely Thailand’s entry will start with a stern warning, too?
Thailand is a beautiful country with an amazing assortment of things to do and places to see. You can hike in the mountains or sit on the beach. The people are friendly, the food is great…
The thing that’s most irritating is how common this is. Why does Indonesia get such a bad rap? In this case, is it because Thailand is mostly Buddhist, and Indo is mostly Muslim? Does the Thai tourism industry spend a lot more money bringing travel writers over on expense-paid luxury vacations? I don’t know. And I don’t mean to slam Thailand. I just want Indonesia to get a fair shake.
This is not a victimless crime. Indonesia needs tourism dollars. Westerners need to experience a moderate Muslim country. Historic sites like Borobudur deserve to be appreciated and supported.