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Indonesia, Kupang for Visiting Yachts - Some Advice from an Ex-Cruiser Turned Local

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 20, 2010 12:25 PM

Published: 2010-10-20 12:25:20
Countries: Indonesia

I’ve been doing a periodic check on your website. Having read once more the comments by Martin Hammers of SV ANIMA lll from Austria, I have to say the comments do hold true, at least in a cross cultural context.

Before I go any further, let me mention the old rule of commerce, which doesn’t apply so much in the west any more, with all the politically correct consumer protection laws, yet is very much alive and well in Asia…. Caveat Emptor. Let the Buyer Beware. It’s a phrase that every cruiser in Asian waters should keep foremost in their mind at all times. Paint it on the companionway steps so that you’re reminded of it constantly. Caveat Emptor.

As for Napa Rachman and Domingus, the two Kupang self-styled yacht agents. I firmly believe that adverse economic circumstances can affect someone’s behaviour adversely, so I can understand how their manner and that of local officials would have come across to someone from an affluent country such as Austria. But drug bosses and mafia, I don’t think so.

These two guys find it tough to earn a living……. Sounds like I’ve been here too long, I’m sticking up for the locals. Truth be known, I’m just trying to be fair and objective…..I’m a (lapsed) yachtie at heart.

Some economic facts.

According to available data, Austria, whose GDP is 9th on the world list at $45,686 USD, is just behind the USA, compared with Indonesia as a whole, at $2,329. East Nusa Tenggara province, of which Kupang is a part, has an average income level of less than one third of Indonesia, which translates to around $780 USD. [World Monetary Fund, 2009 and Asian Development Bank figures]. Kupang, as the province’s capital city, comes in a little better.

Perhaps cruisers on the whole could do well to do some pre-cruise research into the economic circumstances of the countries they are likely to visit. That way they would be prepared to encounter locals whose attitudes they might interpret as aggressive and unpleasant, yet are really just born of hopeless economic circumstances that they, the visitors, can only begin to imagine.

It’s good for the cruisers that Napa has some competition now. Their potential customers can work one against the other and get a good deal in the end. That’s if they do choose to use an agent, and have the patience for bargaining. One of the problems that we of western cultures encounter here is that we need to slow down to the Asian pace. If you can achieve just one thing in a day, you’ve done well. If you’ve done it by lunch time, all the better. Relax and enjoy a quiet afternoon. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

And, I can’t repeat it often enough, Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware.

Poor Napa. He must have as many lives as a cat. A cruiser, having stepped ashore in Kupang, will doubtless head for Pantai Laut Bar on the beach, where he will be besieged by hopeful tourist guides. If he has not rung or emailed Napa in advance, as he should have done, and opts to ask where he might find him, there’s every chance he might receive the sad news that Napa has passed away.

If Mark Twain had not beaten him to it, Napa could well lay claim to having come up with the saying, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Or, you could be met with an instant name change, and suddenly be talking to “Napa” himself. So, if you cannot ring or email the man himself, call in to L’Avalon Bar, and talk to mine host Edwin Lerrick, who will happily put you in touch with Napa [the real one].

At least one of your correspondents has reported success in going it alone in dealing with Kupang customs and immigration. Any tourist guide can take you to their respective offices. That is certainly a viable option which is up to the individual.

CAIT applications? Best done in Jakarta before you arrive.

Edwin of L’Avalon has the best interests of Kupang and cruisers at heart, and agrees that the CAIT should be just that, a Cruising Permit, a one-off outlay which allows the holder to cruise the waters of Indonesia and enjoy the hospitality of the Indonesian people. Free from further demands on their time and pockets.

That, unfortunately, is a utopian impossibility, at least for the foreseeable future.

As for the dreaded Customs Bond, that is the one thing they should be declaring dead and buried, not poor Napa. The law regarding the bond is very much in force here in Kupang, yet can be lax in its application, depending on whom you are dealing with. So it seems that that the sure way to avoid payment of the bond is to cruise with an organised rally, and that individual cruisers are on their own when it comes to negotiating its application.

Good news for the rally organisers, not good for the individual cruisers. I'm told it's all because of some dishonest dealings by cruisers in the past in disposing of their boats in Indonesia while holding cruising permits and avoiding payment of duty.

The great majority of Customs and Immigration people in Kupang are not local. They are from Java and other parts of Indonesia and have little interest in the well being, or the reputation of Kupang.

Visiting cruisers should come armed with the knowledge that they are going to encounter demands for kickbacks, bribes, call it what you will. Resign yourself to the fact that is an every day way of life. Keep some reasonably small amounts to hand. It is a subtle game. At no time show anger or frustration. Keep smiling. You are in their country. You have already resigned yourself to having to play the game. You may go days or weeks without encountering any demand….it’ll be subtle, but a demand, nonetheless. If there has been a figure requested, halve it. If they have left it up to you, think of a reasonable figure, and HALVE that. Remember, keep that smile on your dial!

Enjoy yourself….bargaining can be fun. There’s every chance that if you stay too long, you’ll be bored to death when you eventually sail back home and go back to paying the asking price for everything.

Mention consumer protection in these parts and you’ll be met with a blank stare, and the question, “Apa itu?” “What’s that?”

Ian Modjo

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