Jakarta can be quite boring. There are malls, malls and more malls.
Sometimes, it can be vibrant and interesting, with music festivals, cultural events or random street performances in heritage venues. But there simply isn’t enough open space to enjoy daily life in the city. And the traffic jams are frustrating.
That’s why, when my favorite band Float Project initiated a three-day camping trip to the Dieng Plateau in Central Java, I signed up immediately. It has been years since I went camping, and what could be better than seeing your favorite band among nature, away from Jakarta’s hustle and bustle?
Float Project is the first Indonesian band to try the concept dubbed as Float2Nature. The event was meant to be an intimate session with the band’s small but loyal fan base in a natural landscape.
The trip was organized by Lembah Pelangi and PicnicHolic. In the itinerary, the organizers filled each hour of the weekend with activities.
The trip to the plateau was estimated to take nine hours. If we left on Friday night, we would be able to return to Jakarta on Sunday night. Word of the trip spread through social media channels and people started signing up. Expectations were set. I imagined it was going to be a joyous road trip.
Participants who traveled with Float Project paid Rp 850,000 ($90) while people who took their own transport paid Rp 650,000. This covered five meals over three days, transportation, merchandise, a tent for four people and a donation to a tree-planting program.
A fun weekend getaway with my favorite band while getting involved in a good cause — what could be cooler than that?
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. There was an accident at Nagreg, West Java, and our buses didn’t move for about four hours. We were tired and a little frustrated, but internalized it so as not ruin anyone else’s mood. By breakfast time, we were still in Tasikmalaya, West Java, instead of the camping site, our final destination. The person in charge told us to get something filling to eat because we would be arriving late, about 3 p.m., therefore lunch would be late.
Our confusion and disappointment continued when we found ourselves still on the road at 4 p.m. without having stopped for lunch. We finally arrived at the camping site at 6.30 p.m., just in time for dinner. After spending 22 hours on the buses, we were too exhausted to protest. We found out later that we were actually among the first to arrive. It wasn’t until around 9 p.m. that all of the participants arrived.
The performance by Float Project was mind-blowing. It is clear that everyone in the venue was a fan of the band, not only because they went all the way to the plateau but also because everyone sang along to all of the songs during the show.
I wished it hadn’t been so dark so we could have seen the hills that surrounded our camping site and the lake, since it would have been a fantastic backdrop to the music.
Unfortunately, the whole experience was ruined by the incompetence of the event organizer. I was only able to see Float Project. I spent more time on the bus than I did enjoying the natural surroundings. I have asked the event chairman Gatot Wisnu from Lembah Pelangi for an official statement, and he replied that the team would send apology letters to all participants.
More importantly, he promised that every meal that we paid for during the trip would be reimbursed. The apology letter arrived via e-mail on Monday night, but it was poorly written, repetitive, and did not include any clear information about reimbursement.
Because of the event’s heavy promotion, this mismanaged trip was discussed on social media websites. It is such a shame that an innovative traveling concept with the potential to become an established type of event turned into a fiasco. The organizers were on to something important; it isn’t easy to get Jakartans interested in nature, as you can tell from the number of malls and the amount of time people spend in these heavily air-conditioned buildings.
In the end, I have no faith I will receive an explanation about what happened to my money. I hope that others will not be fooled like I was. And more so, I hope people don’t give up on the splendor of Indonesia’s natural beauty — even if it means they have to plan their own trips.
Lisa Siregar is a features reporter at the Jakarta Globe.