Sun, 18 Jun 2000

Smooth going in and around Irian Jaya

WAMENA, Irian Jaya (JP): Below are tips for travelers to Irian Jaya.

Getting there: Garuda flies four times a week from Jakarta to Jayapura, while Merpati provides a daily service. From Jayapura, Merpati serves Wamena daily.

Accommodation: Different types of hotels and guest houses are available in Wamena.

Getting around: Tourists interested in sightseeing and visiting the villages around Wamena can charter public transportation or take vehicles available at hotels. Ask your hotel about local guides.

Money matters: Banking services, including money changing, can be done at Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) in town.

Bug bites: All tourists are advised to bring antimalarial pills because the disease is endemic in the area, particularly in villages. Pack sweaters and other warm clothing because Wamena is cool, particularly at night.

Photo fees: Shutterbugs must be prepared to part with cash every time they take a photo of a Dani tribesperson, either male or female. They typically ask for Rp 1,000 for each photo, but be ready to pay more to those in traditional attire, such as koteka (penis sheaths) and grass skirts.

Smoke alert: Smokers should bring extra packets of cigarettes because the tribespeople like to smoke. If you are smoking in public, be prepared for the locals to approach you for a cigarette.

Firm hand: If you are interested in a handicraft, ask how much; if it sounds right, pay up. Bartering is not advised. If you are not interested, be polite but firm in saying no. Otherwise, you are likely to be followed back to your accommodation -- and the sellers are fully prepared to wait until you come out.(leo)