Welcome to our first edition of Exotiq Magazine Indonesia for 2016, a year that is hopefully full of good fortune and pleasant surprises, not least in the magazine you are holding in your hands right now.

The big non-political news for Indonesia so far this year was the total eclipse of the Sun on 9th March, which passed over much of the country, bringing visitors fromaround the world to witness it. Not wanting to miss this rarest of celestial wonders, we travelled to Balikpapan in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo with our  NASA sunglasses and champagne in hand to view the Black Hole Sun in all its glory.Met with cloudless blue skies we were ‘totality’ not disappointed, as you will see from the story inside.

Back in Bali, there are many good people working hard to do what they can for those most in need, but the hardest part about running any NGO or charity is raising thefunds, something that diverts so much time and effort from the task at hand – helping people. The Garden of Life Foundation is a unique organisation seeking to take the  difficulties of fund-raising out of the equation by embarking on a magnificent crowdfundedproject called The Garden of Life. Their aim is to build a huge eco-monument in Tabanan in Bali, which will serve as a major tourism draw for the island, while at the same time channelling all of its income to the deserving charities in order to allow them to get on with what they do best.

Heading across to the other side of the world we are delighted to show off some stunning imagery from Bali resident and photographer, Phil Green, who fulfilled a lifelong dream to travel to the far reaches of South America, to Patagonia, where he captured the wild and dramatic emptiness of this rugged and barren wilderness.

Back in Lombok, we pay witness to an age-old Sasak circumcision ceremony, where the beating of drums mixed with masses of music and colour guides these little boys through one of the most important rituals of their lives.

All this is in addition to our regular stunning array of luxury dream properties across the island, and a selection of land plots on the islands where your own dreams can be built. It’s going to be a good year so buckle in and enjoy the ride – and the read.

Renovating a house is easy. Call a contractor, buy the materials, and get them delivered to your house – all you have to do is pay for it. But what do you do when that project is a 40m long, wooden phinisi schooner named Katharina that still needs to keep sailing and she’s moored in the harbour off Bali? You plan your time with military precision, you get creative, and you bring in the Bugis Men.

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One of two ships owned and operated by Sea Trek Sailing; a Bali-based company that specialises in sea voyages and adventures across the Indonesian archipelago, visiting exotic places that very few people get to see, Katharina is a 40-metre long, traditional Indonesian sailing ship, and she is beautiful. She sits low in the water, has a sensual curve to her decks and the white hull and maroon sails paint a picture postcard upon the ocean waves wherever she sails.

Unfortunately, life on the ocean waves is tough on a girl and regular maintenance on her decks, engines, and rigging is a must to keep her at her best. That wear and tear also plays havoc on the ships interiors – and so does fashion – and since Katharina is approaching 20 years old, with her last re-fit being in 2007, she is currently being treated to some pampering and love by her owners. “We felt that we needed top bring Katharina back to her more original state staying as close to the local traditions as possible and make her original,” explains Joris Kolijn, Seatrek’s General manager and no stranger to sailing.

The brief for the job was suggest ways of bringing her to the top of the market quality level over a three-year time frame and to accomplish the upgrades without disrupting the charter operation. This meant breaking down the work into a couple of large tasks that would happen during the three-month off-season, then accomplish a series of smaller tasks in short two- to five-day projects in between cruises as the boats returned to Bali for provisioning.

Renovating a boat can be extremely easy if you have a dry dock from which to work. Facilities like that just don‘t exist in Bali, so everything has do be done while the ship is at anchor. This obviously presents a few problems and limitations; from the timing of the delivery of materials to the transportation to the ship, each step has to be planned with military precision so that time and energies are not wasted.

“Everything that comes out to the boat has to be able to fit in a small tender boat, so things need to come out in manageable sizes,” says Joris. “There are no cranes or forklifts out there so planning and staging are very important. The boat also has to keep floating and functioning while it is being worked on and the boat has to keep generating power for the crew to operate machinery. Apart from that, the crew also still needs to live on the boat while they are tearing it apart so they need to allow for day-to-day living to work around the maintenance of the boat. “The boys can’t just knock off and go home each evening’” says Joris. “This is their home!”

To oversee the design and to manage the project, Joris employed the skills of Frank Hyde and Jeni Kardinal, two American architects with a love of the sea and all things sailing, who he had met about two years ago when Frank was working on another vessel. He suggested they come and bring their expertise and energy to Katharina and they started work at the end of 2013, just in time to start redesigning the interiors and public spaces.

The original 14 guest cabins were reduced to 12 to allow for a less crowded feel, and they were completely remodelled with new beds, bathrooms and skylights and back-lit lattice screens to let in more light. Previously the downstairs area was quite dark, since being so low to the water the design doesn’t allow for portholes, which would weaken the integrity of the hull. The solution was to raise and remodel the hatchway on the main deck and fit it with specially fired glass to act as a skylight, allowing daylight to seep in as well as providing an extra emergency exit.

The raised hatchway also acts as a communal dining table and has been beautifully designed using a combination of ironwood for the main posts, merbau for the top, and dark rosewood called sonokeling for the hinges, the whole thing being a real showpiece in master craftsmanship. The main saloon and outdoor deck seating were also given a major going over with new furnishings and wooden accents throughout adding comfort and modernity, which will certainly be enjoyed by the next generation of adventurous travellers.

As talented an architect as Frank is – and Katharina has certainly benefited from his vision – he saves his praise for the boat’s handpicked Konjo crew of ship’s carpenters and master craftsmen, whose skills and talents have made it all possible. “The Sulawesi boys that do the work are truly amazing and the level of craftsmanship is outstanding,” says Frank. “They are so humble and they astound me with their no-nonsense approach to building and problem solving.”

Hailing from a small town in southern Sulawesi called Ara, the Konjo people have a long history in building wooden boats that goes back centuries. They are the descendants of the original Bugis seafarers who have plied the water’s of Asia for hundreds of years, trading, fishing and pirating, and what they don‘t know about seafaring and boat building isn’t worth knowing. Their tools and techniques are the same that their forefathers have used for 500 years (barring the power tools, of course) like hand saws and handmade, wooden spiral-grain mallets, and the use of wooden pins in the place of nails and double-step mitring designed to stop leaks and warping.

“They have worked with wood and on boats from a very young age,” explains Frank. “But maybe even more importantly they have unparalleled pride in what they do and an incredible ‘can do’ attitude that makes them the most special guys to work with that I have ever experienced. Sometimes I think their favourite word, always followed by a smile, is bisa (‘can’),” jokes Frank. ”Small miracles happen on a daily by combining great design with amazing skill. It really is a privilege to be able to work with them.”

At the time of writing, this year’s work is almost complete and Katharina is about to resume her sailing schedule as of August. She will be taken out of service again in 2015, with the plan to raise the wheelhouse and redo the galley and replace the deck, but that’s a year away.

Right now Katharina is set to take to the high seas once more, looking gorgeous and feeling even better, ready to astound her guests with her brand new design, superior craftsmanship, and new luxuries and comforts as she sails the length and breadth of the magical East Indies.

Michael Travers

Jakarta-skyline-Indonesia

The Indonesian capital is certainly coming up, but its progress could be hampered by political uncertainty, shoddy infrastructure and soaring property prices.

For Indonesia, 1998 was a game changer. The country was hit hard by the Asian Economic Crisis, which triggered the collapse of the 31-year Suharto regime and the installing of a democratic government. In recent years, however, the economy has topped global performance charts, consistently recording an annual GDP of more than 6 percent, and Jakarta is now one of the world’s most attractive property investment destinations.

But with the country set to go to the polls for only the third time since its transition to democracy, investor sentiment has dampened and economic growth has trailed off to 5.2 percent—its worst-performing quarter since 2009. (When you read this you will know the result of the election. When this went to print, we didn’t. Ed). “Due to uncertainty surrounding the presidential candidacy, the property market has been flat for some time,” says Irwin Chandra, an investment analyst with Colliers International. “Although inquiries regarding investing in the Jakarta property market are still coming in strongly, the number of real transactions have been scaled back.”

Increased interest rates and stricter mortgage regulations have also quelled demand in Jakarta’s key residential markets, according to recent research by Colliers. It noted that the take-up rate in the city’s central business district slumped 4 percent compared to the previous quarter, while prime areas in the south of the city recorded a negligible uptake of 0.1 percent in the same period. With the run up to the elections and the increasing likelihood that opposition party candidate Jokowi “Joko” Widodo would assume the presidency, most analysts believe price stabilisation will be short-lived. Jokowi’s nomination as the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle’s presidential candidate, which led to a rise in both the stock market and currency, has done much to reassure the local and international business community.

“There may be a perception of a potential market slowdown but I don’t think this will be the case. Developments from the largest and most respected Indonesian firms shall continue to sell well… The long queues on launch days shall continue, I suspect,” Says Chris Keirnan associate director of real estate consultancy MacDonald & Company. “The luxury residential sector, from an investment perspective, will continue to significantly outperform other regional markets.”

In Knight Frank’s 2013 Global Cities Index report, which monitors the performance of luxury real estate markets across the globe, Jakarta ranked the world’s most attractive investment destination for a second consecutive year. The report stated that high-end property prices in the Indonesian capital experienced an annual increase of 37.7 percent, more than double the yearly growth in second-placed Dublin. The unprecedented growth was attributed to the burgeoning middle-classes’ rising demand for luxury property, as well as the limited supply of new residential developments.

Knight Frank Indonesia’s associate director for consultancy and research, Hasan Pamudji, also expects favourable conditions to encourage an influx of foreign investment into the luxury segment. “Foreign investment has been increasing for the past two to three years and this will continue in the coming years due to a slow down in Asia Pacific’s major property market he said. “Long-term foreign investors will continue to look for opportunities for local diversification in developing countries such as Indonesia where the property market is still appealing.” Pamudji added, however, that overseas buyers face a number of obstacles when looking to invest in Jakarta, including complex legal structures and a dearth of available prime-location property.

Rapidly dwindling residential options, soaring land prices and endemic traffic congestion within the city’s centre has forced some buyers to turn to lesser-known suburbs such as Serpong, Bogor and Bekasi. On the other hand, Jakarta’s traffic issues and lack of quality public transport has resulted in a greater demand for properties near business districts, according to Arief Rahardjo, head of research and advisory at Cushman & Wakefield, Indonesia. Jakarta’s traffic problems have positively impacted on the increasing demand in strata-title apartment market, especially for condominium projects located surrounding the CBD and along main corridors,” he said.

In October, plans for a rapid transit system were rolled out in the hopes of combatting some of the world’s most congested roads. Still, doubts remain over the ambitious scheme’s short-term effectiveness. The initial North-South corridor, slated for completion in 2020, will provide only limited connectivity to Jakarta’s major residential neighbourhoods, while it will take another 13 years for the East-West line to be operational.

If Jakarta is to live up to its moniker and establish itself as a global real estate destination, the new government must addresses the myriad issues impacting the city’s liveability.

By Liam Aran Barnes
First appeared in Property Report, July 2014