Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 1

April 08, 2013

The contrast between Surabaya and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands – where ABAC just held its second meeting of the year - could hardly be starker. With its three gigantic curvaceous towers topped with the world’s largest bathtub, the “MBS” is parked in lonely splendour on land only claimed by newly-planted botanical gardens, teeming with tourists taking subterranean journeys into Singapore’s largest casino.

Surabaya by contrast feels like it has emerged organically over the centuries, a sprawling jumble of battered single-storey shanties that spread as far as you can see. Like Ho Chi Minh city or Hanoi, this is a city teeming with motorcycles and it is a death defying challenge to cross the road to the tantalizing local restaurants steaming invitingly opposite the Marriott Hotel.

This is a city that very much feels like it has history. Maybe it is the mullahs calling faithful to prayer from the seeming-dozens of mosques round about. One of these, the Ampel Mosque, apparently dates back to the 14th century and is at the heart of a teeming Arabian Quarter. Heaven knows if I will have time out to see it. Maybe it is the fact that Surabaya is home to the independence fighter Sutomo – people refer to him as Bung Tomo – and to Soekarno, the country’s first president after independence from colonial rule in 1945. Anyway, this Senior Official cluster is centuries away from our ABAC week in the MBS.

While the Marriott has been marvelously efficient in settling us in, the logistical challenges for the SOM2 cluster have clearly been considerable. Our meetings are spread between the Marriott and the Sheraton, 100 yards down the road. The 10 minute walk down the road is OK if we have no rain, but when it rains we have to rely on a bus shuttle between the two hotels. That would be fine if the road outside were not a one-way road – which means it  is easy to slip into the traffic and flow from the Sheraton to the Marriott, but shuttling back from the Marriott to the Sheraton would takes hours of back street shunting. The city government has solved our problem by blocking off the inside lane of the road between the Marriott and the Sheraton, so we effectively have our own private commuter lane. Neat for us, but I bet the local commuters are fuming!

Sunday and Monday provided a quiet beginning – just the Counter-Terrorism Task Force. But maybe that should be the subject of Post 2.

* Read post from Surabaya


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