Photo by Belinda Lopez

Published in the Jakarta Globe. View PDF of publication here.

Pole dancers keep spinning as they wait for the government to decide if their art is illegal.

It looks like a giant condom!” Arianna Starr — Penthouse Pet, former Miss Nude Australia, striptease school teacher and tonight’s performer at Blowfish nightclub in South Jakarta — is staring at the costume the club’s management wants her to wear.

Since the controversial antipornography law was passed in Indonesia, it seems even the barons of Jakarta’s nightlife are getting worried about “violating public morality,” in this case, letting their risque Australian performers show a little skin.

Published in the Jakarta Globe. View PDF of publication here.

For a publishing empire that has lasted 35 years, spawned more than 500 books on travel and is now heaving into the digital age, Lonely Planet began rather modestly, on a London park bench in 1970.
A 20-year-old woman named Maureen sat on the opposite side of a seat occupied by Tony, 23, who was reading a magazine. He remarked that it was a good place to read on a Thursday afternoon.
“That was a good pick-up line,” says a now 61-year-old Tony Wheeler, who got the girl in the end. Maureen became his wife and the co-founder of Lonely Planet.
But had they been seated on the same bench sometime this decade, their exchange might never have happened.

Published on New Matilda here.

Belinda Lopez explains the small print of the Forest Carbon Partnership with Indonesia.

Take a cautious first step into the tropical peat swamp of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, and it’s likely to open up before you. Sensory nerves sending messages to the brain prove unreliable as your foot, expecting to eventually find a firm surface, is painfully deceived. You sink deeper and deeper into the mud, and count yourself fortunate if you bruise yourself grabbing desperately for a tree root, lest you lose limbs and boots forever.

This is what Kevin Rudd wants to save. In the grand ballroom of a grand hotel in Indonesia’s capital last Friday, Rudd addressed an elite crowd on the “inseparable” relationship between Indonesia and Australia.

Published on New Matilda here

Jakarta’s new Governor has faced over 200 public demonstrations since his election in August last year, writes Belinda Lopez.

In the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the city’s Governor, Fauzi Bowo, throws the floor open for commentary. His audience in the hotel’s executive meeting room is full of foreign media correspondents, many of whom are smirking.

“I have to guarantee 13 per cent of total space in Jakarta will be kept [open], which is impossible, but that’s what the law says,” he says, pausing for effect.

“How can you find space like that in Jakarta? If anybody has any ideas, please tell me. I welcome any suggestions.” The correspondents laugh.

Published in the Jakarta Post Weekender magazine. 

Indonesia’s Maluku archipelago, famed for its historical attractions and natural beauty, was struck off tourist itineraries during the religious strife of the late 1990s. Belinda Lopez visited some of the islands to see the changes taking place.

Picking one of Maluku’s estimated 999 islands to visit can be a risky affair. Over near Banda Neira Island, an active 650-meter-high volcano on the appropriately named Gunung Api (Fire Mountain) Island only just blew her lid in 1988.

In Ternate, North Maluku, it’s best to stay away from civil servants, especially if you’re a state prosecutor. One poor prosecutor is reportedly recovering from a blow to the head after he tried to find evidence of graft in the North Maluku governor’s office and the staff allegedly jumped him.