Indonesia has a huge population. I think Java alone has 200 million people, and it's about as big as the South Island. So everything and everywhere seems pretty busy, and noisy. With horns tooting, and trucks and scooters reeving, I suppose there is a need to be heard and noticed above that. Enter the flags, whistles and amplifiers.....
I reckon the loudest amplified sound is the call to prayer several times a day. The 3.30am one certainly sounds loud. Mosques all seem to have at least one very tall tower. I'm guessing that was where the priest used to stand and call everyone to come pray. So far I haven't seen a priest up a tower, but you can see the megaphones. Lots of them pointed in every direction. In areas with more than one mosque, I'm sure they compete to be the loudest. Mind you it all just sounds like noise to me. I'm sure that if I understood what was being said it would mean more.
Perhaps the next loudest amplification, no definitely the loudest, are the trucks in the parades. Some of the biggest stacks of speakers I've ever seen. The NZ bogans with their boots full of beat box know nothing.
When these speakers are not on the back of a truck in a parade, they seem to sit in the centre of some village, turned up to full volume, either playing music, or broadcasting a radio programme. I presume noone else in the village has or needs their own radio....
Then there seem to be random cars or vans that cruise the streets with megaphones on top. Like something you might expect to happen around election time, but elections here were some months ago. Once again it would really help if I understood what they were talking about.
Oh yeah, and the whistles. Busy business's, like doctors, supermarkets, chemists, employ guys to manage the parking and safety outside the business. They direct you where to park. They help you cross the street through the throngs of scooters. They help you back into traffic. All with the aid of whistle blasts and waving of a flag or flashing wand. Seems you don't upset these guys, and you give them a tip for their services.
Another guy also has a whistle and flag or wand. He stands at a minor but busy intersection, and with his wand, flag and whistle, helps you out into the main traffic flow. This may happen really quickly, so it's okay to just throw you tip out the window and he will pick it up when he gets the chance.
Then there's the flag wavers. They stand between road cones, which may just be rocks with a palm branch, waving flags and holding buckets. These guys are backed up by another guy, sitting at the side of the road with a microphone. He talks and talks and talks. Not sure what about, but just keeps going. I think these guys are collecting for sports clubs and the like.
Outside schools are more flag, wand and whistle guys, helping the kids get across the road, directing the mini buses, taxis, scooters and rickshaw bikes that are picking them up or dropping them off. Hey, we have them in NZ, but in Indonesia, these guys have a good deal more control over the parents than ours do.
Then there are the guys collecting road tolls from trucks passing through their village. Sometimes they don't have flags, wands or whistles, but you'd better not drive past them without paying..... I'm sure you wouldn't get back again.
A mixture of all these guys happens at festival parades. Whistles, flags, wands, and megaphones are all used by the marshals. Traffic doesn't necessarily flow, but in all the chaos, there is some order, and not once did I see someone angry. Road rage doesn't seem to exist in Indonesia.
Today a truck and I passed each one a dozen times. It was 1pm. Everytime one of us passed the other, an old fellah, with one front tooth would poke his head out the window. Good Morning Mister. Welcome to Indonesia. Guess he got up late, or had just woken from a nana nap. If he was up for early prayers I guess he would need a nap by 1pm. What ever, he was smiling, happy, and pleased to see me.....12 times.
Oh yeah. I rode my bike today. It was hot. Very hot. There were heaps of fumes. I missed a sign and went 1km up the wrong road. I snuck back onto the main route on a back street, which was officially closed because they were rebuilding a bridge. I figured if a scooter could get across, a foreigner on a push bike could as well. Worked for both of us. The Policeman overseeing the road closure said...Hello Mister. Where you going? Where you from? Ooh. Very strong. Keeping going up hill.....