Did you expect an Indonesian Rap song when you first clicked on the blog link?  Sorry no unique West Timor rap here.  Actually the #1 artist that I’ve heard is Justin Beiber, and I’ve been notified on SEVERAL occasions that he’ll be playing in Jakarta soon.  I’ll spare you and not embed his latest track into this blog, though if you’d like the true Kupang experience, feel free to download the song from iTunes and listen while reading the rest of this post.

Despite the shock of seeing so many Justin Beiber fanatics on the isolated island of West Timor, I was perplexed by the brightly Skittle-colored mini-buses tearing through the winding Kupang streets.  The colors almost blinded me against the stark concrete grey buildings.  I learned quickly that the bright flashes whizzing by are the infamous Kupang “Bemo.”

Kupang Bemos

Unlike back home in the US, the haunt of the standard Yellow Cab, the Kupang Bemos are decked out in outrageous custom decals and are blaring rap with heavy bass.  I think to myself that driving one of these is the equivalent of shutting your eyes and putting in your headphones while turning your iPod to full blast.  Me of course, a sucker for new cultural experiences, decided to (double check my Medex health insurance and) jump right on in!

Front windshield view

I had heard from the locals that the reason why the Bemos are so wildly decorated is to attract passengers.  As I’m squashed in the Bemo with 6 students, I turn and ask how they pick which Bemo to ride.  One English-speaking schoolgirl informs me that they pick based on whether or not the Bemo is playing “cool” music.  Also, the bemo driver has to be young, preferably with spikey hair, cool clothes, and earrings.  Old drivers (my ripe age of 26 according to the girls) would never get any passengers.  The girls also informed me that they would wait on the curb for their Bemo of choice, despite having several others drive by.

As our conversation continues, the little turquoise bemo I was riding in effortly charged through the crowded Kupang streets with the expertise of the 17 year-old Bemo driver and his 10 year-old traffic directing accomplice, who spent the majority of the ride dangling half-way out the door.  In the end, I was delivered safely to the bemo terminal with Justin Bieber ringing in my ears.

The Bemo musical playlist and décor is fierce on the Kupang streets, so I thought why not bring it to the web?  Please vote on your favorite Bemo, and I’ll report back the results to the Bemo boys next week!  The most popular Bemo will probably get an influx of new clients!

A) Pink Fever

B) Google Halloween

C) Fox News

Coming Soon:  Kiva Fellow, Adam Cohn, will be posting about share-taxis around the world.  If you’re all about the public transport trend, then check it out!  After all, public transport is green and being green is cool! :)

Lisa Skowron (KF14) is currently working with Kiva’s MFI partner, TLM Cooperative, in West Timor.  Check out TLM’s lending team to stay tuned to the latest news.

Previous posts from Lisa Skowron:
Huh, There’s a West Timor?
Video Blog: Trek to Kanaan Village


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