Obama’s Indonesian trip, a quintessential ‘mudik’ holiday

Former US president Barack Obama met with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Friday at the Bogor Palace in West Java, after arriving in Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport with his family earlier in the day.

Obama, who went to the palace south of the Indonesian capital without his wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia, was greeted at the palace’s foyer by Widodo, his wife Iriana and the couple’s youngest son Kaesang Pangarep.

He was seen talking briefly with Widodo and Iriana at one of the palace’s verandas overlooking the lush Bogor botanical gardens, before getting on a golf cart with Widodo at the wheel to head off to a cafe inside the gardens, according to a statement from the State Secretary website.

President Joko Widodo took the golf cart wheel to take his guest Barack Obama to a nearby cafe in Bogor botanical gardens. Photo: Presidential palace press bureau/Biro Pers Setpres

The Grand Garden Cafe is located about a kilometer from the palace. The two men were photographed enjoying some typical Indonesian snacks and juices as they sat at a table in a terrace that offers a panoramic view of the centuries-old botanical gardens.

Jakarta governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who welcomed Obama at the airport, told journalists that Obama’s visit to the city where he spent part of his childhood came at the right time during the Eid hoilday season, when the city is quiet because most of its inhabitants are away on homecoming holiday exodus, an annual ritual known as mudik.

Obama then had dinner at the house of media mogul and owner of Emtek Group, Eddy Sariaatmadja in Menteng, Central Jakarta Friday evening. Sariaatmadja’s house is less than a kilometer away from the Besuki public elementary school where young Obama attended for a year. A statue of him as a child has stood since 2010 outside the school.

He was also scheduled to give a speech at the Congress of Indonesian Diaspora on Saturday morning and will end his Indonesian trip on Sunday to depart to South Korea.

Obama arrived in Indonesia on June 23 on the resort island of Bali and vacationed in Bali’s cultural hub of Ubud until Wednesday. While in Bali, the family was spotted white water rafting on the Ayung River and trekked through terrace paddy fields in Jatiluwih.

He and his family, which includes his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and her family, continued their vacation to Yogyakarta, where his mother and stepfather used to take him during school holidays.

Obama took his family down the memory lane by visiting the Buddhist temple of Borobudur and the Hindu temple of Prambanan during their two-night stay. He also watched a Javanese shadow puppet orchestra held in private in Tentrem Hotel where the entourage was staying, according to media reports.

Obama departed Yogyakarta Friday morning and arrived about 45 minutes later in Jakarta, where he lived for four years as a child after his anthropologist mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Widodo has invited Obama to visit Indonesia since early 2015.

“The invitation was extended again when President Jokowi visited Washington DC in October 2015,” Retno reiterated.

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