Dutch East Indies travel brochure

Did we Dutch inherit the wanderlust from our ancestors, who were once great seafarers and land explorers? We are certainly a travel-loving nation, but our tourism is mostly limited to the countries close to home. A Dutchman, who traverses his own country from East to West in just four hours, already considers a journey of 24 hours a major undertaking. The many fellow countrymen, who make a holiday trip on one of the beautiful mail ships of the Rotterdamse Lloyd, debark in Marseille. They are satisfied with ten days of sea and sun, a visit to Southampton and Lisbon and one glimpse of the East during the delay in Tangier. The descendants of Jan van Riebeeck and Jan Pieterszoon Coen rarely decide to sail further anymore. What a pity! I recommend any Dutchman who can afford a vacation of a few months (…) to sail on such a hospitable comfortable mail boat through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Take a trip to the Dutch East Indies once in your life. Use a “hundred-day retour ticket” to get to know the Dutch colonies as a tourist, that beautiful and fascinating country which is “Our East”! You will see a new, unbelievably interesting world… You will widen your horizons tremendously… It will be one of the most wonderful experiences of your life and a wonderful memory until the end of your days.

This is how the foreword to this comprehensive travel brochure for the Dutch East Indies begins. The text was written by the Dutch novelist Jo van Ammers-Küller, who also made a trip to the Dutch East Indies with the Rotterdam Lloyd herself. The folder was designed by the Dutch graphic artist Johann von Stein, who was known for his modern photo montages and slick art deco style. The travel brochure is filled with pictures of the people, nature and culture in the Indonesian archipelago. The printing and design with fold-out pages and silver print are state of the art. The cover shows a Balinese dancer with a bow and arrow.

Mail ships
The Rotterdam Lloyd handled the postal traffic between the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. For this purpose, the shipping company had four fast and luxuriously mail ships, which also transported passengers. The company also offered all kinds of trips in the Dutch East Indies. Passengers could choose from eleven voyages, ranging from a 54-day sea journey including a 14-day stay in Java to a 96-day round trip to Java, Bali and Sumatra. All hotel stays, transport and excursions on land were provided by the Dutch East Indies travel agency Nitour in Batavia. The cheapest trip cost 272 guilders per person, the most expensive 1214.


‘For me everything was interesting and fascinating’, Jo van Ammers-Küller writes in her foreword:

In Batavia, Surabaya and Yogyakarta I walked for hours through the native neighborhoods, just to constantly watch those little brown Javanese people with their sarongs and their bare feet, with their unforgettable grace of movement, their restrained distinguished posture, the women a child in the slendang or sitting astride her hip, the men with a pikol (carrying load) on a long bamboo stick over their shoulder or squatting like merchants at a small table with wonderful food or delicacies.

I have stood on the peaks of the mighty volcanoes, the Papandajan, the Tangkoeban Prahoe and gazed into the tremendous menacing crater mouths. I have ridden on horseback across the endless sea of sand near the Bromo, which is bare and desolate like a landscape on the moon. I have seen how the tea and quinine are grown and processed on the high mountain slopes of the beautiful Preanger, and how the sugar cane is harvested and ground in the low, hot principalities. In the heart of Sumatra I saw how the latex is tapped from the rubber trees, how the precious Deli tobacco is planted and cared for.

I have climbed Borobudur, the mighty ancient temple of Java by moonlight and walked across the passar (market) of Medan among a mixture of peoples with their wares: fruits, spices, rags and baskets, as can only be seen there. (…) In Central Java I saw in Trinil the place where the prehistoric ape-man was discovered and in the museums of Djokja, Batavia and Den Pasar I admired the old Javanese and old Balinese art, whose beauty and distinction were a revelation to me.

In Bali I have seen the little dancers dance … not on a stage with spotlights but in the divine nature, under the shadow of a sacred waringin tree. I have admired the people with their beautiful bronze bodies and their regal posture and the impressive temples with their fantastic sculptures, bright red against the deep green of mountains and trees. I attended a cremation, a wonderful, incomprehensible event which seems like a carnivalesque feast to us Europeans, but which is a solemn ceremony for the natives.

And finally I visited a part of Sumatra, which is completely different from civilized Java and paradise Bali. In a region that was marked as a white spot on the map for three quarters of a century, a beautiful highway now leads from Padang on the west coast to Medan on the east coast, across the jungle, past mighty mountains, over endless high plains. First through the Padang uplands with the beautiful houses in which the self-confident proud Minangkabauers live, then through the land of the Bataks – Christians today, but cannibals only thirty years ago – who still live in the same primitive way as they did a thousand years ago.

The Dutch East Indies offers tourists an infinite variety. In addition, Indonesian cordiality and unlimited hospitality await him. (…) Indonesia is part of the Netherlands. (…) But how little do we usually know about the people who work there and about the products that are grown there. Although many books have been written about it, and photos and movies have been made about it, there is only one way to really get to know the country; and that is to go there and see and experience it with your own eyes.

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