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European Tourists Embrace Tropical Bathing in Indonesia

To combat the oppressive climate, a daily bathing is a must for those living in tropical regions like Indonesia. People from northern latitudes, on the other hand, do not often take daily showers. When people go to tropical areas, only then does this become a necessary routine.

Bathing, which baffled Europeans centuries ago, eventually became a tourist attraction given by a nearby hotel. In “Tourism in the Dutch East Indies 1891-1942” (2019), historian Achmad Sunjayadi sheds light on this fascinating historical tale, providing new context for travel during the colonial period. Sunjayadi thoroughly researches accounts of explorations of Indonesia from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Different Routines for Keeping Clean, Bathing?

European Tourists Embrace Tropical Bathing in Indonesia

Because of the four-season climate of Europe, people there didn’t traditionally take baths very often. Because it decreased the body’s warmth, bathing was seen as an unpleasant act. However, the European explorers in the Dutch East Indies were forced to follow this custom because of the extreme heat of the tropics.

Keep in mind that there was no such thing as air conditioning or even ceiling fans in hotels or other lodgings during that time period. In addition, there are notable differences between Jakarta in 1861 and the modern metropolitan metropolis that exists there now. The area was peaceful and beautiful, making it a perfect vacation spot. Even while the tropical heat was still severe, it was not consistent with the present period.

However, Europeans felt the heat was oppressive, so they had to adjust to the new normal. Sunjayadi clarifies that Europeans were exposed to native bathing habits while still onboard their ships, citing travel tales from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Since Europeans bathe quite differently than locals, this orientation was designed to help them adjust to their new surroundings.

Although Europeans are used to completely immersing themselves in baths, doing so is now illegal. They had to get used to the local method of taking a shower, which required pouring water from a bucket or ladle over their heads.

As soon as they landed, a large number of locals started their training in this fashion. However, the Europeans had a hard time adjusting. Despite several reminders on proper bathing behaviour, many people continued to make mistakes. Some even took long, luxurious baths that clouded the water.

The Beginning of a Relationship

Inspiring businessman Victor Thornerieux was the Europeans’ unexpected love of soaking in the tub. Victor opened the Hotel de l’Univers in Molenvliet (Jl. Gajah Mada and Jl. Hayam Wuruk, modern-day Jakarta) in 1861.

The hotel’s advertising campaign wasted no time in highlighting the hotel’s most appealing and unique feature: the bathtub. The hotel was kind enough to offer a swimming area complete with clean river water.

After a full day of events, this perk was finally revealed to visitors. After sightseeing excursions, guests may rest and relax with an afternoon tea before experiencing the hotel’s one-of-a-kind bathing facilities, which was previously a novel and exotic concept in Europe.