In the early 1960s, National Geographic magazine commissioned a seriesof articles from a California couple exploring the roadways and waterways of Asia on Tortuga II, an amphibious jeep purchased from a WW II surplus depot. The couple’s first installment recounts their floating and driving adventures on and along the Ganges, where Tortuga would sometimes carry them “to venerable cities and princely palaces” and other times serve as their “campsite in the countryside, where the only wealth was in the stars.”1 Their next installment, published in May 1961, chronicles the couple’s travels through Indonesia. As the article’s subtitle heralds, this leg of their Tortuga adventure transpires in a “young and troubled island nation”: Their essay opens dramatically, with their arrival in the capital city of Jakarta, a little over a decade after Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands:
Encapsulated in the opening paragraph of this Indonesia travelogue is a theme central to this article, namely, the imaging in global travel media of certain insular Southeast Asian cities as danger zones, inspiring aversion and
allure for armchair travelers and intrepid adventurers. This article is broadly concerned with danger zone travel to insular Southeast Asian cities. Whereas safaris to untamed wildernesses caught the fancy of elite thrill-seekers in colonial times, in the contemporary postcolonial era “urban jungles” are developing a new allure for a certain breed of Euro-American adventurers. In the pages that follow, I examine the touristic imagery and cybercelebrity of these postcolonial urban jungles.