All posts by Richard Avis

April, Bandung, Jawa Barat, Indonesia, Meeting Time Twin #31 Irawan

Back in November 2012, on a rainy, grey day in London, I happened upon a website featuring an Indonesian Time Twin – Irawan –  a  hotel executive living in Bandung .  With our birthdays approaching, I sent him a birthday card, wishing him all the best and explaining the nature of the project.

Just over a week later, I received an email in reply: the first Asian Time Twin I heard from. His email started “I’ll be happy to join the Time Twins project”.


It went on to outline the cultural, culinary  and historic attractions in his home town and he suggested that I should try playing the angklung when I visit Bandung. Even though I didn’t know what an angklung was at that point, it was a wonderful invitation.

Yesterday, sixteen months after that first contact, it was great to finally meet Irawan at the newly reopened Braga City Walk mall in the centre of Bandung. His role as General Manager of the three Vio Hotels in Bandung (the Hotel Vio Pasteur, the Hotel Vio Cimanuk and the Hotel Vio Surapati) means that he is a man in constant demand, especially during the busy Easter weekend period, when tourists from Jakarta and Malaysia flock to Bandung for shopping and relaxation. Despite this, I had the pleasure of sitting and talking with him for most of the morning, learning about his beliefs;  his career;  his experiences living across Indonesia and overseas; Sundanese culture; life in Bandung and how his priorities have changed in recent years.

When we met again today, I had the honour of meeting Irawan’s family. At the Saung Angklung Udjo I got to learn the rudimentary basics of playing the aungklung – a traditional Sundanese bamboo musical instrument and along with Irawan and his family formed part of a beginners angklung orchestra.

My sincere thanks go to Irawan and his family for their hospitality, time and warmth during this wonderful weekend.


The article in Pikiran Rakyat

Article about the project in Pikiran Rakyat newspaper, Bandung

Yesterday I received an unexpected SMS on my Indonesian cellphone number. It was from a guy called Joko. I had spent a few hours earlier in the morning Tweeting about my arrival in Bandung, the capital of West Java, and promoting the Time Twins project.  It transpired that Joko is a journalist from Pikiran Rakyat, a daily newspaper based in Bandung with a circulation of 150,000 in Bandung and West Java.  Joko’s editor had seen the Tweets and tasked Joko to track me down.  A great bit of detective work on his part, as my number isn’t published anywhere!

We met over a coffee at the local Starbucks. Joko seemed interested in the project, asking us questions for about an hour and watching the Time Twins talking about the project video.

This morning’s mission became finding the newspaper.  Clearly, Pikiran Rakyat must be a popular title as the Indomarets and Circle K’s in central Bandung had all sold out.  Luckily, the Pikiran Rakyat’s office was close, but unluckily, nobody seemed to know exactly where it is. Finally, after many wrong turns, retraced steps and directionless wandering, we saw a group of men reading a newspaper on a billboard – a billboard with Pikiran Rakyat on it.  As this media attention is still quite a new experience for me – I couldn’t resist standing next to the frontpage and pointing  out to the readers the resemblance between the man in the photo and the man standing next to them!

For those who don’t speak Bahasa Indonesia, the article says:

Looking around the World “twins” 

Crazy. Perhaps that is what first comes to mind when you know what this guy is doing. He  is travelling around the world on a simple mission: seek and swap stories with people who have the same date of birth as him. The original target is looking for 40 “Twins” before he is 40.

The man in question is Richard Avis (39) He was born in Dumfries, Scotland on 1 December 1974 and lives in London, England. Two years ago, three of his friends challenged him. “They challenged me to meet 40 people born on the same day as me” he said when we met at the Jalan Braga, Bandung, on Friday 

At first glance, it looks ridiculous challenge. You see, not a little time and effort has been “spent” to practice it. However, for Richard, look for “Twins” was not the main goal, but rather as a starting point to determine “greater things”

Through the project, called “TIme Twins” he wants to know the richness of human life.

“With the same number of days that have been spent on this planet, what kind of life do these people lead? What are their greatest achievement?” he said

Talking about the man, of course, can not be separated from the culture around him. Cultural context ranging from values, norms, manners is key in understanding of a person’s behaviour.

Since the trip began, he has visited 13 countries in Europe, America, Australia and Asia. So far, he has met 31 “Twins”, 16 men and 15 women. Two of them he met in Indonesia: in Bali and Makassar.

In search the “Twins”, Richard did some research as well as a  creating a simple sign. In addition to the official website that he created, the project was also distributed to a number of social media, like Facebook and Twitter. He estimates that in Indonesia, there are 9800 people who were born on the same day as him, 5,500 in Palau 3800 Java and outside Java

“We have learned a lot of interesting things. Though the people have the same birth date, there are differences in ethnicity, gender, religion, occupation, and social background. We exchanged stories about their respective lives. Everybody has a different story and a surprise” he said

In Bali, for example, he met with someone who works as a tour guide. From him he learned about  Balinese culture and the intricacies of Hinduism. However, the steps are not limited to swapping stories. “I’m also trying to help their lives.  “The Bali “Twin” worked as a tour guide, and I promoted his name on my site. So, if there are foreign tourists who come to Bali could use his services” said Richard.

In Bandung, the plan is that Richard will meet a “Twin” in the next few days. After Bandung , he is going to Malaysia.

However, he said, from several countries that have been visited, Indonesia is one of the the privileged. Diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds contribute to its own story. One of the simple things he has witnessed is religious tolerance. “I was surprised because it did not think there would be an Easter holiday here, as it is in a country with a Muslim majority,” he said.

He finds all elements of how people socialize interesting. In Bandung, for example, he was amazed by the hospitality. Almost every person he encountered gives a smile: “My face starts to ache, as everyone’s smiles all invite more smiles “ he said, jokingly.

Reading Pikiran Rakyat in Bandung
Reading Pikiran Rakyat in Bandung. Photograph, Richard Avis/Culturpology
A Pikiran Rakyat reader, photograph: Richard Avis, Culturpology
A Pikiran Rakyat reader,. Photograph: Richard Avis, Culturpology
Hiyar and I

April, Makassar, Sulawesi Selatan, Indonesia, Meeting Time Twin #30 Hiyar

After a week exploring Sulewesi Selatan, today provided the highlight of my trip to this incredible, diverse island.  In my last day in Makassar, the bustling, dynamic capital city of the province, I was honoured to spend the afternoon with local Time Twin, civil engineer and politician Hiyar.

Over lunch at the wonderful Lea Lea fish restaurant,  we discussed everything from cultural identity, to religion, the nature of success to house music. After seeing Hiyar’s name on the ballot paper for the Sulewesi Selatan provincial elections, when I was  in Gowa on April 9th,  it was fascinating to hear Hiyar explain his political beliefs,  his views the issues affecting Gowa and  Makassa, the ideology of the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan and his achievement in establishing three community mosques in Gowa .

I was genuinely touched by Hiyar’s hospitality and his family’s interest in the project and  I  look forward to visiting Makassar again soon. Hopefully the election results, due next week, will announce Hiyar’s success.  Thanks to Hiyar, his friend Ahmad for his invaluable interpretation and to Hiyar’s family

Hiyar's campaign poster
Hiyar’s campaign poster


Yohanis Utta engaging Torajan locals in the search for Time Twins

Searching for Time Twins in Tana Toraja

Following a recommendation from a Time Twin in Java, I have spent the last three days in Tana Toraja Regency in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Located high in the mountains, eight hours coach ride north of Makassar, Tana Toraja is the homeland of the Torajan people and an area of incredible natural beauty.  The Torajan people maintain their unique cultural identity within Indonesia – with Tongkanon ( spectacular traditional wooden and bamboo houses) and unique burial sites dotting the landscape.  The Torajan people are famous for their elaborate funeral rites, which last days and are the most expensive event in Torajan life.  Whilst I have been here – I have had the privilege of attending a Torajan funeral and wedding.

Traditional tonkonans and Rice barns
Traditional tonkonans and Rice barns. Photograph: Richard Avis/Culturpology

It would not have been possible to have experienced  Torajan life and to have learnt and experienced so much without our fantastic guide, Yohanis Uttu. Yohanis was also fascinated by the Time Twin project and arranged an announcement about the project on local radio in Rantepao, posted  our flyers in shops and restaurants across the area and even stopped to ask locals toiling in the rice fields if they know anyone born on 1 December 1974.  Many thanks to Yohanis for all his help.

Time Twins poster displayed on the wall of a shop in a Torajan village
Time Twins poster displayed on the wall of a shop in a Torajan village. Photograph: Richard Avis/Culturpology
Unfortunately, the buffalo at Rantapeo market were not Time Twins. Photograph: Richard Avis/Culturpology
Unfortunately, the buffalo at Rantepao market were not Time Twins
Looking for Time Twins in Torajan rice fields
Looking for Time Twins in Torajan rice fields. Photograph: Stuart Scott/Culturpology

March, Surfers Paradise, QLD, Australia, Meeting Time Twin #29 Erin

Back on Thursday evening I sat in my room at the Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise watching an article about the project by Courtney Pattinson on Nine News Gold Coast.  The article finished with a comment I made about there seeming to be a disproportionately high number of Time Twins I have met who have a fear / apprehension of escalators. It was this quirky aspect of the project that led Time Twin Erin to contact me after the programme was aired!

We met briefly today overlooking the ocean at Surfers Paradise. Thank you to Erin for taking time from her very busy weekend to meet up.

March, Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise, Meeting Time Twin #28 Brian

Today was the third day in Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast City.  The brilliant blue skies and the pristine beach seem never ending and there is a real vibrancy about the place: not at all the ‘Ibiza of Australia’ that some elements of the media portray it.

This afternoon was the highlight of the time in ‘Paradise’ so far though, as we met Time Twin Brian at the Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise.  Brian is originally from New Zealand (our first New Zealand Time Twin) and we spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon discussing a wide range of topics from religion to World of Warcraft and landers on Mars to the ultimate man cave.  Was fascinating to learn about Brian’s life, his acting career – including his starring role in Beauty and the Beast, differences in lifestyles between New Zealand and Australia and his new business  -Aplus It Computer Services PTY -among other things.

Thanks to Brian for his time.