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‘Only Vespas can unite the archipelago’

A rowdy convention of Vespa enthusiasts shows the solidarity and inventiveness of Indonesian youth

Jenny McCallum

   Scooters started to fill the square in front of the Kraton and Mesjid Agung
   on Saturday morning, and many stayed until the following afternoon
   Jenny McCallum

On a typical Saturday afternoon only a trickle of tourists file into the Kraton Kasunanan, the royal palace of Solo, and the dusty square of grass in front is inhabited only by goats, a few sellers of tacky souvenirs and the emblematic huge banyan trees. On one Saturday a few months ago however, the distinctive roar of thousands of antique engines could be heard even before you reached the gates. Walking in, you were hit by a riot of exhaust fumes, dreadlocks, alcohol and reggae.

The event was the twelfth anniversary of the ISSO (Ikatan Scooter Solo, or Solo Scooter Club), to which ‘scooterists’ from across the archipelago were invited. Over 2000 Vespas and owners arrived from as far away as Bali, Sulawesi and Kalimantan to congregate in front of the Kraton, lining up their scooters before taking a tour to admire the others on display. Some of the scooters were ordinary or even tired-looking, whilst others had been modified to impractical proportions, with elongated bodies or handlebars, or intricately tailored to match a particular theme such as military, American Indian or batik.

The owners, however, were largely less well-tended. The majority were scruffy

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