This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
In Indonesia, alternative medicine is the answer to nearly every sort of ailment. Broke a bone? Get it massaged. Common cold? Rub a coin against your skin until your blood vessels pop. Trouble in the bedroom? Get a penis enlargement massage!
This is exactly what Indonesia’s Ministry of Health intends to capitalise on. On Wednesday, Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto declared penis enlargement massages, known locally as Mak Erot, to be a national asset that has the potential to attract medical tourists from abroad.
“We must popularise the idea of traditional medicine for tourism. We have an incredible herbal medicine industry that no one knows about outside Indonesia,” Putranto told local media.
He cited Tongkat Ali (a leaf that is said to boost athletic performance), Purwaceng (a viagra-like substance), and Mak Erot (penis enlargement massage) as exploitable services.
“If we package it correctly, foreigners will be interested.”
Putranto also mentioned kerok as a viable source of medical tourism, which is a method of curing a variety of ailments by rubbing a coin against the skin of the back with menthol oil in neat lines, slightly damaging blood vessels. Many Indonesians believe this gets rid of unwanted substances by bringing the blood closer to the surface of the skin.
“Don’t underestimate kerok. If we had 100 rooms and it takes 20 minutes per person, imagine how much revenue that would generate. There are many other cultural gems that we have not exploited because we take them for granted. But to foreigners, it’s something intriguing,” Putranto said.
As strange as penis enlargement massages sounds, Putranto has a point. In 2013, Abidinsyah Siregar, director of Traditional, Alternative, and Complementary Health Services, reported that the number of hospital patients nationwide was dwindling, in favor of traditional medicine practitioners.
“The world is experiencing a ‘back to nature’ craze. In Europe, over 60 percent of medicine contains natural ingredients,” Siregar told local media.
Untung Suseno, head of the Ministry of Health’s Tourism working group, agreed that Indonesia has the potential to expand its health tourism industry, but through spas.
According to Suseno, Indonesia is already known as one of the best health destinations globally. Spa services in Ciater, a 2-hour drive from Jakarta, are popular among local stroke patients, so he said it’s only a matter of making such services attractive to tourists.
Instead of those Bintang singlets, maybe kerok zebra stripes will be the new fad among tourists returning home from Indonesia.