Range of treatments in high demand in Southeast Asian archipelago
In Merauke, an Indonesian town with a population of 130,000, the only store selling traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, also takes online orders for a range of other Chinese medicinal products.
Store owner Siswanto, who like many Indonesians has only one name, said he was surprised that athletes and officials attending an event in the town in October were still using TCM products bought from his store some time ago.
In total, some 7,000 officials and athletes from a number of sports attended the annual National Sports Week, the country's biggest sporting event, which was staged in Merauke and two other places that border Papua New Guinea. Merauke is located in Indonesia's easternmost region of West Papua.
With the number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia falling, those attending the event were using TCM products from the shop to maintain their health and stamina and treat their injuries.
"They could also have bought these items in their hometowns on Java and in other places outside of Papua," Siswanto said.
His store, Toko Obat Saudara, started trading in Merauke 30 years before Indonesia gained independence from Dutch rule in 1945. The business was initially owned by a Chinese-Indonesian.
Siswanto said Merauke residents, including those in high positions, turned to the store as an alternative source of medicines. For example, some patients with gallbladder problems preferred TCM medicines from the shop to those prescribed by hospital doctors.