Almost unnoticed by outsiders, an extraordinary industry has emerged in Indonesia to meet a specialised
demand from the nouveau riche of the People's Republic of China (PRC). This industry produces the prime
ingredient of 'bird's nest soup', also used in traditional Chinese medicines and cosmetics. It is an urban
industry, using substantial specially designed buildings, that has transformed a number of Indonesian
towns. So far there has been little serious research into this phenomenon. The Indonesian government
statistical agency (Badan Pusat Statistik) confesses that the industry output, though considerable, is not
represented by its gross domestic product estimates. Enquiries are hampered by the secretive behaviour
of the practitioners, who jealously guard their trade secrets.