Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Adventures in Indonesia

The rain was pounding the roof of Soeharto Hatta International Airport the day I arrived in Indonesia. It was 2 AM and my mind was racing like snippets of ideas charged by sudden bolts of electricity. Again, I was alone in a strange country. The past months, I had been so preoccupied that I was caught less prepared with this pre-scheduled trip. Thus, I was anxious. My immediate concern: Where do I sleep?

I hired a limousine taxi service that was worth P1,000 (or about 180,000 Indonesian Rupiah), and mentioned to the driver the first hotel that came to mind from the last 2 days of devouring infos from Lonely Planet and web readings. I was fidgeting during the whole 1 hour ride to the city center, as I didn’t know what awaits me.

A circus of fountains in the major rotund along the business center

Post-midnight Adventures

Lo and behold, the heavy downpour pierced like spears on the Jakartan pavement. Moreover, the hotel I picked was fully booked. So, imagine me, at 3 AM, with luggage on my back, drenched in the torrent, hopping – yes, on foot! - from one hotel to the next – and no room was to be found! Four hotels later, I found myself detouring to a street called Jaksa (which literally means “Lawyer” in Indonesian Bahasa – and there is an interesting sidebar to the name ).

The limo driver earlier advised against my staying in the street- the delegated Backpacker’s Street of the city. He said, “Dere is menny hippies. No good to you.” He was referring to the scruffy backpackers and budget travelers all over Europe and North America. Short of the straw – I found my one and only room in the “only” hotel in Jalan Jaksa (there should be 2 “hotels” now by the time this gets posted). (The stretch has inns, lodges, motels, apartments, dorms, strictly for budget travels. The amenities are basic, but the populace is nothing short of a U.N. convention.)

Nonetheless, I was fraught with content – I had an inexpensive airconditioned double-bed room at the mezzanine with glass windows directly facing Jalan Jaksa, and a clean HUGE bathroom. I struck gold! Thus this started my whole trip which plied through planes, trains, automobiles, and
becak (Thailand has their tuktuk, Vietnam has their cyclo). (They also have their ancot –mini-FX/fiera – and ojek – motorcycle taxis.)

Gambir Station (the main train station where I took a Pakuan Express to the city of Bogor)

The walkway ramp to the city bus lines


I am always fascinated by the idiosyncratic digression that abounds in each country, like – during Mondays, the whole Thailand is bathed by a field of yellow. Everyone would don a yellow garment to profess their love and respect to the well-revered Thai royalty (the royal couple looks like Presidents Ramos and GMA together – no kidding!); that the Malaysians elect their Prime Minister every 5 years, and change their King every 3 years, which means that in a span of 20 years, they would have had close to 7 kings!!! (Not to mention a bevy of royal family members.) Or that the cable-car ride at the Genting Highlands is an almost 4 kilometer-travel over a dense gargantuan rain forest; that the most expensive city to travel in Asia (for non-tour packages) is probably Hong Kong. ( their YMCA’s -aka “The Salisbury”- single room, during off-peak season costs P5,000 a night.) Turns out that there are indeed several guesthouses in Hong Kong that I didn't know about that are rather affordable for strictly backpacking budget!

Venus-fly-trap replicas surrounding the Monas (which is a horribly designed structure, if you ask me.)

Charlene Gonzales (Miss Universe runner-up) once stood confident and proud of our 7,100 islands, the Indonesians have so-far been nonchalant about their 17,100 islands (this includes famed Bali) – and this I refer “at high tide”. The whole country is so large that if it is 10AM in Java, it is 11AM in Borneo, renamed Kalimantan. It is the largest archipelago in the world. The downside to this is the poor delivery of government services to far-flung areas, like East Timor, which brings turmoil and, eventually, desire for self-governance. This also means that the south eastern tip of the country is just an hour away from Australia- from the northwest city of Darwin! G'd day, mate!

The pseudo-souvenir shop which turned out to be a movie set (read earlier post) at the Jakarta Old Town (aka Kota)

Airconditioned transjakartan city bus from city center to Jakartakota at Rp3,500

Pollo Campero, a fastfood restaurant in Plaza Sarinah. I ordered a 2-piece crispy chicken at Rp 26,000 (about Php 236). This includes nasi goreng (fried rice).

Culture Shock

Before flying off from Jakarta (which is officially a provincenot a city – thus ruled by a governor), I made sure I had my fix of KFC chicken. Along
Thamrin Road, I found one in the middle of a busy metropolis of tall buildings a la Makati. This road stretches into blocks and blocks of skyscrapers – an EDSA with the skyline of Ayala. At KFC, I was mildly surprised to have noticed that everyone was cupping their rice and licking their chicken with bare hands (nagkakamay) – and the place was packed! Years later, I have realized that most other cities in Asia enjoy their KFC chicken with bare hands - Thailand, India, Malaysia, etc. We Filipinos mostly use utensils.

Merdeka Square and the phallic Monas

What can I say! I was really hungry! So I ordered hotel room service at Hotel Karya Behana. Yummy! This cost me 75,000 Rupiah. Had a hard time ordering coz the waiters didn't speak english and neither did the menu. That's just Bihon guisado (of sorts), chicken wings, french fries and iced tea.

The old 12th century Portuguese port of Sunda Kelapa.


Hotel Karya Bahana

Jalan Jaksa No. 32 – 34
Phone: 021-3140484, 390 7119, 3150509
Fax: 021- 314 2781

Update: As of, April 2010, Hotel Karya Bahana has already closed shop, so call if you have plans of staying here.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

No comments: