Call to Prayer

Trip Start Jun 22, 2012
Trip End Jul 17, 2012

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Where I stayed
Morrissey Serviced Apartments

Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Saturday, June 23, 2012

It started slowly around 4.15 am. First one mosque, then others in the city joining in and calling its members to pray. It gradually got louder. The call to prayer with modern amplification felt at times like it was 5.1 surround sound, both outside my hotel window and in the far distant with sound coming in from the four corners of the hotel. In some ways it sounded like an orchestra with no conductor as everyone was having their own and very separate call. Some were high pitch, some low, some slow, some sounded like a slow song, others like a slow drawn out speech and of course in a language that I did not understand. I had read about this early morning wake up call in Trip Advisor so it came as no surprise. I could have put in my ear plugs but in some ways enjoyed it for the half hour. It’s been 22 years since I have been in a Muslim or Islamic country (Turkey in 1990). This is part of the fabric of Indonesia, the different religions living side by side. By 4.45 am it was all over till the next one of the five times in the day when this call is repeated.

With the sun rising around 6.30 am, I opted after 7.30 am for a quick walk around the hotel area to get my bearings.

Breakfast was more than adequate so after the previous day of just airline food I ate heartily: scrambled eggs, rice, noodles, chicken sausages preceded by the usual fruit and yoghurt.

Knowing that it would be hot come midday, I left before 9 am and walked the 7 minutes along K H Wahid Hasyim to M H Thamrin (one of the main north south roads) and the Sarinah busway stop. The buses have their own dedicated lane in the middle of the wide highway. They leave every few minutes so no waiting. It cost only 3,500 Rp (NZ .50c or US .40c) and you can travel either 1 stop or even go for a round trip for that fare.

I went to the northern end of the route passing Merdeka Square and got off at the old city of Batavia now known as Kota. It was once the hub of Dutch colonial Indonesia. The guide book said photographers love this place so lets see if you agree with these pictures.

Fatahillah Square was not crowded yet. Few people were around but that will no doubt change later in the day. Several museums were around the square. I was not interested so gave them a miss. Some, if not most of the surrounding buildings were in much need of some TLC to restore them to their former beauty. I hope that one day soon this will happen. It was a bit too early to call into Café Batavia for another coffee. If it was later in the day, then the view from the first floor overlooking the square would have been nice to chill out, relax as well be out of the sun.

A short walk further north to the last remaining Dutch drawbridge, Chicken Market Bridge which dates from the 17 century. It spans the dirty, smelly and slow moving Kali Besar canal. The guy in the picture was collecting plastic bottles from the river.

By now it was becoming hotter and humid. The roads were really busy. Crossing some of the busy roads was a real challenge. The secret was to find a local, keep them between me and the oncoming cars and what felt like thousands of scooters! The locals unlike us tourists know how to cross the roads with its continual non stop traffic flow - they just walk out between the moving traffic.

The next suburb south of Kota was Glodok or Chinatown. Not much was left of the Chinese influence. I do enjoy walking the back streets and this area was fill of what I will call the light industrial trades operating out of their tiny shops with the many levels of apartment accommodation above.

Nearly noon so back to the busway and caught the next bus to the other or southern end of the route: Block M. I can’t read Indonesian so had no idea that the front of the bus was reserved for females. Guess who sat up the front to see what was ahead? The bus driver did say something to me but it wasn’t in English and he kind of pointed to the notice on the window.

Block M Square is what I call an older style shopping mall. Plenty of little shops all selling the same type of goods grouped together in the same section of the mall. Good for comparative shopping I suppose. I don’t know how they make any money. After a quick lunch break of Shanghai Noodles 30,000 Rp (NZ $4 or US $3), I realised that I had somehow dropped my sunglasses out of my bag which really annoyed me as they were my trusty old, well worn and travelled Serengeti. So 200,000 R/- (NZ $26 or US $22) later I got some Ray Ban. Carrefour is the anchor store here. Carrefour seems to world wide but not in NZ yet. PS. This was not one of the recommended shopping centre in this area. Across the busy road was Grand Mahakam shopping complex which was where I should have headed to! Should have studied the map a bit better before heading off!!!!!

Caught the bus back to Plaza Indonesia, Plaza Ex and the huge Grand Indonesian Shopping Town. This time after boarding the bus I headed to the back of the bus for my seat! Each of these 3 malls were side by side and they catered for a different market. Plaza Indonesia upmarket shops with its designer names was not for me. It felt quite sterile. Plaza Ex was certainly the busiest and I suppose catered for the average Indonesian while across the road at the Grand Indonesian Shopping Town with its many, many levels of shops stretching for ever, it was not as busy as Plaza Ex. At least these malls were air conditioned. Dinner time: Chicken Pasta for 40,000 Rp (NZ $5 or US $4) in one of the many food places within the mall.

Soon it would be dark before 6 pm so time to walk back. Wish that I had opened the map to the detailed section as I thought I took the right back road back but had not and ended up walking just a little bit further than planned. It was only 20 minutes the longer way.

Too much walking today in this heat as a couple of blisters appeared. I even have my well worn Birks but the blisters appeared in a totally different part of my feet that usually blisters.

That was my first day in Indonesia:
Yes, there were the street beggers and not too far away from the upmarket shops in the malls. The contrast between those who "have not" and those who "have".
Yes, it was hot!
Yes, they tried very hard to keep the streets very clean but parts of town I saw today still smelt of stinking rubbish - mainly the drainage and canals!!
Yes, the traffic was really horrible!!!
BUT YES, I survived!!!!

What to do tomorrow? Hope the threatening thunder storms that are forecast stay away. Hope it is cooler with more cloud cover. Visit first thing the tall National Monument overlooking Merdeka Square and then probably stay up by the roof top hotel pool. Today it was a high of 32 C and a low of 24 C. It was too hot for me and even the locals said it was hot for them as well!
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