Where to starta in Jakarta

Trip Start Jan 06, 2010
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Friday, February 15, 2013

Chris and I love to walk and explore. We walk at home, on vacation and while Flashpacking. I have decided to stop telling people we are backpacking since I think sometimes this word describes young travelers on a shoestring budget, perhaps looking for the perfect beach, cheapest beer or village and to be honest, that's not us. We are Flashpacking. We wish we could get by on $20-30 a day each, which is very reasonable for a avid backpacker, but Chis and I can't and won't. Partially because we love ambiance and are vegetarian so cheap street vendors are not always our preferred choice and also because we like to sleep in comfortable beds, have hot showers and windows in our hotel/hostel rooms, which is not the cheapest option either. We are not traveling like it's our second honeymoon but we are not on the shoestring budget we originally had hoped we could dedicate our selfs to either.  I digress. Anyway, we walk everywhere. Jakarta is not a place for walkers and throughout our day of walking we surprisingly did not come across much to explore. Once finished with our long, exhausting, walk we took a cab back to our hotel and while driving the cabby would point out different museums and points of interest to us. "Huh? That's funny." We thought. "That's a museum? It looks like a run down corporate office and I don't see any signs..." We should of had a city map but we were not provided one at the hotel when we asked for one and after our 13 mile exploration of Sigapore without a map we thought that with enough walking we would discover something cool, but alas, we did not. As far as we know, Jakarta is no place to visit, live, walk, explore, eat, drink or be merry. That's only from our limited experience, so take it with a grain of salt. One interesting thing I noticed is the countless people who stared at me. Well, not me, but my pants. I was wearing my new lightweight Lucky Brand orange patterned pants and all of Jakarta did more then notice. I will admit, these pants make a statement, even in the U.S. but out of all the places we have been to on this trip, I have never noticed a person stare at these pants, let alone countless people. Chris noticed that everyone wore solid, dark, neutral colored pants. When I looked online I found that many Muslims typically wear solid neutral colors to avoid attention. Avoid attention?! That's funny, since in the mall they sell all sorts of scandalous clothing even I wouldn't wear and conservative clothing Muslims (I think) would wear with all sorts of sequences and designs! I couldn't tell if the look on their faces was out of admiration or disgust. Like a child who sees other people from foreign countries wearing strange clothing. I was reminded of when I was young seeing a Chinese boy wearing neon pink and yellow and the time I saw a boy, maybe from Africa, wearing all sorts of patterns on his pants and the cut of his shirt was very foreign to me. Was this how they saw me? Perhaps. I don't care what they thought as long as I wasn't being offensive with my gorgeous orange pants. 

The one thing I loved the most about Jakarta was our hotel room. Well not even the room really, but the bed. It was so comfortable, almost like home, that it gave me nightmares. Nightmares that I was back home and somehow forgot how or why I was there. It has been a reoccurring nightmare that I have in almost every comfortable bed here in Asia. In this dream, I'm confused why I'm back at home and I ask people "Well did I go to Cambodia and Vietnam??" They say no and then I start trying to figure out how I can go back to SE Asia to finish my journey. I have had this dream multiple times in different ways, but the theme is the same and only when I sleep in a comfy bed. Strange huh? Like my body thinks "This bed is too comfy for Asia, I must be home." -Sarah
Going from a beautiful nation city to one of the busiest cities in the world was more shocking and intimidating than I thought. Jakarta is a great big city that goes by its own rules and etiquette, typical of Indonesia. For those who forgot, the current US president lived in Jakarta during his first to third grade. I can say now that this city in particular is a good candidate for getting some foreign policy experience. I say this because there are so many differences to be understood from where I come from. 

First and most obvious is that Indonesia has the highest population of Muslims in the entire world. As I debated on telling locals that I am Canadian instead of from the US, I was suddenly reminded of the advice from travel guru Rick Steves (forgive me if my spelling is incorrect). Rick arrived in Iran with a similar worry and to his expectations found the people to be very welcoming towards him and curiously wanting to take pictures with him. I will say that his experience is an understatement to my own and as our blog progresses from this entry to the next there should be good evidence to an ultimate observation of Indonesia being one of the friendliest and welcoming places I have ever been to. A great thing to notice is that there is hardly a classist social setting here aside from a handful of rich people, so most view each other as equal. The government has only been organized positively for six years so it's evident that the government is less involved domestically then I'm used to. The police don't work after a certain time, usually after 2 pm. There are hardly any taxes being paid (more common in Jakarta). There is a subsidized gas pump for business vehicle but everyone uses it anyways because it's one third of the price. We have to to pay for many things separately because even though someone is employed many often don't receive a wage, and if they get the minimum, it's far from enough. Traveling in the city is a process of constantly contracting your needs to someone local without your permission. Getting out of a taxi? People will grab your bags before you can, and that's when you become under a mini work contract expected to pay. Crossing the street? The streets are designed against the idea of walking from one side to another. Cars do not stop unless you throw yourself in front of them. It's common to be afraid to do this, but usually a seasoned local will guide you across safely, and of course, will then expect to be paid. If you can't find your train seat a hospitable person will find it and you will have to pay. How much? They will want everything in your hand so don't hold even a tiny bill fold in front of them or else that is how much they will want. My taxi experience has always ended with a disagreement of fee and the cash I've used to pay has been switched by the driver for smaller bills in order to make me believe I didn't give enough. There is not much I can do except to have Sarah pay from now on. These are my only bugaboos and after doing much research, I found that nobody makes very much and there is a lack of government help. We can continue to feel ripped off for paying an extra twenty five cents or we can understand that twenty five cents is a meal to one local, and they need it. After coming to peace with this I was then able to enjoy myself. 

The atmosphere is really different. The Muslim prayer is belted over loud speakers five times a day. It's in Arabic and all it says is to praise god and recognize Muhammad, so that's peaceful if that's what your into. Drinking is against Islamic faith but even though it isn't illegal to partake, there is less variety yielding only a few weak beer companies, so California spoils me yet again. Waiting in lines are rarely respected and slow traffic will often utilize the side walks as driving lanes. A red light means prepare to stop and a person in front of you means stop. We spent two days walking this city and found little to do. The traffic is an eternal rush hour and we have to scream at each other to be heard. It's hot and polluted. We got the feeling that this is not the city to be for long. We bought train tickets to a city where we could find better history and social interaction. I couldn't imaging living hear but I can imagine that it would be a well rounding experience and would give a Westerner a compelling example and forced understanding of a highly populated place where everyone lives in the now, and are in similar living standards to each other. I live in a country that has taken a less than kind approach to Muslim communities and am now a visitor that does not represent my nation's government but the Americans that are welcoming and loving. Yogyakarta is the next place to visit and will be the final destination in Indonesia.  Chris-
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