City of traffic

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Istana Ratu
Couchsurfer David
What I did
Puncak Highlands
Hanging out with local CSers
Re-uniting with Manu and meeting Vera

Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Tiger Air lady in Singapore refuses to check me in without a return ticket to prove that I will not stay in Indonesia. WTH?! I can't be the first backpacker that just shows up without a defined onwards route. And none of the visa research I did mentioned any of this need. When I go to buy whatever cheapest ticket to anywhere I can find, the sales lady checks me in anyways and makes me sign some sort of indemnity paper. I have no problems whatsoever getting my 30-day visa on arrival in Jakarta.

A cockroach crawling over the table welcomes me at the airport when I sit down at a café to look up some phone numbers. I arranged to stay with a CouchSurfer, David. To get there I first take a bus for over 1 hour. Most of the ride I slept, because I barely did in my last night in Singapore: People walking in and out of my dorm all night, going to bed hungry because I was too lazy to leave the hostel, and getting up for an early flight all didn’t work so well for my night peace. Every time I open my eyes, the bus is standing in a traffic jam. Eventually, I get dropped off under a bridge, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I find the local car transport, a baby-blue pick-up truck with benches in the back and barely fit in with my backpack, crawling in on my knees. One of these days someone will need to cut me out of a local vehicle, because I got stuck in the door…Another 15 minute walk to David’s place where he arrives shortly after, dropping in from work to welcome me and give me a key.

David lives on top of a supermarket, one empty room, save for a sink, a fridge, a TV, a computer, a carpet on the floor to sleep on, no chairs. Another (locked) room that is his bedroom. A local bathroom (mandi) with squat toilet, no flush, no garbage can, no toilet paper, cold water only. Check out the video to see it. I imagine this is a typical middle class Indonesian place? I am in slight shock. Not sure if it is because of the strain of not sleeping, the hike to get here or hunger. I’d be lying to say that I am comfortable with this. Guess when I thought I can rough it, I didn’t know what I was talking about. There is no WIFI (which I knew). When I get on the computer, I can’t figure out how to get the internet working. Now I really want to cry. Jakarta is where I am to re-unite with Manu after over a month apart and where Vera will join us from Toronto for a couple of weeks. I know I can be ok with this once I get over the initial gulp. But I am worried about Vera since I never traveled with her. And I am worried about Manu getting internet access to work. The Starbucks that supposedly is across the street is much farther than I thought. Last but not least I must admit that I am worried about not having WIFI myself. Feeling withdrawal symptoms already.

All I want is to get away from Jakarta as soon as possible. I shower. I go out to eat. I try to find internet. I don’t feel better until I caught up on sleep with a good nap. I realize that this is my first CS experience with someone truly local. Not an expat living a life similar to that at home, fancy place and the usual comforts. Well, this will be interesting. As soon as I am fully caught up on sleep.

Nice chat with David when he returns from work. He goes for a nap while I head out to grab a bite. He wakes from his nap at 1am at which point we both aren't going to hit he bar scene any more, not on a weekday anyways (not that that detail matters much to me).

The next day, Manu arrives after an even longer trek during rush hour, tracing my steps to David. We go out to meet some of Dave’s other CS friends at a beer garden. It’s a huge community here. Everyone is super friendly, open-minded and interesting. Then on my 3rd day in Jakarta, after getting our WIFI fill of course, we rely on the usual way of getting around reliably in SEA. Ask and ask and ask and just allow yourself to be shoved around until you get to your destination. It always works. In Jakarta this took over two hours to get to the backpacker area, Jalal Jaksa, where we try to find a cheap hotel to welcome Vera to. We check out some of the dumpiest places I have ever seen. Disheartening. With less than one hour to spare until Vera lands, thanks to Manu daring to walk into a place that I would not even have considered in our budget range, we luck out with a special weekend deal. Still 50% over our budget, but we can’t resist. About $13 per head gets us the equivalent of a Western 4* hotel with nice bathroom, soap supplies, two double beds, a view and even a blow dryer. Score!

Vera thought she was at the wrong hotel when she got to it after her 28 hour journey. I don’t know where she takes the energy from, but we end up with a late/early night out, eating street food and hanging at another beer garden with David and his CS friend Ravi.

Jakarta itself is nothing to write home about. As expected and despite my appreciation for cities, I don’t find anything intriguing here. It takes forever to get anywhere, which can spoil the most amazing place for me. You know my boundaries in Toronto: The lake to the South, Bloor street to the North, Parliament to the East and Dufferin to the West. If I can’t bike it, I am not going. Spoiled downtown brat, can’t help it!

Hanging with the local CS scene is awesome though. David is super helpful, puts up with our travel planning indecision or rather adds to it ;) I don’t manage to connect with Melinda, another CS that we could have stayed with, incredibly sweet, even waited to pick me up at the airport. Sadly, due to lack of working WIFI and a phone number noted with an error, I missed her, leaving her waiting for two hours. There are also a half dozen other CSers we didn’t get around to meeting. If you travel through here, sign up and go for the CS scene. To me, that's what made the city visit-worthy.

Vera and I undertake a day trip to the Bogor/Puncak Highlands that is supposed to be doable in a half day. I don’t know how locals manage that, but it took us a full day of commuting on diverse vehicles to spend no more than 2 hours of sightseeing. Pretty nevertheless and the trip itself is an adventure if you’re up for it.

An evening of beers and dancing at the live Reggae place next to another hotel we moved to, results in one unnamed person dozing away for the majority of our trip to Yogyakarta, our next destination. I am excited to get out of this city but sad to part with the company of Dave and Co.
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Mark on

Everyone has at least one of these really bad travel days that just makes you want to cry. Chin up - you know it will get better, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. Here's what happened to me, and it was in a 1st world nation!

Keep posting.

Crme on

Jakarta can be a fun and beatifull place only if you have money to spend.
it is shows how big the different is, the life style of the poor and the rich.
They are so many interesting places, dine and entertainment if you do
know how to get around. It can be very frustrating travelling in Jakarta
since very small percentage of people who can speak English.

henniterness on

How DO YOU get around tough? I found public transit to be painfully slow and driving isn't much faster either. The language barrier was not the challenge in that, the infrastructure was.

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