Visiting Jakarta With Some Unwelcome Guests

Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
Trip End Apr 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Kresna Guest House

Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Saturday, December 18, 2010

When the train arrived in Jogja station it's resembled the trains I have seen in photos from India where the train is packed full of people and there are guys hanging out the doors as it pulls into the station. Along with the 40 other people on the platform, I approach the train feeling a little perplexed as to how I am going to fit into it. Some of the more eager people slotted themselves into the crowded train like posting a human envelope into an extremely tight and extremely full human letterbox, but it is clear by looking through the windows, that the train is like one giant sardine can. It is clear that no one can get on the train without causing injury and this is proven as the train pulls away and one guy has wedged one leg into the crowded train but the rest of him is hanging out. He hops along beside the train for a while, desperately trying to free his leg after realising his efforts are futile, and thankfully manages to free himself before he runs out of platform. We all step back and watch as the train pulls away without us. What do I do now?

Thankfully the guy I bought food from earlier had hopped over the tracks to inform me that there was another train an hour later, so I sat down and waited patiently or the next train. I had a feeling that the next train was the last one that night and had plenty of time to grow concerned as to what I would do if this next train was equally as packed. I cursed the choice to pick the cheaper train instead of the faster more expensive one, but it was 5 times the price so I just had to grin and bear it. When the next train finally arrived, it was packed but at least I could get on the train this time. Now I had to try and find a seat. After traversing the whole train to no avail I reached the end, where a local man must have taken pity on me and my giant bag and he gestured for me to sit next to him. I was extremely grateful for this as I didn’t want to spend 11 hours sitting in the corridor being constantly stepped over by food sellers.

I was a little concerned about leaving my bags unattended as I had heard about thievery taking place on these night trains, and a few of the people sitting nearby looked a little suspect, so I had previously decided to not drink much water to avoid toilet breaks. Somehow I managed to go for the entire 11 hour journey without visiting the toilet once which is a phenomenal feat for me. I couldn’t sleep as it was uncomfortable and didn’t want to get my laptop out in case of thievery so I basically sat there for 11 hours with no entertainment at all, just music. But then that ran out. I am surprised I made it through the journey with my sanity, but despite being somewhat of an endurance test, the journey went smoothly and I eventually reached Jakarta with no sleep.

This is Horrific!! That’s all I can think right now and all will become clear why. After a nightmare of a journey from Yogyakarta, staying up all night on the 11 hour train journey over, through constant permanent discomfort, I am understandably exhausted and just need to sleep. The hostel I was hoping for was full and the one next door had some space so I checked in, chucked my bags down and fell asleep for a few hours, so that I could wake up just after mid day, giving me a bit of time to check out the city before getting an early night to catch up on much needed sleep.

I woke up feeling better, but still exhausted and went to have a shower, but just as I walked into the... bathroom... if you can call it that, the power cut out. So I had to shower by torchlight, whilst straddling the toilet bowl in the, mange-ridden, cupboard sized room that was passed off as a bathroom. Whilst cleaning my teeth over the dirt encrusted sink, a shadow slinked past in the darkness. Shining my torch, I discovered a cockroach tucking itself away under the mirror just above the sink. Great. This place is filthy. As quickly as I could, I got ready and left.

I can’t remember when I first realised, but over the course of the day, I noticed I was very itchy and every time I would scratch, I would find yet another cluster of bites marring my skin. Gradually I realised that, during my two hour sleep, I had been bent over and gang raped by what seemed like a horde of bedbugs. I have already been fed up of being bitten for over two weeks, to near breaking point, due to the fact that since a couple of days after the Whitsundays in October when I got heavily mauled by bedbugs, I have constantly been covered by a minimum of at least 10 bites. Whether from Mosquitoes, bedbugs, monkeys or other miscellaneous leeching creatures, I have constantly got itchy bites on me and I’m completely fed up of it and have been for some time now. This being the third bedbug attack in two months it has now crossed a line and crossed it so far that the line has become a dot.

I have, I reckon, over 300 bites spanning my whole body, without exaggerating. There are literally too many to count. I counted over 47 just down one side of my back and at least 27 on each hand. The bites cover every part of my body, feet, toes, ankles, shins, calves, back, front, arms, elbows, hands, fingers, neck, etc. It’s ridiculous. They’re incredibly itchy and I feel like my whole skin is crawling with insects constantly. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and just want to rip my skin off and burn it. Down my right upper arm, one bug has had a field day and bitten so many times that it has created a solid line from my shoulder to my elbow. Not a line of bites as normal, but one single solid raised line about 10 inches long. Each bite indistinguishable from the last. I can’t think anything other than "iiiiiitchy, iiiiitchyyyyyy!" And I can feel the histamine from the bites coursing through my blood making me restless, edgy and a bit sick if I scratch too much.

The greatest thing is that when I got back to the squalor they pass off as a hostel, I moved rooms, but the little parasites get into the zips of bags so they’re extremely difficult to get rid of. This meant that I pretty much knew that I would get attacked again this next night. So there I am, completely shattered, but unable to sleep all night due to insane itching and the fear that I was collecting yet more bites from these tick-like disgusting creatures crawling over me. I did somehow fall asleep, probably through pure exhaustion, for about two hours, but woke up scratching in my sleep, shredding the skin on my arms and hands. I have picked up yet more bites and must be going for some kind of a record. I wonder if The Guinness Book Of Records has an entry for this? If they have, I’ve smashed it. I am exhausted, all I want is sleep and my skin is crawling and itching to insane levels. All I want is sleep, which ironically is the thing that makes everything worse, exposing me to more bugs, and all I want to do is get away from my own skin, but it’s attached to me. It’s a horrific feeling. I've had bedbugs before but never to this extreme level.

So I’m meant to be feeling all Christmassy and excited to be flying to Thailand, a new country with all that it entails, but I really just don’t care. Right now, I just want to go home. Pack it all in, book a flight home to where its clean, relatively disease and pest free, get away from the squalid way of life. I’m quite fed up of this whole thing right now, and I’m sure I’ll think differently once I’ve slept, but I just don’t care right now. I just want comfort and cleanliness. Two things that seem to be pretty elusive to a wandering wisp like myself, but for now, what I have to look forward to is about 6 days of constant burning itching and looking like I’ve contracted some kind of a disease. Pretty much the only way to get rid of bedbugs is to leave all my stuff out in the sun as it kills them, but awesomely, it’s a completely overcast morning. The first and only one in about a month. Thanks!! Now on the plane and wherever I land in Thailand, I’ll probably bring the bugs with me and collect a fresh new set of bites tonight, giving me the third night in a row of no sleep.

On a more positive note, Jakarta seems like a pretty wicked city. It’s extremely spread out though, so either a lot of walking is on the agenda, or a lot of haggling with the money hungry Tuk-Tuk drivers. Looking for some kind of city centre, I discovered the Monas, an absolutely massive monument built by a previous president, in a huge seemingly wasted space of land, with nothing in it, except for an abnormally large stone brick circular path around the monument. The Monument itself is basically a gigantic Obelisk with a golden flame on top. The hidden symbolism to this “erection” are staggeringly blatant to anyone who knows who’s behind the people in power in this world, so it was quite a marvel to ponder upon. Unfortunately I had just missed the opening times so I couldn’t climb up to the “Liberty Flame” on top.

Probably the most amusing part of this little trip, however, was that even though I was in a huge city, the capital city of the entire country of Indonesia, I was still, pretty much, the only westerner walking around, so I was receiving some completely perplexed looks as I strolled around. The school kids were the funniest, sniggering and muttering “Hello Mister” as they passed. It seems, in these lands, that we white-skinned folk are more interesting than the tourist attractions they have come to see. It’s almost like being a famous rock star. I literally couldn’t go anywhere without drawing quite a lot of attention to myself. As I entered the vast expanse of open land dedicated to this Illuminating Monument, it seemed like there was some kind of a school trip, with about 200 school kids sat along the path I was entering along. As I walked past this endless stream of school kids, I could feel a million watchful eyes upon me, could hear whispering and gradually all conversation died and I’m pretty sure every single kid was sat there in silence, marvelling at this strange white man bowling through the park. You could cut the tension with a knife, until this guy, one of their watchers I think, walked past me and said “Hello Mister!” and the entire group of 200ish school kids erupted in laughter. It was an awesome moment, so innocent and entertaining. Pure inquisitiveness by people who just haven’t really seen a white man from foreign lands before, coupled with the brilliance of being able to communicate across borders just with a couple of words. Very Heart-warming. Its little exchanges and interactions like this that kept me smiling the whole way through Indonesia, and made me very fond of their people.

Through talking to a few people I realised that at least three other travellers got bedbugs in the same couple of days, from both my hostel – Kresna – and the hostel next door – Bloem Steen. So I urge anyone reading this, if you are ever planning on visiting Jakarta, then when you get to either of these two hostels... just keep walking. Do yourself a huuuuge favour and just keep walking. There plenty more around. Spend a tiny bit more and save yourself an absolute nightmare.

Well it’s definitely a shame to be leaving Indonesia. I said my formal goodbyes with this amazing country before I stepped on the plane and I am sad to see it go. There is so much to see here and I think I could easily spend a whole year exploring the 17,000 islands which make up this equator straddling archipelago but it would seem that time and money are ushering me along the ever flowing stream of life to new lands. I definitely intend to return here at some point and possibly do a scuba diving trip around Sulawesi to really get the most out of it. Each island has brought its own unique, yet distinctly Indonesian angle and I have found the locals to be extremely welcoming, kind, friendly and very helpful, which has really helped to ease me into the South East Asian lifestyle and to prepare me for what is to come.

Unfortunately Indonesia has hosted my only ill times during this trip and has now left me with one unforgettable leaving present, consisting of the world’s largest number of Bed Bug Bites on one human. So I’ve had to take the rough with the smooth a little here. I guess it’s the whole pleasure and pain theory. A place this nice can’t really exist without a few drawbacks and challenges I guess.

With the Indonesian landscape disappearing beneath the cloud blanket below me as I soar into the stratosphere in this giant mechanical bird, a definite fondness finds a comfy corner in my heart and settles in for the long run. To say I am glad I came to Indo is a massive understatement and this once unknown land now feels like a long term friend, resting upon the vast surface of this lonely planet.

Then like a plane crash it suddenly sinks in. I am actually on my way to Thailand! Oh my god, what have I done!?! It really hasn’t seemed real at all, just a word that banded around. This mythical place which people tell stories about, but they’re all legends from the mist. Tales of Atlantis. But now, I am undeniably and unavoidingly on my way, getting closer by the second. I honestly never ever thought I would ever set foot in Thailand. I had heard the legends passed down, but was never particularly drawn to it, yet here I am, on my way. It has summoned me. Beckoned me with the call of the Full Moon for New Years Eve. A celestial lighthouse, calling out to me to change the course of my life from this point onwards. Experiences cannot be un-experienced, so I embrace the change and seize the plethora of challenges and opportunities which life presents, for is that not where the spice of life grows, in experience and evolution?
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