Posted in indonesia, jakarta, java by moonwire on July 29, 2009

I left Yogyakarta at 7 AM to catch a train to Jakarta. The ‘Argo’ (more luxury) trains were sold out, so I had to take a seat on the ‘bisnis’ train. Well, I didn’t expect ‘bisnis’ to be up to Western ‘bisnis’ class, but what I encountered then, I never expected. The seats were okay, but I wouldn’t call them exactly comfortable. They reminded me of the seats we used to have in Holland for the short distance trains.

But okay,  9 hours sitting on that would be do-able. Well, after about an hour into the ride, a whole bunch of people selling stuff embarked. Nasi goreng and chicken, drinks, cigarettes, fake wallets, mini sewing machines, teddy bears, slippers, toys. With the exception of the food, drinks and cigarettes, most sellers just threw the stuff onto your seat or lap so you’d have some time to grab some money. If you didn’t want it, they’d come back to pick up the crap. This went on for hours. At every station where we stopped, new ones came on. With the same stuff and the game started again. And it wasn’t just sellers getting on. I also saw drag queens doing bad music performers and a bunch of disabled people begging for money up and down the isles. The only thing missing were the goats and chickens.

Another curious thing is the habit of people to just throw their garbage out the window. Bottles, cups, cigarette butts, food left overs, newspapers. Off it goes, into the environment. The amount of garbage along the railroad is shocking.

The train is supposed to sell tickets for the seats, but it was obviously overbooked, or people booked a ticket without a seat. After an hour or two, people were sleeping in the isles and in front of the ‘kamar cecil’ (bathroom). Needless to say, after about 4 hours I was totally done with this. Luckily, the man who sat next to me arrived at his destination so I had 2 seats for myself and it was slightly more comfortable.

When we got into the outskirts of Jakarta, I noticed the people living next to the tracks. I had seen this in a documentary called ‘War Photographer’, about James Nachtwey. Severely shocking. People sleeping on dirty matresses in and on piles of garbage. Just horrible.

I arrived at Pasar Senen station at 5 pm. I took a cab to my guesthouse, which was situated in South Jakarta. After the bombings, I thought it would be better to hang out in a residential neighbourhood, rather than the touristy one. Well, it took me 2.5 hours in a continuous traffic jam to get there. When I finally got here, I was seriously surprised where I had ended up. It’s a huge house, with a swimming pool and it has just a few guest rooms. The people live upstairs. I wasn’t feeling it, and decided to move closer to the old city centre the next morning. I could just imagine trying to get to the airport from here. It might have taken me 4 or 5 hours.

I left the guesthouse at around 8 AM by cab. Even though I was once again stuck in traffic for an hour to get to Blok M where I would take the Transjakarta bus into the city, I was happy to be gone from that place. I can’t exactly say why I didn’t feel right there. The room was big and clean, there was a pool, but I just wasn’t able to relax (even though I did sleep very well). Also very strange, after I checked in, the people were nowhere to be found. I hadn’t eaten properly all day and was starving, but nothing to be had. The only one I saw around was a white dog (just a tad smaller than my dad’s best friend). He had one blue eye and one brown eye and he seemed to like me a lot. He creeped me out.

Anyways, after I hastily made my way out of the guesthouse, I arrived at Blok M. Blok M is a huge mall complex and bus terminal. When I bought my ticket, I asked the girl where I should get off for Jl. Jaksa, my next destination. She didn’t speak English but luckily a man who was also buying a ticket told me to just get the ticket. He was going in my direction and he said he’d tell me where to get off the bus. The bus ride was great. The Transjakarta buses are airconditioned , they have their own lanes and they don’t let too many people on at once, so it wasn’t crowded. When we got to the ‘Sarinah’ stop, the man told me to get off the bus and where to find Jl. Jaksa. I ended up taking an ojek, which is basically a very slow scooter with a bench in the back. It worked fine. I got on Jl. Jaksa and started looking for a guesthouse. This was also the first time in 2 days I encountered a tourist. I found a cheap guesthouse right away. It wasn’t exactly great; shared bathroom (cleanliness was obviously not their forte) but I was just so glad to be out of South Jakarta. Jl. Jaksa is a tiny street with lots of little restaurants, bars, guesthouses, used bookshops etc. I just put myself down at a place, read the newspaper, took advantage of the free wifi and drank tea. What a lovely afternoon.

After Ami was done with work, we met up. And it was really great meeting her. She was exactly how I expected her to be. And most surprising, to me at least, her English  is very very good. And not just because I’ve gotten used to hearing  ‘trrransport, trrransport, ya?’ but her accent is so good. She told me she learnt it from watching movies 🙂 We had some really great food (I forgot what it was called, but it was different pieces of tofu like things with spicy peanut sauce). Delicious. After dinner we went to a book store. It reminded me a bit of borders. Big store. Lots of English books as well. Didn’t end up buying anything but it sure was tempting.

Ami told me something very interesting that I didn’t know. Most Indonesian people don’t have a family name. When you see two names, those are just two given names. The last name is not a family name. Some people, like Soekarno, only have one name. Fascinating.

When I walked back from the Transjakarta bus station, I was simply amazed at what was happening in the streets. Lots and lots of little food stalls. People hanging out, talking, playing chess or guitar, eating, drinking. It was very very lively and for a moment I wished I had had another day in Jakarta to soak up more of this.

Though my stay in Jakarta didn’t start out so great I had a really good day in Jl. Jaksa and judging by the mood in the streets, I think Jakarta could actually be a great city to spend some more time in. ‘Maybe later, ya?’

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Posted in borobudur, indonesia, java, solo, yogyakarta by moonwire on July 20, 2009

I learnt another thing, going to Yogyakarta from Kuala Lumpur. Check your departure times. For whatever reason, I was convinced my flight left at 5 pm. Well, as it happened, I tried to print out my e-ticket at my hostel (something I never do) and then all of a sudden I realised my flight was at 3 and I would have to be at the airport in half an hour.

I quickly grabbed my bag, ran to the train station. Got the train to KL Sentral, got off, bought a ticket to the airport, got off, got the bus to LCC Terminal. I got there at around 2 pm. Line ups at immigration (of course) and honestly, I was pissing myself if I was going to make that flight. I arrived at the gate, just around boarding time. Then it was announced the flight had a two hour delay. Well, it was just enough to catch my breath and buy a sandwich and a drink. The flight itself was good. I arrived at my hotel, the Ministry of Coffee in Prawirotaman, at around 8 pm and when I was taken to my room, I was one happy camper. My room is simply amazing. It is very nicely decorated. It’s got a big bathroom with a tub and a fantastic shower and the best is that I have a private patio with a fish pond in front of it. The staff here is fantastic and so is the breakfast. Yes, it was more than I wanted to spend, but for 35 USD a night this is really something very special.

The first morning however, it wasn’t so great. I walked around the area and there wasn’t really much going on. It was also very hot and the air here was (is) very bad. I took it easy for the rest of the day, and at night I met up with Paul, the dutch guy I had met in Lovina already. We spent the next few days doing a few things as well as chilling out and enjoying some of the most incredible food at Via Via cafe down the street.

On Friday we went to Solo, if only to experience being on a train that locals use. The train ride was only about an hour. When we got out of the station, there was a local market and it was amazing. It was really run down and just looking at the flies buzzing around (and on) the meat took away any sense of wanting to eat something there, but the people were so curious and so friendly. They all wanted their picture taken and someone even asked if it was free to get their picture taken! It was such a different experience than I had expected. I had read that Solo was one of the least westernized and most conservative towns in Java. I certainly didn’t expect such a warm welcome. Just great. Even better, there were no tourists at all.

On Saturday we went to Malioboro street. Incredibly busy. Lots of food stalls (once again, no appetite), batik shops and stalls with just crap. It was lovely walking around there for a bit, but very tiring at the same time. So much going on. So busy and noisy. So much heat and smog.

On Sunday we went to the Borobudur. What a buddhist theme park it was. Bus loads of tourists, luckily mostly Indonesians, but it was hard to enjoy it for what it was with so many people. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t have to go back there ever again.

Then on Monday morning, we visited the Kraton, the Sultan of Yogyakarta’s palace. Kind of the same story. It’s nice to see, but I’m done with that kind of stuff rather quickly. I mostly enjoy the things around it, such as the people working there. Just observing what they do (or don’t, for that matter).

The funniest thing though was sitting in a becak, which is a bicycle with 2 (very small) seats in front. You get harassed to take one every other second here in Yogya. Well, after we visited the palace, we just wanted to sit down in the shade and have a ciggie. We paid a becak driver and sat down. He asked us where to take us. We said ‘nowhere and just rested in the becak, then we got out and continued our walk.

Yogyakarta was a lot of fun. There’s not all that many points of interest to me here, but just observing the local people’s lives is very interesting. This is the first time I’ve ever been to a so-called developing country’s big city. I’ve seen some things that make me feel really blessed for the life I have. My time here was just perfect;  a nice mixture of seeing stuff and just relaxing, enjoying the feel of the city, the good food and the company. Off to Jakarta tomorrow morning. I’ll be taking the train. It will be a 9 hour ride (at least). This could be interesting…

A ‘becak’ in Yogyakarta. There’s about 20 on every corner of every street and just as many inbetween.

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