Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jakarta, Indonesia

The journey of the boy from Sunderland on his Asia Pacific tour continues with a memoir from my travels to Indonesia...

In early April myself and Cindy in our search to discover more of Asia's wonders decided to take a trip to Indonesia. This decision was fueled by the proximity of Jakarta to Singapore (2hr flight) and of course the ridiculously cheap cost of air transport from A-B and back again.

After we booked the trip and as the trip drew closer we were doing more and more research daily on what to see and what to do in Jakarta with an ever increasing sense of worry, as the harder we looked, the more seldom activities inside the Indonesian capital seemed. One website entitled "Get out of Jakarta" highlighted the congestion, pollution and lack of tourist attractions in Jakarta. Most websites such as lonely planet and trip adviser recommended exploring neighboring cities such as Bandung or the 1000 Islands all of which required earlier planning and pro-activeness something which myself and Cindy both lack :) .... So we arrived in Jakarta and decided to embrace the City itself as much as we could and visit the other areas recommended in Indonesia on stand alone separate trips.

When we landed in Jakarta it was late, around 1am and the queue at the immigration was outrageous. What was more outrageous was that there was no queue dedicated to Indonesians. In most other countries I've been to they have fast lanes or dedicated lanes for nationals but not here. What else was outrageous was the way they handle VOA here (Visa Upon Arrival). When the immigration officer was checking my passport he then asked me to pay him around 85USD cash in his hand for my Visa.. At this point Cindy had already gotten through successfully and i asked why Cindy hadn't been charged? His reply was delivered cold like a hit man giving you a bullet to the back of the head "She's Asian". Not wanting to cause a scene or go to prison I obliged him his cash in his hand payment for my Visa and walked through into the airport a little annoyed and very suspicious.

When we left the airport the Taxi's were hovering like flies around shit and one man ran over to us, took our bags and escorted us to a cab without us having asked him. A bit blurry at that time of the morning I questioned the situation but in fear of causing uproar or potential injury (as I'd read lots of online horror stories about Indonesia) I went along with it. He took us to an unmarked SUV and we got in, we agreed a flat rate (which seemed awfully high for South East Asian standards) before the "cab" took off and we went on the dramatic Indonesian highways and expressways towards the City Centre where our hotel was situated near the famous eating area of Sabang.

Indonesian Rupiah - Crazy currency - Money is what makes the world go round they say, it's especially true in Jakarta

Ready to embrace City Centre living in Jakarta and wanting to avoid the posh places I'd be told to go see we simply taxi hopped from one place to another; between Malls and restaurants. The name "Bluebird" becomes a quick friend in Jakarta; air conditioned, cheap and rip off free Taxi traveling.

Like most of the under developed parts of South East Asia; there are lots of bikes and I mean A LOT of bikes. It's cheaper to buy than a car, cheaper to run and with the added benefit of weaving in and out of traffic owners can avoid the monumental traffic jams one experiences daily in Jakarta. Safety doesn't seem to matter or it loses out to necessity and cost.

How to fit a family of four on  Bike

On our travels we did see and found a few places of interest in Jakarta Centre, one place that was interesting but equally as pestering and intimidating was the Antiques Market at Jalan Surabaya. It's approximately a 1KM road full of "antiques" it's really wonderful to see, especially the variety of Java masks and figurines on display. It's a bit unfortunate that this street holds some very talented craftsmen and some very interesting items while at the same time the majority of the shops are owned by very pushy locals who make the overall experience of browsing at the goodies impossible almost the verge of harassment. If you like haggling or are partial to the concept of schadenfreude, you may like to see how low the locals will go to get the sale.

Jalan Surabaya Antiques Market

Right behind Jalan Surabaya we found a really murky looking river with all sorts floating in it, people were washing their clothes in it and while we were looking taking photos a guy came past us and started fishing in it... not sure if he was fishing for food or fishing for gold but either way it took us back slightly; he was however a good sport and posed for the camera :)

City Fishers

In the centre of Jakarta we saw a building, a finger pointing towards the sky and with nothing else to do; we followed it. Soon we came to a perimeter, an iron railed fence that seemed to stretch forever. Eventually we came to a break in the fence at the entrance to a park; the Medan Merdeka Park. The finger we saw pointing to the sky is the National Monument. The monument is very impressive at night, a neon blue salute to the Gods by the Indonesians..

National Monument @ Medan Merdeka Park, Jakarta.

After a few bits & pieces of sight seeing we were on the hunt for food, good food and Indonesia shares some very fine cultural delicacies with Malaysia; while searching the Ancol Dreamland at the port of Jakarta for food I found the below graffiti which I liked a lot..

If you don't understand my silence you'll never understand my words..

That sums up the sight seeing I did in Jakarta; I know a tiny amount but to be honest we weren't super inspired by Jakarta. I've heard from other colleagues and friends that Jakarta is wonderful and full of delights but unfortunately In my brief time there I didn't see much of this... I promise Jakarta, I'll visit you again.

Now finally onto the food...  :)

Right next to our hotel a few doors down actually there was a wonderful, traditional Indonesian coffee-house called Kopitiam Oey. Kopitiam which basically means Coffee or Coffee House is probably closest in style and atmosphere to a Cafe where light food is served along with a variety of drinks. This place is amazing and worth the detour if you are not staying close to Sabang..although there are a few outlets in Jakarta so it's worth checking first..

Traditional Indonesian Cuisine @ Kopitiam Oey - Jalan H Agus Salim

The menu includes a horde of taste-bud electrifying Malaysian, Indonesian and Chinese dishes along with the epically wonderful condensed milk sweet teas and coffees from this area of the world..

Nasi Goreng Sapi - Fried Rice with Beef, Fried Egg & Multi-Coloured Prawn Crackers
Roti Bakar "Grilled Bread" with Strawberry Jam
Ayam Loempia "Chicken Spring Rolls" - and yes, it's the Dutch Spelling...they also were colonialists if you didn't know..
Pisang Goreng "Fried Bananas"
Sambal Goreng Kentang "Fried Potatoes with Chili"
Birdseye View of Teh Tarik "Pulled Tea" - the Indian sweet tea  made with condensed & evaporated milk commonly found in South East Asia

In addition to photo stream of local foods we found some of the best Sea Food I have ever eaten in my entire life at the Ancol Dreamland; the best shrimps, calamari, cray fish and other oceanic treats that are sure to delight both your taste buds and wallet.. unfortunately I'm a shit photographer and couldn't get any decent shots :) Next time I promise.

So other than constant perspiration, eating and visiting the few tourist attractions Jakarta has to offer we didn't do much else.. oh wait, Indonesia is great for shopping too!

Lots of bags - small amount of money = Great

So that was my trip to Jakarta...because I didnt maximize my trip means I have to go again right? ;)

Thx for reading.
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