A Travellerspoint blog

Meeting the People

Random acts of friendliness

semi-overcast 30 °C

On our first day here we had a great breakfast at the hotel and enjoyed watching the man in a clown outfit (full make up, bright orange wig, full costume and orange and green boots in the 30 degree heat and humidity) making perfect balloon sculptures for the kids in the pool. Sonia and I can't help thinking how Pa would have made a pretty good Indonesian.

We then walked about 8km along the chaotic streets to the National Monument area. Along the way we met some of the contrasts in Jakartan life with plenty of poverty and pollution. We saw somebody making a living using a long pole to fish plastic bottles out of the filthy river, got asked if we were interested in buying a wheelchair, golf clubs or a bike, and managed to avoid getting run over in the comparatively light Sunday traffic. After crossing the river, we literally walked from effluent to affluent as we went into Menteng where the embassies and various people who run the country live. There was a pavement that was not broken, trees, flash cars and even rubbish bins and people cleaning the streets.

After going through this we ended up in a street where a whole lot of floats were obviously preparing for a street parade. We stopped to watch and saw a group practising a traditional dance in beautiful finery to the accompaniment of a gamelan-style band. The dancers noticed our curiosity and explained in perfect English that they were from a northern Sumatran culture and the event was part of the annual Jakarta Festival celebrating the 483rd anniversary of the city. There was a lot of enjoyment and friendliness. From here we looked at a number of the other floats and went on up to the central monument area where we met the start of the parade. Ben says that the national motto is something like "Unity in Diversity" and we certainly saw plenty of that. There were marching bands, vintage motorbikes and cars, cyclists, and a wide range of cultural groups. It was enormous.

By now we were getting a bit tired, so started to walk to where some taxis may be but kept getting trapped inside the parade. We ended up wedged against the official podium watching several large styrofoam and cardboard buildings going up the street. A young man in cultural dress struck up a conversation with Sonia and explained how he is the tourism ambassador for the city and spoke of its attractions. As we left we noticed him and his wife walking with an official looking group in front of TV cameras, etc. I think we'd just met someone important.

We then went on to try for a taxi where an older, learned gentleman took pity on us and helped explain our destination to a driver (addresses are not straightforward). He then hopped in the cab, said "you may get lost, I will accompany you" and explained some of the sights along the way. He insisted that he pay for the taxi and was obviously going completely out of his way. Amazing friendliness.

We took a taxi out again for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant and finally met up with Ben at about 11pm and went for a drink at a rooftop bar.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 17:56 Archived in Indonesia

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