A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010


The art of sitting around

sunny 30 °C

Ben arrived with his cakes again and we caught a train to Bogor which is about an hour's journey. It is a bit higher, cooler and less polluted than Jakarta and we visited the famous botanical gardens which are located beside the old colonial governor's residence which is now a presidential facility. They are extensive and were set up by Raffles and continued by the Dutch with plantings of fruits and all sorts of trees from all over the world. We went to a well located cafe in the park and had a relaxing lunch. Ben has adopted this Indonesian custom of sitting around chatting for an extended period after a meal. It particularly suits the heat of the early afternoon.

After this period of relaxation we went through the orchid collection and some other sections of the park before going to another cafe that Ben frequents. Here we met several of Ben's AMAN colleagues. Ben had forgotten but there was a climate change related film being launched and screened in the evening. It seemed to be an important occasion and it was fortuitous that we were all there at the right time.

There was quite a crowd of NGO people there and we met some wonderful people who are doing very worthwhile things. There was an elderly Australian man there called Don who was visiting his son Patrick who works in environmental issues in Jakarta. Patrick has lived here a long time and has an Indonesian wife and family of his own. Don was actually one of the founders of the volunteer program back in the late 50's. He was a very humble man but his son explained how he had been a public servant sent up to Indonesia in its formative years to find out what the new government needed. He knew an independent Australian volunteer up here and took a report back that he shared at a meeting with Bob Menzies that resulted in the formation of the program. It seems that he was very important man in the history of Australia-Indonesia relations. He was telling us how the first volunteers were given the flight up, the equivalent of Indonesian civil service wages and a bicycle.

The film was about the impact of carbon trading and climate change mitigation schemes on indigenous peoples. It was obviously in Indonesian so I just looked at the pictures, although Sonia had Ben whispering the translation in her ear as the movie played. The evening finished with a meal and we all took the train back to Jakarta. Ben's colleagues are a wonderful, bright group of young people who come from all over the archipelago. A woman we met who works for AMAN was telling us how she presents on these issues all over the world and whilst in Norway at some meeting, she had been outside her hotel when SBYs entourage was returning from jogging. She took the opportunity to introduce herself to the president and lay out some of the indigenous people's issues. Fairly amazing really.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 03:19 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Ben's Jakarta II

Some culture

storm 28 °C

Ben met us at the hotel again with his morning cakes in hand and we set off in a Bajaj (horrendously noisy, fume-belching, 2 stroke, 3 wheeled, partially crippled transportation device) to catch the train at Tebet station. Being creatures of habit, we went back to Bakoel for an extended breakfast before taking an energetically operated small green bus to the National Gallery. Ben had hoped to take us to a biennial exhibition but it had disappeared so we checked out the permanent collection. Although the attendant was fast asleep, we enjoyed the art on display.

From here we walked across the Monas (National Monument) area to the National Museum which houses a very good collection of artefacts and demonstrates the enormous diversity of the country.

We then embarked on another transJakarta bus ride back to the swanky business district where Ben wanted to prove to us that there were some formed footpaths in the place. This ride was not at peak rush hour so this time we missed the "nose in someone else's armpit" experience of the previous journey (although there is actually something quite liberating about having one's buttocks pressed up against those of a complete stranger).

Ben squeezed in one more coffee house that specializes in "single estate" beans before we went back to our rooftop haunt to meet up with Kath, a fellow staff member of mine who is also over here at the moment. The evening was finished off with a meal at a duck restaurant near to Ben's work.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 03:11 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Ben's Jakarta I

Exploring Jakarta by Public Transport

semi-overcast 30 °C

Ben met us at the hotel to start a day seeing his sights of Jakarta travelling the way that ex-pats don't. It was hectic but very fascinating as we jumped on a smoky, windowless bus to a railway station and weaved through the stalls selling hardware, drinks, newspapers, phone cases, used shoes and cakes to wait on the busy platform. Ben bought a cup of tea for 7 cents from one of the guys who set up shop behind the fence on the platform and trade through the wire mesh. We caught a very crowded but air-conditioned train to find one of Ben's favourite coffee places. The better trains here are former Japanese ones that have been donated. Ben feels great that he is probably the only one of the thousands on them who can read the "air-conditioning is set to low" sign above the door. They still have all the Japanese signage and Ben has even seen Japanese destinations still at the front.

After a few more adrenalin-charged street crossings we made it to Bakoel Coffee which is a beautiful Dutch-colonial style cafe. The coffee and ambience was great. We also had our first experience of some of the curious aspects of Indonesian service. It is extremely calm and polite but rather quirky in that if you ask for for a menu item, the waiter will go into great detail to fully describe it and it's various permutations, take your the order on one of these well-explained items, then return a few moments later to apologise that they don't have it. It seems to be culturally difficult to say no or "that is not possible" in a direct way.

After a relaxing breakfast, we took a bus to Ben Hill (it's short for something) and had noodles at one of the fairly ramshackle wooden stalls beside a skyscraper with ANZ Bank written on it. This contrast between corporate wealth and how ordinary people live is quite striking. There are countless glass and steel billion dollar commercial and shopping facilities that would match anything anywhere in the world yet there is no basic sanitation. Something's not right.

We then got an extremely crowded transJakarta bus to one of the swanky shopping centres called Grand Indonesia. There is airport style security to get into these places (as there is for the hotels) that is obviously a response to the terrorism issues but I can't help wondering if it's really used to keep certain classes of Indonesian people out. After purchasing a couple of items, we went back to Plaza Semeggi to the rooftop bars for a drink. After watching the wait staff rearrange all of the furniture several times, we took a taxi to Ben's neighbourhood for a meal at a fish restaurant and checked out his Kost or room at a kind of boarding house.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 02:56 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

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 Comments (0)


Travelling with really big boxes

sunny 28 °C

After a 3am wake up in Toowoomba, we put the boxed bikes in the car and headed for the airport. We delivered the car at the parking service and made new friends on the minibus with the man who had one of our boxes wedged between his knees and all the others whose vision was obstructed. We knew it would be a bit dodgy with the weight but all went well and we flew via Singapore to Jakarta.

For the taxi from the airport, Ben said to get a Blue Bird, the guide book talked of a Silver Bird but I'd actually booked a Golden Bird through the hotel. After avoiding all the other birds wanting to help me as I ran over people wheeling the boxes through the airport, I eventually found a man calling out for Mr Cornelius. I also found a man to store the bikes with and after negotiating a fair price, we put them in storage and took a luxury ride in our Golden Bird to the Harris Tebet. Brilliant friendly Indonesian service has made for a relaxing time here. We are having a rest up today as Ben is up at an indigenous festival until this evening. We'll have a short explore during the day and do some beers by the pool in the afternoon.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 21:08 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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