Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jakarta, We Hardly Knew Thee

Jakarta is odd. Judging from the streets immediately around my hotel, the economy is primarily based on selling SIM cards for cellphones. To increase profits, rather than bother with paying for a building, they just set up on the sidewalk. A chair, a cart and some SIM cards, you're good to go.

I make my rounds and stop for dinner. Star fruit juice is awesome. There is a cone of rice, and egg, a weird crispy tortilla and some vegetables. The vegetables are spicy, the rice cone is sweet. The tortilla tastes not so good.

Everyone (but primarily 40ish year-old looking women) want to be my friend. Walking down the street I've been invited to join multiple groups at weird bar/restaurants/chairs and tables on the sidewalk. I decline and choose instead to try a Bingtang at a sidewalk bar. It's "International Quality" but comes in 24 ounce bottles. Tastes like piss. Costs ~$3.

Strange mix of people. There's a guy playing a keyboard and girl singing generally terrible music. There's a guy wearing a boa with a weird girl who is staring at me. Upon looking she says something and beckons me over. I decline. My celebrity is a burden. Another woman sits down next to me and repeatedly clanks her glass till I look up. Brief smile and back to the notebook. The place makes me uncomfortable. Creepy old expats. The women next to me informs me that she is named April and is staying nearby. I am increasingly uncomfortable. No, April, I do not like dancing. I finish my gross beer and call it a night. 8AM train tomorrow.

I'm up at 7 after a fitful night's sleep. Breakfast appears to consist of a salad (or something) that has been sitting out over night. I opt for just toast and coffee. The coffee is good.

7:15 I leave planning to walk the ~1km to the train station. In the daylight I'm less disoriented and figure I can avoid getting lost since the train station is located next to a giant tower that can be seen from just about everywhere.

Tower by the Train Station

Much to my delight, there is a Bajaj sitting out in front of the hotel when I walk out. I say that, yes, I most certainly do want to ride around in his awesome 3-wheel cart thing. I giddily climb in and ask him to take me to the train station. Only then do I remember to ask how much. "3" is the response which means next to nothing to me, but I don't care b/c I just want to be chauffeured in the awesome cart.

Bajaj are awesome

The train station is simple. The ticket girl has the friendly, amused/embarassed-about-English attitude of someone who doesn't hate tourists (*cough* Russian train agents *cough*). Since I'm going to be on a train for ~8 hours, I opt for the luxury train. It's twice as much as the guide says, thus setting me back ~$40. While waiting at the platform incoming Economy trains are so stuffed with people that some have climbed up to ride on the roof. I suppress the latent drifter urge that seeing people riding on tops of trains stirs and continue waiting.

There doesn't appear to be any visual way to distinguish the trains, so around 8 I show a guy my ticket and ask if the the train that is waiting is mine. He says, no, my train my be late like his, which was supposed to arrive at 7.45. He is unconcerned and friendly, asking where I'm from. He is curious as to whether there are seasonal weather changes and tornadoes where I'm from. So, yes, to people on tropical Islands, Missouri is exotic and fascinating.

The train eventually arrives and is fine. Jakarta is big. The outskirts have houses piled up on top of each other directly over a river with colorful clothes hanging everywhere . City planning and zoning are so over-rated. Outside of town the landscape quickly turns to large, wet rice fields and I fall asleep.
View from the Train

When I awake later I order lunch at random. Turns out to be chicken, rice and an egg served on a palm (?) leaf lining a wicker plate. The landscape has become more mountainous with layered rice paddies and frequent clumps of jungle. Villages sporadically appear with houses clumped together leaving only room for motorcycles to weave through most alleyways.

I read up on the history of Indonesia and learn that it's the 4th most populous country on earth. Java alone has 128 million people. The more you know...
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1 comment:

  1. Your celebrity is a burden for your family as well.