Sunday, July 12, 2009

Greetings From Yogyakarta

The last time I left you I was heading out of Singapore, on my way to Jakarta. It's been about a week since I landed in Indonesia. I would have posted earlier, but the Internet availability as well as quality is a little lacking in Indonesia. It's not as sparse as in Laos, except for in Bandung where I was unable to find an Internet cafe at all. I'm sure they were there. To be completely honest I didn't look that hard. Wondering around in search of a computer is not exactly my idea of a good time. There's a lot to catch you up on, so lets get started.
I flew out of Singapore on July 6. I had thought my flight left at 11am. I woke up early, showered, ate breakfast, and packed my stuff up. Just as I was preparing to leave I glanced at my ticket. My flight was at 4pm, not 11am. This lack of attention to detail is fairly typical for me. It's not entirely my fault. I believe it to be genetic, passed down from my father. Anyway, I did eventually get to the airport, boarding my plane and making it to Jakarta without another hitch. The flight was nice. I flew Air Asia, a no frills budget airline in Asia. It's sort of like the Asian equivalent of Westjet, for you Canadians out there.
There was a huge contrast departing from Singapore and arriving in Jakarta. To call Singapore a well organized city would be a huge understatement. Everything runs so smooth. It's so easy to find your way around. Unlike other SE Asian cities, you don't have to worry about constantly being ripped off. Things have a price, and that's the price you pay. Arriving in Jakarta I felt like fresh meat being thrown to a wild pack of dogs. From the second you walk off the plane everyone is trying to sell you something. Nothing is properly labelled. Looking around you see a bustling airport filled with Indonesian people pushing there way through the crowds while we, the unaccustomed foreigners, stand there wide eyed and confused, with no idea what to do and where to go. The chaos started upon arriving at the Jakarta Airport, and hasn't ceased since.
Anytime you arrive in a new country here, with the exception of Singapore, you have to except the fact that you're going to get ripped off. No matter how hard you try, how much research you do, it's going to happen. There's nothing you can do about it. It takes at least a few days before you get into the swing of things and figure out how much things are and where you should be going to buy them. For example, cigarettes. In Vietnam if you buy cigarettes from a street vendor, you're going to end up paying more than in a store. Here it seems to be opposite. Like I said, it takes a few days to figure these things out. I don't think I did that bad getting into Jakarta from the airport. The day after arriving I asked around as to how much the cab ride should have cost. I came out with the answer 100,000 rp. I payed 160,000 rp. Not bad for someone completely ignorant to the way things work here. I also learned it's easier to insist taxi drivers use the meter instead of trying to haggle over a price.
Jakarta is big. It's big and it's loud. Traffic is non-stop. 24 hours a day 7 days a week the streets are packed with cars, motorbikes, and tuk-tuks (they're not called tuk-tuk's here. I forget what they are called, so for now the term tuk-tuk with have to do). Walking across the street is a challenge which, if done too timidly, could take all day. You pretty much just have to go and pray you don't get hit by a car. There are shopping centers everywhere. For a Muslim country there is a surprising amount of bars, pubs and clubs. As well, the majority of restraunts serve beer. I was expecting it to be a little more like Malaysia where, even in Kuala Lumpur, finding a place to wet your whistle can be a bit of a chore. When taking a stroll down the street in Jakarta, the best advice I can give you is where an ipod. It will help prevent you from going completely insane due to all the people begging and trying to sell you things. If travelling as a single women, the amount of unwanted attention from Indonesian me can be a bit wearing too. It seems to be harmless, although really annoying.
I spent a few days in Jakarta (a few days too many, that is). I had planned to high-tail it out of there ASAP, but it took me a couple of days to adjust. After Jakarta I headed to Bandung. There was a couple of things I wanted to see in between, but time is limited and I'm headed back to Java anyway. If time permits I can make a couple of stops on my way back. I'd heard Bandung referred to as the "Paris of the East". Obviously by someone who has never even seen a picture of Paris, let alone stepped foot in it. Bandung is a really busy city as well. Not quite on the same scale as Jakarta, but busy none the less. There is very few things to see in the city itself. The main attraction is some old hotel built by the Dutch. It is actually rather unimpressive. The surrounding area, however, has a lot worth seeing. There are hot springs, temples, National parks and Volcanoes. I saw my first Volcano here. It was pretty neat. Getting there was an ordeal though. I went to the Tourist Information Center to see if they had some tourist information for me. They just tried to sell me on these ridiculously expensive package deals. All I wanted to do was see this volcano. The told me to get there via public transportation I would have to make my way to the bus station on the outskirts of the city and pay 50,000rp each way. I sort of suspected they were lying, so I decided to attempt to figure it out myself. As it turned out you can catch a public minibus from the station, which is about 500m from the Tourist Information Center, for about 10,000rp. The only downside is they drop you off at the park entrance. From there you have to hike up the side of a mountain for about 6km before reaching the main crater at the top. The walk took about an hour and a half, maybe two, but it was worth it. I had never seen a volcano before. It was pretty amazing, although it did smell a little of rotten eggs. After seeing the main crater you can walk down a scenic little path to a series of smaller ones. You can get up close to steam vents and bubbling puddles of mud. It's a little intimidating.
I don't want to complain but, in case you haven't guessed already, I'm not exactly in love with Java. It's a little disappointing, being that I'm part Javanese. After Bandung I decided to catch the train to Yogyakarta, which is where I am now. From here I'm going to look into flying to Lombok or Flores. Yogyakarta seems a little more low key than Jakarta and Bandung. You still get harassed while walking down the street, but it's not nearly as bad. It seems a little more artsy here. There are plenty of Galleries and Batik shops. I still plan to go to my Oma's home town of Depok, but am now saving it for the way back to Singapore. I can use it as a way to avoid Jakarta.
I'm still not used to not being on my bike. There are times when I miss it and times when I regret making the decision not to bring it along. Given the traffic here, it was probably a good call. Still, I miss him all the same.
That's all for now folks. Stay tuned for the next, and hopefully more uplifting, addition of my story.

1 comment:

  1. When you compare your experiences in Indonesia to those in Vietnam which of the two do you prefer the least?