Jakarta (West Java)
In one and half months spent on Indonesia, constantly taking buses and trains, I already take it as a normal fact that sellers come inside the public transportations and do their job. Actually I even like it, for the easy access to cheap goods, and for the more reach social environment. What I really didn’t appreciate was to have this people selling their stuff in a night train. And when I say night, I mean the whole night. 10pm, 2 am, 4am, … they never stop trying selling although almost everybody was sleeping and not a single person was buying nothing. And those, like me, who were not sleeping, were surely awake because of their terrible noise and their strident voices repeating over and over the same sentences, loud, too too loud!!! “Ammmm… tohu tohu tohu toh … tooooohu tohu tohu tohu tohu”, “Aaaaaqua aqua aqua aqua … air air”… What a hell! Even the waiters of the train’s restaurant were coming from times to times with the menu, touching the passengers’ shoulder to wake them up and propose a meal! At 3am, when the passenger was actually sleeping!?! Ah, this Indonesian folks are really peaceful, I don’t understand how they can suffer this sleep torture without complaint or get mad. The good side was too meet some nice people seated nearby me; 2 girls in the seat in front of mine looked back and started to talk with me, making many personal questions (like always here in Indonesia :p), but I diverged the conversations to practical things like how to go from Jakarta to Belitung Island by ferry. They didn’t know but one of them called a friend and later gave me the answer: name of the harbor, schedules, etc… Very kind and altruist her attitude! :p
THE POST’S NAME
The name of this post, Jakarta & Palembang!?! Right, it was planned to be called West Java, once I was planning to go from Yogyakarta to Bandung (already in the west part), stay one night, then make the rest of the trip to the capital. I also planned to visit the nearby city of Bogor in one of the 4 days staying in Jakarta. Unfortunately, as I explained in the previous post, my feet were completely damaged, so I spent almost all the time at Astu’s home (my couchsurfing host in Jakarta), and when I got better I only had time to rapidly check out this city and no other else.
THE LAST EFFORT
The train arrived at 5.30am, 2 hours delayed, but that was a good thing and I was willing it to happen, once I would have more time to rest without use my feet and I would not need to stay long in an uncomfortable situation at the train station. 20 minutes later it was already enough sunlight. Painfully I start to walk towards the exit, looking for the place where I could find the bus “Kopaja P20”. It was very close, but it looked an endless distance to make with my new slow speed and my new walking style (trying to use more the undamaged parts of my feet and less the damaged ones). The bus took almost an hour to get to Astu neighborhood, giving me a clear idea about the huge size of this megalopolis. During the time spent in the bus I had the opportunity to talk with a shy but very kind young girl (dressed with the traditional Muslim clothes). It is not every day that I have the chance to speak with someone with an enough good level of English and the girl was very interesting, so we kept talking for the whole trip, and when I was feeling enough confident I asked for a favor: to let me use her mobile phone to send a message to my next host. She told me to call. Great, 2 minutes later everything was clear with Astu (the host) and she was at home waiting me. Already in Lebak Bulus Terminal, the sweet girl came with me searching for the next bus (Mikrolet S12 according with Astu‘s tips), even helping me to walk and to not loose balance. Usually I deal with bus drivers easily by myself, but she wanted to do it, stressing to the driver (in Indonesian) the address where to leave me and to take good care of me! A lovely person, who simply went way when finished “her task”, giving not so much importance and time to my gratefulness. A genuine help indeed! Later in the day she called Astu to know if I arrived well and if I was feeling better. No idea about her name, but the image of her beautiful face and her smooth voice still in my mind…
BECOMING ALMOST A VEGETABLE
In the first day in Jakarta, besides the trip from the train station to Astu’s house, I did barely anything, except rest and sleep. Only at the end of the day I went out (by car) with Astu who kindly offered me a dinner and who also kindly went shopping for me (and for her) while I was waiting in the car. At night 3 friends of her came to make a visit, so the 5 of us had a pleasant conversation. I was positively surprised with one of the guys (from Sumba, an island nearby Timor) who was able to recognize the Indonesian words with Portuguese and even helped me with 2 more to my special Indonesian-Portuguese dictionary. By the way, here’s an update of it:
Tinta – Tinta – (Ink)
Kamija – Camisa – (Shirt)
Almari – Armário – (Cabinet)
Boneka – Boneca – (Doll)
Banku – Banco – (Bench)
Cerutu – Charuto – (Cigar)
Natal – Natal – (Christmas)
Risol – Rissol – (Oilcake)
Saldo – Saldo – (Balance accounting)
Pasta (Gigi) – (Pasta de dentes) – (Tooth Paste)
Kertas (Paper) – Cartaz (Poster)
The second and third day where quite similar: during the day, sleep, rest and work on the blog/website. Ah, in the third day I finally tried the great swimming pool in the backyard of Astu’s house. At the night, a tour in the city by car with Astu and friends. In the first one we went to a nice bar, Rolling Stone Café, with live music and really good pictures in the entrance wall. In the second, a longer trip (I was already able to walk, slowly), we stop first in a square with outdoor “restaurants”, where I tried Martabak for the first time. Then we moved to Kota, a kind of old town, very crowd and noisy, but very interesting for its people, for the colors and smells, and for the old style buildings, mainly from Dutch colonial times. There, in the main square, we entered in a very exquisite and expensive restaurant, Batavia, in which I only could afford to buy something because it is located in Indonesia, not in Europe! :p Still, in Batavia restaurant I drunk the most expensive coffee ever in my life: 3,33€! Ah, but the place was wonderful, everything was beautiful there, and I loved the feeling of jumping to another era, the romantic early 20th century…
EXPLORING JAKARTA BY MYSELF
At the 4th day in Jakarta I was finally feeling my feet enough recovered to try to explore the big city by myself. Woke up not that early, swum for a while in the pool and then went to the big shopping mall nearby the bus terminal where I bought new sneakers for 10€. To find cheap and good sneakers was easy, the problem was to pay it: more than 1 hour waiting in the queue! Plus 1 and a half hour by bus until the old town, the adventure only started after 2.30pm! :p
The first impression of Jakarta was the amazing skyscrapers from all sizes, and shapes. Never before I had sight so many in a single city! Besides de built ones, there’s plenty of others under construction, make me understand how economically dynamic must be this megalopolis! Weird is to look back in my memories from the last 45 days spent in Indonesia, and remember all the third world visions I found. It is hard to believe that those third world places and this city belong to the same country… How can it be?
About the public bus system in here (Trans Jakarta), it is really good and efficient, too crowd but that’s normal in such a big city. However, the reason to talk about the bus system is a different and funny one: All kind of buses here in Indonesia have always a guy at the door calling customers, helping them with the bags and telling the names of cities and bus stops. It sounds ok, helpful and useful in many situations. This Trans Jakarta, in the other hand, has an automatic voice saying the name of the next stop in Indonesian and English, have an electronic panel indicating the same, and also normal panels with the name written in every stop. The doors open and close automatically. In a few words: western style bus! But still, they have a guy at the door telling the name of the stops, asking people if they want to leave or not, and pretending to open and close the door! Lol! What a nonsense job… Ah, there are many nonsense jobs in Indonesia, but now this is my favorite one! :p
With still limited movements I opted to go straight to the old town (Kota and surroundings), where I could see a lot without walk that much. I had been there in the previous day with Astu and friends, but by night, and we spent almost all the time inside Batavia restaurant. This time I stayed outside, enjoying the colorfulness and diversity of people and their behavior in the main square and around it. Outdoor restaurants, sellers, gambling games, live music, street tattoo shop, guitar players, skaters, old style bikes and motorbikes for renting, and a huge crowd moving around or simply seating down drinking and chatting with friends. I made both, walk for a while in the quest for the perfect picture, then I ordered a coffee from a street seller and seated down nearby a big family with kids. The right family, no doubt, smiley and talkative, curious about me, we spent a lot of time there talking and making pictures of each other, specially they with all the mobile phones they had! :p Their interest was really genuine, making many questions to try to understand me and my world while feeding me with their stuff! Ah, and what a surprise when one of the woman told me that her grandfather was Portuguese! That explained all about her unique face. I really thought she was Indian, but makes sense that a mix of Portuguese and Javanese look the way she does… very interesting indeed…
Besides the big family, there was also a group of 3 teenagers making pictures of themselves (probably to upload to facebook). I took a picture of one while posing, and then show to them. The first shy instinct was to hide her smile with the hands and say: “mister please delete it”. A few seconds later they were begging for more pictures, one by one, in group and also with me! :p Finished the “photo session” we kept talking until the sunset. I was then happy to leave Jakarta with not so much seen, but with new interesting friends..
Travelling coincidences: It happens to me very often strange coincidences while travelling. This trip in Indonesia was not particularly rich on that. Poland is the country of traveling coincidences, happening almost every day there, I don’t know why… Ok, the story: Earlier in the day, when I arrived at Kota main square, I seated in an outdoor restaurant to have lunch. A few minutes later 3 beautiful girls, all with Bob Marley stile’s bonnet, seated right in front of me. At the night, when I got inside the bus to go back home, and after have found a place to stay stand up, I raised my head and to see the very same 3 girls right in front of me! They recognized me too, shyly smiling
In the next day morning, for the third time in arrow, I could take a bus for my next (far away) destination nearby my host’s home. The difference this time was to do it in a main Bus Terminal, not stopping buses in the road!
PALEMBANG (SOUTH EAST SUMATRA)
The first hours were not very interesting, crossing innumerous ugly suburbs of the big capital, dirtiness, slums, pollution, factories… The first time the bus stopped was precisely in front of a huge industrial complex. The reason to stop there was the passenger’s dinner. I was told (and I asked several times to confirm in the ticket’s office) that I would have a hot meal in a roadside restaurant included in the bus ticket price. Watching all passengers taking their bus tickets out their wallets and moving towards the restaurant I concluded this was the one. So I went out, showed my ticket and ask for the meal. The restaurant’s waiter staying at its entrance told me “no, the meal is not free, it must be paid”. Yah sure. I was just too tired of this kind of situations that I decided not to argue, neither beg for the food, humiliating myself once again. Being constantly cheated can change a person’s response to a specific situation. So, I didn’t eat, neither the free I should receive, neither paying (money for those bastards not for sure!). I went back to the bus and eat from my “emergency pack” of biscuits! :p And life goes on…
Although I would be making the trip from Jakarta to Palembang with a bus, it was necessary once again to take a ferry to cross the strait between Java and Sumatra. The ferry was very big and had a lot of buses, so before leave the buses’ park and go upstairs in the ferry, I took a picture of the license plate and another of the zone where it was parked. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get lost, and I didn’t, but was good to do it in order to feel safe and relaxed.
Inside the ferry it was incredibly hot, like a real sauna, although it was already night! I guess there were too many people and buses and so on… I decided to stay outside in the balconies, seating in hard surfaces but being refreshed by the cold breeze.
Back to the road and back to the third world in Sumatra, after 5 days in the first world of Jakarta! It is really weird this feeling. I took a bus in the middle of the urban jungle; a few hours later, still in the same country, I’m surrounded by the real jungle and wood houses in the river’s waters! Very beautiful landscape! Better outside than inside the bus, definitely: It was late night and I was trying to sleep when the drivers decided to turn on the radio with incredibly laugh speakers! I remember to kindly ask to decrease the volume at the least 5 times. Then a few more times with an upset expression. In all the situations they said yes, but never did what I asked, ridiculously pretending to be turning the volume control. I went back to my seat, trying to sleep but I couldn’t. I was really trying to sleep when suddenly, without thinking or planning it, I jumped out of my seat and started to shout very loud in Portuguese, complaining of the music and calling them every word possible! They switched off the radio for good! :p
In the next day morning I started to understand why it would take so much time (and so expensive ticket) to get into Palembang. The only road is practically a non-road, so old and destroyed it is, and is fulfilled with endless kilometers of trucks and buses. In Flores I would understand that situation, but here, so close to the capital and with a completely flat land where I suppose it is easy to build a road… come on, it really looks like the Indonesian government spends all the taxes money in Jakarta, neglecting the needs of the remaining islands on purpose… I don’t know enough about this subject to write down here, but almost 2 months travelling in this country allowed me to make some negative conclusion about it.
The trip was longer that people told me it would be. Expecting to arrive at the morning, I arrived at 2.30pm! But that was a good think, once I had plenty of time to discover this new, exotic and different world from my window! Dense tropical jungle, again houses built on water like in Sumbawa but with different style, many mosques but also several churches (for instance, one with the name “Gereja Santa Theresia”) and Hindu temples, many villages and dirty cities as I never had seen before (even in Indonesia)… in general what I could see was a sea of green, completely flat, with no sight of mountains at all. I know they have very big mountain ranges crossing almost all Sumatra from north to south, but that’s situated nearby the west coast and I was crossing a road nearby the east coast. In the last dozens of kilometers, getting closer to Palembang, the number of rivers spread in the forest started to rise. Now I understand why I couldn’t find on GoogleEarth roads connecting Palembang to the coast. There’s no such thing at east of Palembang, due to the immense amount of rivers. Now I also know that to move out from Palembang to the next Island (Banka), the “road” will be the river, and the “bus” a kind of very fast ferry that they call Jet Foil…
STOCK IN THE BUS TERMINAL’S SUBURB OF PALEMBANG
The first impression of Palembang was very negative. Huge, incredibly dirty and chaotic… I felt like willing to move out immediately from there. Walking around and asking the people from times to times, I finally found the bus terminal (ah, because the bus stop in front of the bus company’s office, not in the terminal!?!). Even before get into the main building I was already surrounded by a group of 12 guys trying to selling me tickets to everywhere, including the Moon, or trying to guess the name of my destinations in dozens of attempts. I seated and try tried to keep quiet. They got closer to me again. I moved again and stayed quiet. Finally, after 5 minutes they understood my game and got quiet too, so I was then ready to explain my situation, little by little, with the few words I know in Indonesian. Once explained that I wanted to go to Banka-Belitung Islands, all of them started to say they had tickets to go there, but I was very skeptical. It was written many destinations in the innumerous offices, but nothing about these islands. 2 of them even tried to sell me very expensive tickets, starting to write stuff on it, but I said it was not right because it was written many cities names in the tickets and no one was in the islands I was asking for. More, they failed to answer all of my questions: at what hour it would depart, how much time it would take, where the bus would enter a ferry, which would be the arrival city in Banka Island. I listened about many cases like that when naïve tourists or travellers are cheated with faked tickets to nowhere. I didn’t want to join that list, so I left them talking and went away…
THE YOUNG WOMEN ARE THE SOLUTION
Almost 2 months in Indonesia made me learn that the people most likely to really help me in a complicated situation are young women, yes, must be young and must be woman, once they have the right combination of vital factors: kindness, more likely to be willing to help, don’t cheat foreigners with faked information, are not in the tourism/transportation related jobs, and know a little bit of English (old women or young men not, in general). I sighted one waiting for the public bus and walk strait there. The first information from her confirmed immediately the fakeness of the tickets the monkey-guys tried to sell me. She invited to enter the same bus she was taking, to the city center, many kilometers away from there. Meanwhile she would explain me out to get to Banka-Belitung Islands. So she did, with all the details: street where to find hotel to stay in Palembang nearby the street leading to the harbor, harbor name, name of the ferry company, schedule, prices for different classes, and much much more… In the bus was decided that I would leave it in the company of other 2 girls who had more or less the same destination like me. When I saw the road plate with the name of the harbor written on it, plus several hotels around me, I said the girls it was enough, they could go, I had took too much time of their life and I would be able to do the rest for myself. They insisted that was a big pleasure to help me and that they wanted and had plenty of time to follow me until get a place to sleep! Wonderful girls! In the next minutes we checked several hotels together until find one cheap and with available rooms. Then they went away happy and smiling…
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF PALEMBANG
I guess there are not many foreigners coming to this city, Palembang! Everybody was completely shocked staring at me. People stopping to walk, stopping the motorbike, friends calling other friends, all that just to look at me! Ahahahah, what a mad situation! :p It was already quite late and I didn’t have a lot of time before the sunset, but still, I walked and I saw enough to conclude that Palembang, although not particularly beautiful, quite noisy and very polluted, it had something special (you can call “a soul”, if you want) that made me feel at home, welcomed, and willing to stay longer. Back in the hotel I informed the receptionist that I would stay not 1 night but 2 nights…
THE BIG DAY
Indeed, Palembang is a very big city, a megalopolis if you want. Only when I walked on the bridge I got the idea of its real size, and later confirmed on Google Earth that is even bigger than what could I see from there. I loved the way until the river, passing by colorful street markets with smiley people, but really great was the ambience full of life in the riverside. Small restaurant and bars (some of them in boats), nice marginal to walk nearby the river and an amazingly huge amount of boats to carry passenger to the other side of the river, to carry goods, and also big ones going down the river with all kind of stuff (like motorbikes or coal).
I crossed the river to the south part of the city, where I finally visited real poor slums suspended on water. I had seen it in the buses and trains, and I was willing to enter one. The streets were completely dirty and smelly, but the small suspended paths were very interesting and useful, allowing me to reach the wooden houses in the river and meet its lovely and wonderful people. People that were very happy to see me but also very chocked. I was probably one of the first foreigners to enter in these hidden slums. I got quite tired from replying all the “Hellos”, but I was able to understand the situation, how excited they were! :p Specially the kids, touching me with a finger to “see if I was real”! Ahaha. And what a party they made when they saw me taking the camera out of the bag. All wanted to be photographed, but there was dozens of them!!! A kind woman who saw me looking surprised to a kind of cookies drying under the sun, told me to follow her through the narrow suspended paths until her home where several people were working in the different stages of the “cookies” production! Wonderful surprise! Another big family, seeing me sweeting a lot, invited me to enter their home to take a refreshing drink. However, I staid much longer after have finished the drink, so we had plenty of time to try to communicate and make pictures of each other. The girls took their mobile phones and one by one took pictures with me to upload on facebook! :p Only when I went out of the slums I realized that several hour had already passed by… I had the feeling it was been only several minutes!
Palembang is a mega city, completely non-touristic, forgotten on the middle of nowhere, and surely the best place I found to experience the real Indonesia lifestyle… no kids barging for money, no mad ojek guys, no tourist agencies or any other kind with people offering me what I don’t need/want… Shocked or at the least surprised people for seeing me, kindly showing me places and offering me stuff I didn’t ask for, just for the place to communicate and share life with the strange guy… In the other hand, and as expected, the language barrier was very big in Palembang. About internet, very slow connections and very hard to find the few existing internet cafés. My conclusion is that Palembang, although has daily bus connections to the capital, it seems to be disconnected from the outside world, offering a unique human landscape from another era (exception to the city center, of course). Definitely highly recommended for traveller, but not for tourists, there no attraction there for these last ones! :p
SLOWLY COMMUNICATING IN INDONESIAN
At the evening I had a problem to solve. I would take a jet foil (fast ferry) in the next early morning at Bom Baru Harbor, as the girl told me one day ago in the bus terminal. People had told me that there are not public buses at early morning, so I would need an ojek! Yah, an ojek! So, I went to the hotel’s reception looking for somebody able to speak Basic English. There were 5 guys, anyone able to say a single word in English! Great!. :p I took a long breath at start to explain my situation in Indonesia (my faked Indonesian), writing down in a paper every idea we had understood from each other. After 10 minutes I succeeded to get an ojek for 20000rp (people in the streets had told me 30000 but I barged) and convince one of the waiters to wake me up at 5,45am, once I didn’t had alarm clock. After a taught dialogue, it was time for fun and photo session with this great guys working in the hotel! :p
DAMN OJEK DRIVERS
It was supposed to be a 15 minutes trip from the city center to Bom Baru harbor, but it took only 3 minutes, a walking distance! Ahahaha! It should be a maximum of 5000rp, or simply walk! Yah, but when you are a foreign having no idea, after had listening several people confirming the big distance and the big price… Anyway… In the tickets office they asked me for 250.000rp for the trip Palembang-Muntok! It was told me the price was 135.000rp, and I said that to them, but they said the price for me was that! “For me, what does it means?” “Mmmm, vip class, aircondition, blablabla..”! Rrrrrr, who told them I need that, why for me, for being white and foreign! Silly, very silly people. I asked cheaper, they offered 175.000rp for executive class. Lol. I said, no way, I don’t go unless you give me a real ticket, a cheap common one. Believe me fellow readers, they didn’t want to sell me the cheap one without aircondition! I was about to give up and go back to the city, when eventually they sold it to me for 150.000rp, not 135.000. Why this difference of price? Well, I got used with these situations, so I looked carefully when giving the money. The ojek guy was there and in a very fast movement got 15.000 from the hand of the woman in the tickets office. A kind of commission! But commission for what? He didn’t help them to find a client. I found him to bring me there and I bought the ticket by myself. He was already paid for his job: to bring me from the hotel until the harbor!!! So, this mother fucker made 35000rp less than 5 minutes. 3€! People in Portugal take 1 hour working to make 3€! Then call me greed foreign! I call this people organized mafia! You see now why I hate ojek guys and everything related to them!