Published: August 9th 2009August 8th 2009
(Day 491 on the road)
They say certain places have to grow on you in order for you to appreciate them. Well, after almost two more weeks in chaotic Jakarta I have to say this saying does not hold true for me this time. I found the city just as mad as the first time I was here a few months ago. But I was here to see my Indonesian friend Endah who happens to live here, so I had to brace the city in order to meet up with her.
Checking in for my flight in Kota Kinabalu, I was very pleased when the scale at the airline check-in desk showed 5,6 kg for my big backpack (this included all my belongings except my laptop, which I had in my hand luggage). The doctor had told me I was not allowed to carry anything heavy, so I had scrutinized every single item I had, threw away some things and shipped others to my friend Miranda in Sydney, where I plan to retrieve them again later this year. Bottom line: Now I am travelling really light.
I wasn't off to a good start however, and Indonesia greeted me pretty
much the same way it had welcomed me a few months earlier: With me being robbed. This time items were taken from my checked-in luggage on the Air Asia flight from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Remembering how I had been pick-pocketed the last time I was in Indonesia, I had taken extra precautions of securing all my valuables in my hand-luggage or deep inside my backpack, leaving only petty things like mosquito spray, my knife and a combination padlock in the outside pockets. And exactly these were stolen from my checked-in luggage. I hope there is no trend forming here with thefts in Indonesia for me. On top of that Air Asia was super-unhelpful in any possible way. "World's Best Low-Cost Airline", um?
Well, after wasting my time at the Air Asia lost luggage desk I soon found out there were no feasible options to get into the city at that time of the night. The only options available were taxis and one airport hotel, and they were both quoting ridiculous prices (the hotel wanted 275US$ for a transit stay limited to six hours only). So I ended up spending the night sleeping in the airport, waiting for the first
Damri bus at six o'clock. After walking around a bit and examining all the options of places to sleep I settled for a spacious and reasonably clean, yes, well...disabled toilet. It had the immense advantage that I could lock it from the inside, which gave me some peace of mind, especially of course as I had just been robbed and did not want to take any chances. It was almost perfect really - quiet, secure, and as a bonus I was woken just after five o'clock by a cleaner, so I didn't even need my alarm clock to make the first bus into Jakarta. Perfect! And in case you wonder where all the disabled people went to have a pee whilst I was sleeping inside, rest assured - there were quite a few of these at regular intervals in the airport.
This idle time spent inside the toilet also gave me an opportunity to consider just how well the flight itself had gone for me. Considering the recent damage to my inner ear I was slightly concerned about flying, but I am very relieved that everything went well and without any complications. I have recovered somewhat and am able
to walk normally again, but especially in the dark I am still very shaky, when I cannot rely on my eyes for balancing. The doctors say it will take another two months or so to heal (fingers crossed), so for now I am having to take everything very slowly.
But back to the story: The next day, after my night at the airport, I met up with Endah, and as she had a long weekend coming up, we soon set off to the hilly city of Ciwidey, some six hours south-east of Jakarta. The region is a popular weekend retreat for Jakarta residents, due to its lush nature, its strawberry farms, a pretty volcano lake called Kawah Putih and its cool mountain climate. After staying for a night at Endah's mum house in her hometown of Bogor, we then spent a very nice and relaxed long weekend in Ciwidey, eating copious amounts of strawberries, visiting the volcano lake (together with about 1000 other noisy Indonesian weekend tourists), and soaking in a hot spring. It was a nice change for me after I had spent the last months virtually always inside my hostel in Borneo due to my injury.
I also got a free lesson in solidarity at the volcano crater: Coming back we hitched a lift with a nice couple visiting the lake for the weekend, and we soon passed a car that had got stuck on the steep and terrible approach road to the crater. Our driver immediately stopped his car and got out. Together with about five other people who had also stopped he helped to push the car up the road. Guess you will have to wait a long time to see these things in other countries. I was well impressed.
Then we were going back to Jakarta, and it was time for my lesson in relaxation: My brand new Acer Aspire One laptop has been giving me nothing but trouble since I bought it six weeks ago, and I really needed to have it fixed (after already two unsuccessful repair attempts in Malaysia). In the process, I came to know the people at the Acer Service Centre very well. The whole thing was a very sombre and tiring affair to say the least. After working on the laptop for a whole week they had still not been able to repair it, and I
was getting more and more frustrated. I went there a total of four times, and with a one way journey time of over two hours in the crazy Jakarta traffic I thus spent more than 16 hours just on minibuses, buses and trains alone. Plus the time waiting at the service centre. However, the guys there were extremely helpful and kind (thank you Nimo!), if a little daft. In the end and not being able to identify the problem, they simply resorted to replacing pretty much everything in my laptop (motherboard, hard disk, ram, even the wifi chip). Somehow this rather random repair strategy seemed to have worked, and the notebook works fine now. What a relief!
Oh, and then a second free lesson in solidarity for me: On one of my ways back from Acer our minibus broke down in the middle of the busy highway. I had had a frustrating day with my notebook and really just wanted to get home. The other passengers on the bus looked annoyed as well and were leaving the bus, apparently wanting to change the bus. But no - they all just got out and helped the poor driver to restart
the engine by pushing the bus. Guess I can learn a big lesson from them, as I was just about to walk off in search of another bus.
Then it was time to decide what to do now. With my medical condition crazy and hassle-intense Indonesia is possibly the worst country in the region to travel for me at the moment. On the other hand, there are not that many places left in the area where I haven't been, actually only the Philippines, East Timor and Papua New Guinea (all not much better really in terms of ease of travelling) and Taiwan (which I will go to in September with my mum). So in the end I decided to head east across Java and into Bali, where I will relax and recover some more, before heading up to Taiwan in about two weeks time.
Next stop: Borobudor (Java, Indonesia). Also have a look at my pictures at http://pictures.beiske.com