Indonesia - Java phase and I'm not impressed

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June 6th 2015
Published: June 6th 2015
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Indonesia was the first place where I had no idea where to go or see or even where to start exploring. Originally the plan was to go to Medan in Sumatra but having read a review which stated that if you ever wanted to answer a question of where the worst place you’ve ever been to, then Medan is the place to go to, so instead I decided on going to Java and start with the Capital Jakarta. On landing at the airport, I knew I should have done a bit of research on the country I was asked for my visa. My blank face sort of explained it to the border guy and he pointed to a small booth in the corner of the room which had a sign saying “Visa on Arrival”. The girl behind the counter there informed me that it would cost me $35. Damn I knew I didn't have enough on me and told her, showing my empty wallet. She told me to leave my passport with her and go through the airport to the ATM and get lots of Indonesian money, which I did and a Visa was given. However on going back to the border guy, the place had all packed up and hardly anyone was around. A bit of panic crept in and I saw an office where 2 people were sat with their feet up on the desks smoking cigarettes. I think they had that disapproving look when they saw me and knew that they had to do some work. I’ve lost count of the times where my passport and been looked at a bit too closely while they work out on where I’ve been, all they need to do is place a stamp in it and hand it back to me with a smile, which he eventually did but without the smile.

Outside the airport the hostel that I had booked had given instructions on getting a bus to them but with the delay in getting the visa I had missed it and had to wait 40 minutes for the next one. Another strange country at, at a strange bus stop, with lots of strange people staring at me, I was getting used to it but still, will they please stop staring at me. I arrived at the hostel after getting a local ‘tuk tuk’ from getting off at the bus stop in the centre of Jakarta. It was late, I was tired and I just needed a shower and something to eat. Nothing new there and reception told me of a street cafe across the road and for something like £1 I had an awesome chicken and rice and a fanta, I was so keeping up with my budget for Indonesia so far. I thought I’d have a couple of beers on the rooftop bar before hitting the sack. What is it with hostels and rooftop bars, but they seem to be the decent ones that think about having a drinking establishment within their place. They must sit down and think where can we put the bar, we have no room…. I know! Lets put it on the roof! Anyways I only had 2 beers as I was shattered so sleep was calling.

Woke up fresh as a daisy on day one of Indonesia and exploring time. A quick check on trip advisor told me that the Independent Monument was nearby and worth going to see it. So off I went and this is when I got a feel for Jakarta. Best way to describe the capital, the place that is the important city of a country, the place where governments around the world send their people to set up embassies, I was totally disappointed in the place and will say that the worst place I have ever been in the world.The pavements, if you can call them that, was all broken up where trees planted years ago had lifted pave stones and cracked them up, the traffic was worse then Bangkok and crossing the roads was impossible and there was no where that you could cross, like traffic lights or zebra crossing. Pedestrians are classed as a nuisance by drivers and no one will stop. Most buildings were in a bad state of repair and the decent ones seemed to be banks. The independent monument, which was a national monument to be respected and adored was in a park in the centre of the city that might have at one point looked really nice but not nowadays. I did pay to go inside to look at the ‘museum’ which was a part of it but no thought had been given in how it should look and it was just a bunch of drawings on the outside of the room with a bit of description on the history of Indonesia. The english translations was really bad and I just wish I had a red pen so i could correct all of them. I guess you get the picture that I’m not a fan of Jakarta and the only saving grace was the hostel. Without doubt the best hostel I have stayed in, that only because of the place I extended for another 2 nights. The owners were 2 Irish blokes who made the effort to know everyone in their place and they remembered everyones name, gave them advice of what to see, they obviously loved the city, but I didn’t get their enthusiasm for Jakarta. I went out twice more to explore the place and to be honest nothing changed my mind about Jakarta. Once was to go and see the back streets and get a better feel of the place and ended up in a museum of where the Independence speech was thought about and written. The speech was only about 3 lines and they had a museum dedicated to it in the house it was conceived. A room where they thought about it, a room where they wrote it and a room where they practiced saying it. Thats not a museum! The second time was to go to see a football match for the last game of the Premier league and was taken to the posh and expensive end of Jakarta. I went with another Brit but at £8 a pint, it was out of our price range and after the match finished we went back to the hostel, especially as everyone was dressed in trousers and shirts and there we were in shorts and t-shirts, a few disapproving looks was thrown our way.

So Jakarta was done and time to go to the next place which had been recommended by one of the backpackers as she was heading down that way so a train ride to Yogyakarta, which half way across Java and when I got off at the train station it was pouring down with rain and no taxis. Can Indonesia not get any worse for me? Eventually I flagged down a ‘tuk tuk’ gave him the address of the hotel that I was staying in and pedalled away till we arrived. The hostel was classed as a homestay, and down a back alley and once inside it was a little bit bare but homely. I met up with Mary who I had met at Jakarta and she gave me the lowdown on the town and again I wasn’t impressed. As usual, when I arrive at new places I was tired and hungry. Mary gave me directions to a restaurant which I went to and asked for chicken and rice, my new staple diet, which was served as a pile of rice with no sauce and a scabby looking piece of cooked chicken. I was booked for 3 nights there and was regretting it already.

First full day was spent looking round the royal palace which was so run down that i actually felt sorry for the royal family, and wondered why they were in Yogyakarta and not in Jakarta? Then Mary had planned on going to the Silver Road where she had booked a lesson on how to make jewellery and showing me on google that there was coffee shops in the area I decided that I would go with her and drink lattes while she made ear rings and necklaces. Grabbing a local bus we walked round for about an hour trying to locate where the studios were and not one coffee shop was around. Once she had found the place I made my excuses to go back to the hostel as I was getting more and more annoyed with the town! However the bus driver taking me back forced me off the bus a few stops early and I did not have a clue where I was and that made me hate the place even more. Another hour of walking around until I found a cafe that had wifi so I could get the maps up and get directions to where I wanted to go to. 2 miles away!!! Time for a ‘tuk tuk’ as I was tired and hot! and straight back to the hostel, refusing to go out.

I was persuaded the next day to go and see the local famous temple which I agreed to for some reason. I’ll admit that it was impressive but the lack of any information around the temple didn’t give us any history of the place and the locals had a habit of asking the girl i was with or me or even both of us to have our photographs taken with them. They were fascinated with westerners and one girl got so excited that she was having a selfie with the western girl she was almost in tears. Very strange bunch of people and sort of distracted us from enjoying ourselves looking around. I mean, we are tourists as well like them! Leave us alone….. It was at that point that I knew I had to leave and head for the next place in Indonesia and I knew that it would be more civilised as it was Bali, a major tourist place that would be heaven compared to what I’d seen in the last week. The flight was booked when I got back to the hostel and it was to leave the next day early…. perfect!!


9th June 2015

enjoying your posts
Hi Geordie, I'm enjoying reading your posts and blog and following your travels, it's a Shame you didnt like Jakarta .. Always wanted to visit myself. Not sure now! HOPE Bali is better and you get your feet sorted! Not fun being ill in these places. We just escaped Burundi and troubles there .. Poor people putting up with crap presidents .. Back in Geneva with two Congolese cats we've dragged everywhere with us.. Wondering what to do next .. You know the feeling! Continue to have fun! xx

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