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Published: March 24th 2006
Every once in a while I like to have a quick look around the countryside without numbing my behind on the hard seat of a crowded rickety bus or elbowing my way through often hopeless crowds at railway stations. But best of all I enjoy flying short domestic legs on exotic airlines, the stranger their logos or hopelessly odd their aircraft the better. Indonesia is serviced by a great number of domestic airlines, most of them making use of the ubiquitous Boeing 737-200, presumably inherited from larger airlines such as Garuda or Malaysian that got sick of them or bankrupted. My favourite trick is collecting time tables and trying to puzzle together an itinerary that will take me in a sweeping circle back to my starting point within the same day. It is no easy task, as airlines like to shift their time tables, and once you find some flights that match up you can be sure that one leg will be fully booked spoiling the whole set up and forcing you back to the drawing board. My luck with the planning from Jakarta was exceptionally poor this time, as the time tables really would require me to spend time overnight
Sucking Jambi dry!
Amazingly there was still some refined black gold left for us.
hunting for accomocation in places that did not appeal to me until finally I found two flights that were compatible.
The target in question was Jambi, capital of the Jambi province and home to roughly half a million souls. The airport mainly services the oil and paper industry in town, there is not much reason for touristing there. The morning flight courtesy of Batavia
would leave me stranded in this place for some four hours or so, until the returning flight with Sriwijaya
. After consulting with the LP I decided to set up a little expedition to the nearby jungle temples at Muara Jambi.
As I usually like to complain about in the blog, this means that I had to wake up early this morning and that in turn means restless sleep. I remember having bad dreams about work(!) until being woken up around 4 am by this recurrent "Plop!" sound. After ignoring it for a while I finally get up to investigate what is going on and find that something in the ceiling is leaking water onto the bathroom floor. I place a newspaper at the floor to cushion the sound a bit and head back to
Ronaldo pointed it out to me but I can't remember what it was.
uneasy sleep, until finally getting out and hitting the street around 8 am. A Bluebird taxi drops me off at the domestic terminal and I take the opportunity to collect timetables from a whole slew of airlines, including a new set-up which offers a daily flight to Sorong, a place that I have been very interested in for a while. The domestic terminal is quite small and most interesting of all, the gates are like a group of open air shelters connected by suspended walkways. The atmosphere is very relaxed but unfortunately the views of the airport are pretty bad.
The flight is quick and comfortable and before long I have arrived at the Jambi airport arrival hall. As is often the case in Asia, the airport seems very small in comparison to the population it serves. The weather looks a bit grey and dull and I hope it is not going to rain. I approach the airport taxi service counter and begin sketching a drawing of my intended roundtrip to Jambi, and before long I have drawn a small crowd. Everybody is convinced that I am a businessman and when they finally understand that I am on a
mission of touristing they light up and everybody starts exclaiming "Jalan Jalan!"
. They assure me it won't be a problem to reach Muara Jambi and head back in time to my afternoon departure flight, requiring roughly an hour in each direction. I rent a cab and an young man named Ronaldo beckons me to follow him to his monstruous Toyota SUV and off we go. I draw a sigh of relief that it turned out so easy.
Before we can make the trip we have to fill 'er up, and that involves circling around town looking for petrol stations that can deliver the goods. The first two Pertamina
service stations are dry, it is not until we stumble on a third that we get lucky, even though we have to wait in a long line of thirsty vehicles. This is a good way to do some sight seeing of Jambi, although it isn't particularily exciting. We spend the time chatting a bit on rusty English and I learn that much like most the young men I meet on trips Ronaldo is married with kids back home and expects me to be as well. When fueling is complete we speed
Driving through cozy villages
Looks like it is going to rain
off along the narrow road leading into the countryside. The road is almost constantly lined with houses, many standing on poles a meter above ground level or so, new villages constantly replacing each other. At regular intervals little mosques will appear. The roadside is of course also home to the roaming goats, sheep, cows, ducks, dogs, cats and the whole area seems very idyllic. Idyllic that is, until our big Toyota comes along kicking up dust and scaring animals and people of the road with a blaring horn.
After about 50 minutes or so we leave the main road for a smaller dirt road that leads up to the Muara Jambi temple complex just as a light rain begins to fall over the area. Ronaldo and I leave the car and walk out into the complex. However, it seems that the LP is a bit off the mark when it comes to giving this place a proper description. Apparently this is the most important Hindu-Buddhist site in Sumatra and according to the author it is easy to spend all day here. I failed to embrace the atmosphere of history and had enough in approximately twenty minutes or so. The
main section is basically a number of rectangular orange stone structures in a grassy field. What you make of it is of course up to you, but to me a few photographs were pretty much all I could get out of the place. Mission now accomplished I decided we might as well not waste more time here and head back to the airport, especially as the rain was not giving up any time soon. It turned out to be a good idea because as we headed back to town a good deal of the population had dragged out their motorbikes and bicycles for an unlikey spontaneous 60th Anniversary parade, bascially involving clogging all the streets with funky bikes decorated in red and white.
I would like to go back to Jambi province some time for a more thorough look at it, especially wandering those little roadside villages with houses on poles would be interesting. For now though, I was quite happy to return to Jakarta on another comfy 737-200 leg, this time flying over a number of the Thousand Islands north of Jakarta. Definitely another idea for an excursion. As we arrived back in Jakarta I decided I might
as well purchase my onward flight to Bangkok from the Garuda office over at the international terminal, and then head back downtown per Damri airport coach. As I had just purchased my ticket I was unlucky to miss a bus by half a minute or so and ended up outside the terminal waiting for almost an hour for the next. The Damri coaches are great, I only wish they would extend the service a bit. Arriving at Gambir railway station downtown again I now easily navigate my way outside and flag down a metered taxi outside the station compound. A metered ride it turns out cost about half of what the drivers ask for at the station.
Finally arriving at the Acacia Hotel my total excursion for enjoying two short haul flights has been well over twelve hours and I am beginning to feel the fatigue creeping up on me. I quickly head outside to the convenience store nearby to stock up on some breakfast foods and then order up a big bowl of Mie Jawa noodles for supper, just smiling broadly thinking about how I can sleep like a log the coming morning.
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