Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta

I got an email the day of flight letting me know that due to “updating” at the Colombo airport I needed to arrive at least 5 hours before my flight. I decided to be a sensible grown up and arrived 6 hours before the flight. Whizzed through the bag searches and x-rays that were set up upon entrance to the airport and went to check in………. to discover the check in didn’t open for another 2 hours!
So much for the at least 5 hours before the flight email!
A pleasantly uneventful flight to Jakarta followed, via Kuala Lumpur and I arrived in Indonesia for the second time.
Being really sensible I decided to change my Sri Lankan Rupees when I got to Jakarta having read the airport money changers gave very good rates……….. They do, for Euros Dollars and Stirling. After getting the hump with the poor guy at the counter I did some online research only to discover that like India, Sri Lanka doesn’t export its currency. Really should have checked that before I left! I’m now lumbered with £100 of useless money!!!!
A quick taxi ride took me to my Capsule hostel, each bed had its own alcove  complete with light, plug and table. Effectively your own tiny little hotel room, a really great idea as it offers you a good amount of privacy.
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The flight had left me exhausted, id been awake nearly 24 hours and as I lay in bed I found myself becoming increasingly negative. Sri Lanka had left me really lonely, Id love it there but missed company, I was getting fed up of meeting interesting people for 1 day only to say goodbye. I admit I found myself looking at flights home and looking at what work was available should I come home.
I was really down and negative and couldn’t quite understand why. This was just adding to my annoyance and became a bit of a vicious circle. I headed to the roof garden for a quick vape before attempting some sleep.
As I was sitting alone on the rooftop I was invited over by two people who were sat chatting, An Australian named Rob and an Egyptian girl called Noha. They then sat listening to me bitch and grumble about life and were fantastic. Rob got me a beer and soon the negativity was flowing away, we were just new people meeting and getting to know each other.
I went to bed that night after 3 hours chatting with the two of them in a much better frame of mind. Robs work was similar to my own so were able to have a conversation that was away from the generic backpackers greetings “where are you from?” “how long you been here?” “where were you before this?” and the like.
The next morning on my way out the door to get a celebratory McDonalds (celebratory as it was beef and not chicken) I again bumped into Rob and we agreed to go explore the city when I got back.
Off into Jakarta we went. Jakarta is the biggest city in Indonesia and like many cities within Asia is crowded loud and busy. However I loved it. Everyone was happy to say hello, ask for a photo and just stop for a chat (without asking for money or asking you to their shop etc) there seemed no ulterior motives to their friendliness. The roads, while busy, weren’t filled with the insistent beeping that plagued India and Sri Lanka, people slowed down to let pedestrians past. While there was rubbish along the paths it was no where near the levels id gotten used to over the previous 3 ½ months.
I’m unsure if its just better hidden, or if I was in the wrong areas but the poverty seemed that much lesser than India and Sri Lanka, I saw very few beggars and strangers asking for cash.
Our trip to the city first took us to a museum, a museum about a bank. Yes your read that right, a banking museum. It was as interesting as it sounds. Ohhhh some old safes, what’s that? An old telling machine, Yippee.
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We realised our mistake quickly upon entering but were stuck in the one way system and had to follow it through to the end.
The next museum we visited was much more interesting, it featured several old Indonesian puppets, a traditional form of entertainment.
Rob however made the mistake of getting roped into a private tour from an eager museum employee and got himself a detailed lecture on Karma and previous visitors rather than about the puppets on show!
We grabbed a few beers and lunch before heading to the Indonesian National Monument or MONA as its known locally. This 130m spire is a celebration of the Independence of Indonesia from the Dutch in 1950.
We headed back to the hostel, where we met with Noha. She had made a couple new friends, a Canadian named Austin and a German called Johanna. We soon christened Johanna Schmetterling thanks to her German accent and this video
Schmetterling was soon shortened to Schmetters or Schmets as the beer flowed. While Noha was due to fly home in the coming days the other 3 were all going my way. We made plans to travel together to the next few stops. Id not had this since Rajasthan, 3 months previously! A far cry from the despair and loneliness id left 24 hours previously!
We ended up that night in a Sky bar with wonderful views over the Jakarta skyline and lovely if expensive drinks. I admit I may have over indulged that night as evidenced by the 4am McDonalds and Strawpedoing of my last drink!
The next day I got up and went for a walk with Schmetters before getting back to the hotel and discovering Austin had bailed on us and fucked off in the early morning!! He mustn’t have been impressed by the impressive drinking we had displayed the night before! Schmetters and Rob were still on though so off they went to book train tickets while I went to meet Drew, a work colleague who had emigrated over to Jakarta last year.
With my hangover in full and Drew having an early start we had arranged for a quick beer and a catch up, this soon turned into 5 or 6 beers and a great chat about life the world and everything. Drew is a fascinating chap who is very well travelled and was able to give me some great advice, he is even a published author who has published books about his own travels.
It certainly gave me a few ideas about this blog.
I got back to the hostel worse for wear only to find everyone else upstairs playing cards with a few beers, well it would be rude not to join in right?
I woke up for the second day in a row with a stinking headache! As I was packing my bag ready to make the train I realised my entire stash of Vape juice had gone walkies!! I was so pissed off! £200 of juice that was meant to last me another 5 months!!! Fortunately Indonesia is progressive enough to have embraced vaping so there were shops to buy more.
Cigarettes as so cheap here so almost everyone can be found with a fag on the go, its great to see that vaping is being offered as a viable, if more expensive alternative.
Our train took us over to Bandung, a city two hours to the east of Jakarta, I hadn’t initially planned to come here but as the others were going I jumped on the band wagon.
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We got comfy at our hostel before going for an explore around, with the main intention being to post home some items and get some new vape stuff, a quick pub stop had to be thrown in aswel!
We got back to the hostel with every intention of a relaxed early film night, we managed one episode of Angry Boys before realising we had one full day and hadn’t arranged to do anything with it. The hostel offered a moto taxi tour which took us to all the sights we had wanted to see so we started talking to the night guard who arranged everything. As  Schmets and Rob went to get some food I got chatting to Toto, the night guard.
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Satay is the greatest
He was a lovely man who seemed in absolute awe as I spoke about the UK and what was aloud, when Schmets and Rob got back and spoke about Germany and Australia he really seemed shocked at the ideas of unmarried couples living together, of out of wedlock kids etc.
Indonesia has the highest number of Practising Muslims in the world. It is a predominantly Islamic country. However despite what some in the media may like you to think, or some nameless orange world leaders may believe, not everyone walks around with a Burka, not everyone is a terrorist and not everyone shuns the idea of the west. In fact it couldn’t be more different. Toto loved the idea of the west. Ladies in Burkas work next to Ladies who wear very western styles, high heels and short skirts, and no one seems to judge the other.
It may sound silly but I saw a man sell sanitary items to a woman and condoms for sale on the counter tops at the local 7/11. It would be quite rare to see either of these things in India. Indonesia seems really progressive and open to both the teachings of Islam and the ideals of the west. With everything I am reading in the news about Bans and Registers it really heartens me to meet so many nice, kind and open minded people who just happen to have a different faith to me. If I have learnt one thing on this trip its this: People are the same all over, they want to raise a family, they want to be happy and they want to live their lives. Regardless of religion.
Rant over, back to Bandung. We woke the next morning to meet Toto, his brother and uncle. They would be our drivers for the day. We were a bit nervous as we knew Toto had done the night shift but he assured us he had had a good 3 hours sleep!
We each boarded our bikes and weaved through the morning traffic, 2 hours later and still on the back of the bike my ass was very very sore.
Our first stop was the white crater volcanic lake, it should look like this.
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However it looked like this……….
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I chose to come back to Indonesia due to the cheap flight from Colombo, having never experienced a rainy season I kind of expected it to be like the UK. A bit miserable, oh I couldn’t have been more wrong. The rain comes down so heavily and so quickly its unbelievable. Absolutely torrential .
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We could barely see the lake!! After a nice soaking we decided it wouldn’t clear up so went back to the bikes for a cold ride to our next stop, some hot springs. This was exactly what the doctor ordered for us poor shivering travellers. Warm water with a slight egg smell was so relaxing, made even more so by the rain falling on our heads. I love the feeling of being warm and submerged while its cold and wet on the surface, its kind of like saying fuck you nature.
A nice warm soak was made better by the Bintang Rob had ferreted away in his bag. We followed the warm soak by covering ourselves with some smelly sulphurous mud which is meant to be great for the skin. While the rain was probably heavy enough to wash it all over we couldn’t pass up the chance to get back in the warm water.
Fortunately the rain stopped enough to get dryish and get to a tea plantation for some great photos and views.
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We had planned to explore a really scenic lake but unfortunately the rain decided to come down even worse than before meaning you could barely see your hand in front of your face let along a landscape!
Toto must have seen how cold and miserable we all were so bought us an Indonesian dessert of fried bananas, cheese and chocolate. Its just so very tasty!
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With the rain showing no signs of stopping we got back on the bikes for a wet cold and miserable ride back to the hostel!
To perk ourselves up when we got back to the hostel we decided to do an Escape Room. With the help of another German guy we met at the hostel we proceeded to try and escape Mission Impossible. Well turns out we are no Tom Cruises as we were rubbish! We managed to get through 2 rooms when the clock ran out, thinking we had only missed out by one door and puzzle, how wrong we were, there was a whole other room we hadn’t even got to!!!
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Despite the rain and escape failure I went to bed that night and realised that id had one of the best days of my trip so far. Great company mixed with some fun activities.
We boarded a train over to Yogyakarta the next day. Yogyakarta is in the south of Java and has some great geological areas and some stunning temples.
We devoted a day to swimming and exploring and planning the next few days. A day of temples and a day of nature.
We woke at 3am to head over to Borobudur for the sunrise. Borobudur is a ancient Buddhist temple and is stunning, I worried id be templed out after India and sri lanka but Borobudur was a totally different style, beautiful stone domes litter the peak of 3 levels, while the outside consists of 5 other rampart style walls. Each bigger than the last creating a pyramid of statues and carvings. While the clouds and mist meant we didn’t see a sunrise it was still a great place to visit.
Our next temple was Prambanan again it was a totally different design to any other temple id visited, an earthquake hundreds of years ago had left much of it in ruins but this beautiful Hindu temple has been lovingly restored in parts over the years. We were approached by two trainee guides who took us around for free as part of their training. Unfortunately Schmets had been struggling for a lot of the day with a stomach bug so I’m not sure she enjoyed it too much.
When we got back to the hotel, we were all exhausted, but due to the early start it was only 1pm! Schmets retired for the day to try recover while Rob and I went out for satay.
All the weight ive lost in India and Sri Lanka is going to come right back here in Indonesia. The food suits my pallet perfectly, Nasi Gorang (rice) Mi Gorang (noodles) Satay (chicken sticks with a peanut sauce) plus some amazing snack and junk food!
We got up early the following morning ready for our tubing trip. We were unsure what to really expect, all we knew was we would get wet. A 2 hour drive took us to a cave and we were given a rubber ring and told to jump in the water. Unfortunately the rest of Indonesia had the same idea for tubing that day and the cave was completely filled with hundreds of people floating along in rubber rings. It was similar to the traffic situation!!! The cave was a bit ruined by the congestion, however our guide took us to a rock, cleared an area for us and told us to jump in! We became small kids jumping and flipping into the water, much to the amusement of the passing Indonesians in their rings.
We thought this would be the end of the trip but no, the second part of the tubing experience was on a white water river. Fortunately there were a lot less people here and we were sent down the fast flowing river clinging onto each other rings for dear life! This was a lot more fun than the lazy congested cave!
We stopped off at another rock and out guide showed us a platform about 12M up and asked if we wanted to jump off this one? Why the heck not! Rob and I clambered up a ladder/waterfall and made our way to the jump! It looked bloody high, down we went, the fall seemed to take forever and was great fun, unfortunately the flow of the river meant we could only jump in once.
Id heard really mixed things about tubing in Laos so was keen to see what this was like. I wasn’t disappointed and really enjoyed myself!
Rob and Schmets are stuck with me for a few more days as we have booked a trip over to Mount Bromo and the volcanic lands that surround it.
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