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No wonder guys never ask for directions

INDONESIA | Monday, 26 January 2015 | Views [476]

No rain; freak occurance. Beer in hand; standard proceedure.

No rain; freak occurance. Beer in hand; standard proceedure.

PART 1: On the plane. Who ever gets an emergency exit row all to themselves? I've got more space on this plane than I had in my Bangkok hotel room. And this is a tiger flight, infamous for turning coach into a daisy-chain with 3 inches of padding separating each head of cattle. The only problem with that arrangment is if the chilli-chang IED rumbling away in my colon goes off, I'm not going to be able to offer much assistance locked in the toilet.

Check-in Cindy must have wanted to reward me for my camping out style of queing up so early. She wasn't selling the next model iPhone, but I have to avoid all extra expenses like missed flights, given how graciously I have contributed to Thailands economy in the last 5 days. I have been a disappointing push over when it comes to haggling, a fact confirmed by sellers waving and smiling every time I walk back past their stall.

My grasp of Thai was always more ceremonial than practical, but I often used what I could for bargaining. “How much?” (Tao rai, khrap) “Rip off!” (Peng pai, khrap) then I'd open with something about half their offer and wait for their histrionics about have to feed a starving family to subside. My compassion (see gullibility) often gets the better of me even if I suspect they probably have a different pitch for every customer. They often notice the waivering of my bottom lip, sensing weakness and suggest a price higher than the first offer. I don't have the heart to be ruthless and haggling over a few dollars when they probably do have a starving family to feed seems extremely petty.

Not only do I forget the numbers in Thai, I also forget their value and find myself paying for the starving family to take a weeks holiday at the beach as well. Tip 1. Don't buy cold climate gear in a warm climate country. I ended up paying $75 for some thermals at MBK. Admittedly they are made from bamboo, but I've got no idea how that could benefit anyone other than a panda. Tip 2. Know how much something costs back home so you don't end up paying the same price, or more, in a country that specialises in cheap, knock off branded crap. I bought a North Face day back for $30 when I could have got something less flashy, but more durable from any op shop. Tip 3. Don't leave figuring out Tip 2 till after you've left home.

Shopping hijinx aside, I still have little to relate at this point of the trip. The only thing Tiger provides for entertainment though, is the disgusting food menu that every other flight offers as complimentary, even if it is an insult to your well-being. And a spew bag, a mutually inclusive arrangement if ever there was one. I might as well do a bit of yoga, or some break-dancing. I'd do another prison cell workout if my deltoids weren't still zinging like I'd copped a couple of Laney's corkies to both arms. I could even sling a hammock if I had have bought one after being offered them every five minutes by the same guy last night. A few more beers and I would have bought one to McGyver up a noose for him.

Instead, I'm going to spread out as much as the human anatomy permits and write pre-emptively about an upcoming drama. I am flying to Jakarta, one of the biggest cities on the planet, and apparently just a written address is not going to be enough for a taxi driver to figure out how to get to Claires house, she of “Burnie, bogans and a burger bargain” fame. We had to have a 30 minute skype chat detailing all variables and their combined probability in seeing me end up on the wrong side of the country instead. And Jakarta is currently experiencing a light moonsonal sprinkling, which really means I may have to catch a canoe instead of a taxi.

PART 2: Getting woefully lost. Traveling is all about adaptability. Even the best laid plans can come unstuck when confronted with the reality of different languages, cultures, timezones, and views on speedos. The future can be prepared for, not dictated to. If your travel plans are fixed and not malleable, you'll find out pretty to quickly what the universe thinks of rigidity. Hint, it's not held in the same high regard as what it is by a porn star.

After so much leg work looking for a handbag for Claire in MBK, my dodgy foot had implored me to scoff some tramadol for the long day in transit. As well as being a strong anesthetic, it has the rather pleasant side effect of being an extremely effective mood enhancer. It's consumption was made rather redundant by having my own lounge suite to fly on, but I arrived in Indonesia pretty stoked with making it to both flights on time, seeing my dear friend Claire again and well, just the wonderous joys of existence.

The customs and visa process was the easiest I have ever experienced. It was so straight forward, I find even more baffling that Schapelle Corby got busted bringing drugs into the country. She had 4.2kgs in a boogie board bag if I remember correctly. Was she smoking some of it in the airport? Did she try and sell some to the customs guy? Honestly, they were the most polite staff ever, treating me so courteously that I thought they must have been on tramadol as well.

I utilised my usual approach when I land in a new country and only one taxi shark tried their luck with me. The secret is to walk purposefully in any direction and stride along like you're having banana shake withdrawal symptoms. Being over 6 feet tall, covered in tattoos and employing the Billy Idol snarl helps ward off unwanted interest too. This obviously doesn't work if you walk too far and still have no idea what you are doing. Walking back past the same touts three times results in giggles and stares increasing in direct correlation to the cost of their services if you have to resort to using them.

Fortunately, I found the taxi service I wanted easily enough. Old mate couldn't understand a word I said, but seem to recognise at least half of the directions I had written down. The only thing I understood of his was 'Speak Indonesian?” He repeated that at least a dozen times spinkled within whatever else he was waffling on about, and me being completely non-plussed somehow didn't answer that question for him.

As my first contact with an alien language, I tried to get Mr. 'Grinning like he's had 10 tramadols' to teach me some Bahasi. “Hello” I chirp, while waving perfunctorily. “Indonesian?” I then enquire hopefully. He repeats the hello and wave so enthusiastically that he looks like a recording of me stuck on an infinite loop. Five minutes later he's still waving at me saying “Hello” so much that I'm worried his pantomime is more important than finding my destinaton.

And it was because he found a landmark near Claires and then gestured that he was giving up and wanted me to show him the way. We were two turns from where I wanted to be so I concurred. After speeding by the first turn because the road sign was helpfully facing the wrong direction, we u-turned, found the next turn easily enough and badaboom-badabing, I was at Claires apartment.

Hold on Harry. Why is this part called 'getting woefully lost' when you only missed one turn” I imagine you saying, like I hope someone is actually paying that much attention to what I write. The following day I had to wait for the monsoonal tempest to subside so I could walk to the school where Claire teaches.

Speaking the same language, one would assume Claires directions would be rather straight forward. Here is not the place to debate whose grasp of the English language was worse, as Claire and I have done that enough since and I will was far more willing to do that while sore, tired and drenched in sweat. Let's just say that I had far more luck communitcating with Mr. 'Never heard of a GPS' taxi driver using charades and pleas to stop waving hello at me. Anyway, it meant I probably got to see a lot more Jakarta street life through a haze of traffic smog and monsoonal humidity than if I had have intentionally set out to wander every street in a kilometre radius of Claires house.

So much aimless wandering has necessitated the administration of another two tramadols today. Combining that with my usual caffeine euphoria means I am going to stop writing now just so I can soak up the joys of traveling, hanging out with Claire, breathing, whatever, while I grin good-naturedly at every person fortunate enough to walk passed Simple Jack.

Tags: airports, drugs, friends, language, lost, planes, taxi

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