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Getting some sort of lovin' from Indonesia

INDONESIA | Friday, 30 January 2015 | Views [636]

Claire getting in the way of another nice photo

Claire getting in the way of another nice photo

For a place that sells non-alcoholic Guinness, Jakarta isn't too bad a city. Zero ABV stout is a grave insult to all I hold dear but if a place didn't have quirks, even offensive ones, there would be no reason to leave home at all. Being the size it is, Jakarta has a lot of everything, well, possibly not social equality or high beer standards, but it seems like a pretty amazing place from what I have seen so far.

I was pumped to be here, but after 12 months working here, Claire wasn't, so the first thing we did was leave Jakarta. Thanks to conurbation, Bogor is the nearest tourist destination on a train line that isn't Jakarta. There are mountains there, but due to the wet season living up to its name, there was too many clouds to see them. Bogors main attraction is a huge botanical garden that looked verdant, serene, diverse and fascinating for the first hour. We perambulated around epic bamboo groves, marvelled at spectacular lotus ponds, got treated like celebrities by locals who place a lot more value in photos with strangers than what is legally allowed back home. The second hour we sat in a cafe and watched all the water that has ever been, fall from the sky, then somehow be repeated.

This left a lot unseen in a park that required days to exhaust, not hours, but eventually the rain eased enough for us to catch a train home, instead of the ark. Not before being booted off the prettiest pink carriage I've ever seen on a train. Claire and I were equally miffed as to why the carriage contained only women, and why they were all staring at us. Granted, staring is more common than not, but just to be safe, we struck poses of casual ignorance that comes all too naturally to foreigners. Before I could start whistling 'When Johnny comes marching home' to complete my look of childlike innocence, a guard came up and politely informed me that I was too manly to be on a females only carriage. Little did he know of my penchant for nail polish, soft fabrics and crying during movies. For a train attendant, he looked just like a military policeman, except for the jaunty white baton he sported. I chose not to plead my case with round of charades in case he wanted to work a few of my body parts into party mode with his disco stick.

Such social faux paus are par for the course when traveling. Less likely I thought, when traveling with a westerner who lives there. It's not uncommon for a traveler to do more touristy things in a week, than what an ex-pat does in a year. A traveler is there to see stuff, take enough photos to spend at least a day at home deleting most of them, soak up the culture, eat foods that the body will violently reject from one end or the other, and get some bragging rights with another stamp in their passport. Ex-pats are there to work. They probably didn't chose the country, it was where there was a job opportunity. Just because they are lucky enough to be earning a living in an exotic country doesn't necessarily compel them to do everything and anything a tourist would do if they had as much time.

Proving that point was a fun filled excursion around a shopping centre for me, another opportunity for Claire to lament all the foods she misses from home. I was baffled by $8 for a few pencil thin carrots, black corn that was less palatable than non-alcoholic guinness and Indo Mie 2 minute noodles being even cheaper than they are in Australia. It was culturally interesting, but a long way short of a holiday highlight, so we decided to let loose a little that afternoon. My foot was throbbing like I flatly refuse to make any jokes about it, and Claire had a headache from too many 1 litre mojitos last night so we had some tramadol and headed into Jakarta's seedy underbelly.

Blok M is the place for all things loose, licentious, and legally ambiguous. Sin city was obviously undergoing a baptismal cleansing thanks to the monsoonal rains and anything even vaguely promiscuious was well concealed from the unknowing party-goer wandering the streets in search of something mildly naughty. A slow dawdle through a park, marvelling at peaceful bamboo groves in the midst of a busy city, rare butterflies and an even rarer break in the rain compensated for a night of debauchery that could have equated to just letting a deluge of rain fall directly into my wallet.

After a baffling walk up THE strip for nightclubs that was deserted and showed less promise than Indias World Cup cricket squad, we decided it must be a rare night off for pimps, pushers and prostitutes and they were all at home having a movie night. Unable to get up to anything even vaguely arrestable, we realised that it would be safer to take ourselves home to watch a movie as well, knowing Claire would only see the first 5 minutes of it anyway. And being proven right was small consolation when I fell asleep 5 minutes after. 30 something's really know how to paint a town red...... as long as it can be done in time to allow a good nights sleep.

The next day I gave myself Bali belly with my own cooking. How is that even posible? Trust me, if I knew, I'd have had old mate the hammock salesman over for dinner. It wasn't of the 'OMG the only thing left inside me is a skeleton' type and more of the “I'm going to stay within mad-dash to the toilet distance just in case”. Claire had to work, so I thought it was best to just give her couch a good seeing too. Given that not even a defibrillator could resuscitate my love life, I decided to see what Tinder is like in a foreign country.

Claire had used it with mixed results, but more as an opportunity to meet other ex-pats, rather than promiscious sex which I think the app was solely designed for. I'd had a sneaky peak or two while in Broome when my libido still retained a heartbeat, and wasn't surprised to find that the remote town had about 30 women using it, most of whom I already knew. Reducing the search radius in Jakarta to 5kms still brought up far more women than I could be bothered looking through. Unlike pretentious western women who only post profile pics that a cosmetic surgeon would use as advertising, Indonesian women seemed to adhere to a more honest approach. Their sales pitch was equally truthful. 'Chunky and curvy' caught my attention because she also says she is 'the one your Mother warned you about, then ran off with anyway'. “I'm a fatty and you know it” almost got a right swipe as well, but Claire's find takes the cake with “I'm just a snot-nosed, egotistical rude boy”. I will remain forever disappointed in Claire until she tries to meet up with that guy.

I didn't have to worry too much about using the internet to get some action as the next day, my luck changed completely. We had gone out for dinner that night and I just had to try the 'Vegetarian Wellington'. That sounded like my sales pitch on Tinder, but even though it was just a glorified pastie, it was delicious and gave me enough faith to visit places where I was unsure of a toilets whereabouts.

I caught a train into the city to do some sight-seeing and my exit from the station could have been the beginning of a fairy tale romance. This tale was more of the graphic Japanese manga style, than what disney would deem appropriate as I essentially got felt up on the escalator. At first, I thought the diminutive local in front of me was merely scratching his hip. And unfortunately for him, he was accidentally giving my junk a good nudge with his elbow. Then he did it so rigously, I thought he must have eczema. Then I realised it was no accident at all when he blatantly turned around and demonstrated his juggling skills. Had that not been the closest I had come to intimacy in 6 months, I would have picked up the mother fucker and straight up hurled him down the escalator.

That would have been a bit rude, especially seeing as I considered paying him for his troubles, and his efforts weren't as persistant as what I had experienced previously in 'A massage for mini-me'. Instead, I sternly said 'tidak' hoping that it meant 'no' and not 'please use my pants as a playground for your hands'. I thought my meanest snarl would cement my disapproval, and I employed the 'leg it like you know where you are going' technique as soon as I got out of the train station. Unfortunately I didn't know where the hell I was going and five minutes down the road, I stopped to try and get my bearings. Lo and behold, who should be ten paces behind me but Magic fingers McGee. “Fuck off pervert!” I growled and walked straight into 6 lanes of traffic hoping that copping another feel was not worth following me on what was tantamount to negotiating the last level of Frogger.

Confidence is usually integral to success, unless you're feeling up strangers, and all the cars parted like I was a modern day Moses. I didn't look back to see if old mate was determined enough to follow, but I strolled on weirdly conflicted by either taking comfort in knowing that someone out there still finds me attractive enough to cop a free feel. Or disturbed that I am desparate enough not to be completely outraged by it! Anyway, I'll try not to talk about my 'sex life' in the next journal and instead write about how I was treated like a celebrity on my city visits without the need to wear a cricket box.

Tags: bogor, ex-pats, gardens, jakarta, rain, tinder, trains

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