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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

The Big Durian

INDONESIA | Tuesday, 14 October 2014 | Views [1247]

As I stepped off the bus with my heavy bags, the searing heat and humidity bit hard! I had no clue where I was and I thought I was reasonably close to Amiel's flat but it turned out I was way off, and I was out of rupiah until I could get to an ATM. My only option was to take an ojek to Amiel's flat and then get some money out when I got there. Jakarta is much like the rest of Indonesia: hot, icky, smoggy, polluted, and rubbish-strewn. The only differences are that the traffic is much heavier and there's loads of glittering shopping malls fitted out with the likes of Steve Madden, Aldo, and Nike (it makes me wonder how the average Indonesian can afford stuff like this). As I tried to get money from the ATM to pay the ojek driver a guy was standing over me, so I borrowed some rupiah from Amiel, my CS host. "The first thing I need is a shower" I said to Amiel as I felt really gross after two long bus rides totalling nearly 48 hours. All clean I then needed a long nap in an air-conditioned room. The rigours of this journey have really gotten to me at times. Amiel offered me a breakfast of rice and corned beef and we chatted for a bit. He's from the Philippines and is a schoolteacher here in Jakarta. Like myself, he feels more comfortable living abroad than in his home country. Realistically, Jakarta is too hot and too big to walk or cycle around. Nicknamed "The Big Durian" (rumoured to be a spinoff of "The Big Apple") the Jakarta area is home to more than 28 million people; more than all of Australia! With a view from the 23rd floor of Amiel's flat I can see how polluted it is. There are shantytowns not far away and a thick blanket of smog in the near distance. Whilst I wasn't up for exploring, I wanted a massage and something to eat. Amiel was going out with friends, so we took a bajaj to the massage clinic. Even though Indonesians don't give a damn about time, they cancelled my appointment because I was five minutes late! We then walked to another place in the mall and they were closed. It was one of those days that I needed a massage regardless of the circumstances or how far I had to go. Luckily the place that cancelled on me earlier had a cancelled appointment for 4:30 so I was in! A two-hour massage at only 130,000 rupiah is utterly blissful! The environment is dark, cool, and perfect! Ahhhh, I felt rejuvinated! Afterward I was served a cup of ginger tea so powerful I couldn't drink the whole thing. On offer as well was complimentary soup and tea. Perfect! I arrived in Jakarta this morning all stressed, sweaty, and stinky, and now I feel like a new man. After a long massage it was time for something to eat. Wandering into the mall I had an abundance of choices. Jakarta, despite being very polluted and with not much to see, is regarded as a great place to eat out. Opting for pad thai I sat inside the mall and ate; good thing I did because I had to go back and ask for peanuts. Leaving the glittering shopping mall I walked past huge piles of rubbish and a slight stench in the air. It's safe to walk in Jakarta at night so there's no worry in that regard, but I did get lost going back to Amiel's flat.  

For the most part, Jakarta would be a culinary adventure more than anything else. The following day I would meet my friend Stephanie. We used to work at the supermarket together, her as a sushi chef and me as a cashier. I didn't know she was in Jakarta until the other day. It was too hot to explore and we didn't meet up until the evening. Taking the TransJakarta to the mall was an adventure as well as being sardine-packed. Good thing I left early because it took an hour and a half to go only about 10 km. Outside the shopping mall are huge piles of rubbish, yet after getting my bags X-rayed the situation changed drastically. With nearly every department store you can name, it's easy to forget that I'm not in New York or London. Stephanie greeted me with a big hug and then it was time to try some Indonesian specialties. The national dish is gado-gado: a slightly cooked salad-like concoction topped with rice crackers and peanut sauce. It's nice to find a national dish that isn't meat! Gado-gado is really tasty! After some tasty Indonesian fare I was up for a pizza and a Starbucks tipple. After many cups of instant coffee I was in dire need of Starbucks. It was really great catching up with Stephanie.

She's my highlight of Jakarta, and I'm sure she never expected to meet up with a foreign friend here. Amiel picked on me a bit tonight because I didn't take much of a chance to explore Jakarta, but I needed some R&R more than anything else. And besides, the heat, humidity, traffic, and smog are very off-putting when it comes to exploring. 

I would spend three days in Jakarta and that's enough. If you're travelling around rural areas of Indonesia it's a great place to recharge your batteries but it's not a destination in its own right. Getting into The Big Durian would be a piece of (durian) cake but getting out would be a mission. I had to take a taxi and then two TransJakarta buses to two different train stations, only to find out that the cheapest train fares were sold out. Doing some pleading and calling Stephanie to be my interpreter, I was told I had to wait until 6 PM to buy a business class ticket. Thankfully I was able to get a ticket early but the train for Yogyakarta wouldn't leave until 9 PM, and I was hoping to be there by this evening. I did manage to get one nice photo of a war monument.

This is just outside the train station. The wait for the train was several hours and there's an air-conditioned waiting room. I thought I had lost my ticket but I forgot I put it in my wallet. The train would depart from the darkness of Jakarta at 9 PM sharp but it wouldn't be the most comfortable ride. Even in the middle of the night the lights are not dimmed so there'd be no opportunity to sleep. 

Although Jakarta has its good parts, it has more than its share of bad as well! The two-hour massage and an abundance of good food were the highlights but The Big Durian comes as another in a long list of Indonesian disappointments.


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