Travel Day/Night One:
We checked in with Lion Air at the Singapore Airport and headed to our gate. The interesting thing about this airport was that you didn't go through security at the beginning before entering your terminal. Rather, every two or three gates had their own smaller security checkpoints. Therefore, before heading into the gate, mom and I had a beer at the cactus garden bar on the roof (very random, but I guess this outdoor space on the decks and roofs is common?). Our flight to Jakarta was quick and easy, only about an hour and a half. The culture here is very different here about the etiquette of waiting for people to pass or saying excuse me. Everyone just rushes for the door, gate, exit, whatever it may be, a don't seem to care who they push out of the way in the process. Dan continually reminds us that we can't get mad at them because that's just their culture and they don't see it as being rude. We made it through our visa purchases and immigration in under ten minutes. A process that has always taken Dan over two hours in the past. The redesign for foreigners is extremely helpful and speeds up the process.
Once again we were greeted with warnings about the death penalty for drug trafficking. There was one sign with offenders who were awaiting the death penalty and the amount of drugs they had been caught with. As we left the airport we were hounded by different people wanting us to take their cab. Thankfully Dan knew what he was doing and spoke the language because mom and I definitely would have been ripped off. We took about an hour cab ride to the hotel and checked in. This hotel was really nice and Dan said he rarely saw "this side of Jakarta".
Mom was tired and so Dan and I went out to meet his friends for dinner and then went out for drinks after. It was nice to finally meet some of Dan's friends and experience where he used to go out and drink while he lived in Jakarta. It was really interesting to Hear them talk about their perception of the US, especially the hot topic of Jersey Shore, Snooki, and GTL. I felt so ashamed that this is one of the only things they brought up about the culture in the states. One of Dan's friends had their driver drop us off at our hotel on the way back. Apparently, you could have a driver here for less than $100 a month. Will update more later.
We got up early because we had another busy day ahead of us. We only had one full day in Jakarta and with the traffic in between places Dan wanted to show us, it didn't leave much time. My most vidid memory of Jakarta will always be the traffic and motorcycles. Motorcycles everywhere. Hundreds at each stop light, weaving in and out of the cars. Mom said she will always remember the buzzzzzz of all the bikes all day long wherever you went.
We had breakfast at the hotel and then began our walk to the National monument. We all had to go to the ATMs so we went to two different malls to accommodate the different banks (thankfully HSBC is here too). We were waiting for Dan's friend Rodney to meet up with us so we stopped into a Starbucks to get out of the drizzle. It's crazy how half way around the world, Starbucks still looks exactly the same, down to the tall, grande, venti on the menus.
The national monument is a large statue in the center of a large park surrounded by a gate. As we approached the gate, there were people selling souvenirs and toys along the sidewalk. It also seemed like a popular place for field trips because we saw many groups of kids all in different uniforms. Seeing the teacher's exhaustion did not make me miss when we take our entire third grade on the subway to the Museum of Natural History. One man selling post gave us a brief history of the monument because we clearly were confused. Dan and Rodney had both lived here for over three years and had never visited it, so they were not much help with the background of it. He explained that it was built as a sign of independence in honor of one of their leaders. Because he had four wives, apparently the joke is that the statue is supposed to be shaped like an erection. The man convinced us not to wait in the line to climb to the top of the monument. He said it was too crowded and basically a waste of time. We headed for National Museum which was on the outskirts of another side of the park. A man selling popsicles said that the closest exit was all the way back where we had come from, but if we wanted to we could climb through a hole in the fence we could. Dan pointed to his stomach and asked if he was going to fit through. The man pointed to his popsicle cooler and said you should be able to because he fits it through. Dan sucked it in and made it through. Thankfully too because it was hot and we didn't want to walk all the way back.
The museum was well....a museum. It was interesting to see all the statues and artifacts but I think the thing I will remember most was the man standing barefoot on the bamboo scaffolding painting the walls in the courtyard.
The travel book Dan bought us said there weren't many tourist attractions in Jakarta and by 1:00 we had already seen two of the three top ones they suggested. We next hopped in a cab and headed to the Dutch Quarter which the book warned has not been well preserved. The buildings reflected Dutch architecture and were distinctly different from the rest of the city. However, as you looked around the square many roofs had sunken in and facades were worn down. Mom continually questioned why there isn't a preservation committee to help maintain these building but Dan described that because the country is so corrupt whatever government money probably should've gone to that ended up in the hands of a government official instead. For example, Dan told us that $30 billion dollars was given to Indonesia by the UN and $10 billion is still unaccounted for.
We had lunch at a famous restaurant called Batavia in the square. It was in a lavish building with artwork everywhere. As the waiter showed us to our table he took two picture frames off the wall and placed them on our table. A bit confused we then realized that the menus were glued to the back of the frames. And guess who he picked for me? George Bush Sr. How appropriate...or not. The lunch was great and it was nice to cool down. Dan had talked about how bizarre the men's bathrooms were prior to going in. He described them as a mirrored wall you go against and grates in the floor. He showed me and it was so strange, who would want to go there?
The traffic in this city is absolutely unimaginable. It took us an hour and a half to get back to the hotel and it wasn't even that far of a drive. (maybe union square to Columbus circle?) The unorganized streets and one ways force you to drive a long distance and then turn around just to get going in the direction you want. Not only is the traffic bad, but the devastation you drive through makes it worse. There are children begging in the streets in between cars while their mothers wait on the side of the road for them to bring back money. Dan explained that some women will "rent" babies to hold so that people will feel more remorse and give them more money. It was heartbreaking. But as Dan said, "these still have cement and bricks, wait until you see the slums on the outskirts of the city on the train tomorrow". All in all we finally arrived back at the hotel and our cab ride was 75,000 rupia, or the equivalent of about $7.50. (for an hour and a half)
We had a quick swim in the pool and then Dan's friend, Dan, from the UK met us back at our room. Dan just got married last weekend and was happy to get out of the house tonight to join us for dinner because his new mother-in-law was coming over to inspect their house. His wedding was the one Dan attended the night before his infamous flight to Singapore. We had some drinks in the room thanks to our duty free bottle stop and then headed out for dinner.
We were meeting up with Some more of Dan's friends at one of their favorite seafood spots. The restaurant was in an outdoor plaza with live music (you don't know Sweet home Alabama until you've heard it played by an Indonesian band. One that didn't make it to the main stage up the block). They ordered for us, and Tom even went to choose one of our fish to cook. We had calamari, three kinds of fish, eggplants, broccoli and other veggies. It was quite the feast shared family style. We had great conversation and it was wonderful to get to spend time with people Dan has lived with for years. After hours of eating, drinking and fun, the bill for ten people came to only $80. (don't worry dad, right in your budget for treating 10 people to dinner).
Early train tomorrow to Yogyakarta.