Wednesday, July 14, 2010

some Indonesian junk

After a few days in Ban Phe, including a wicked-awesome karaoke night with Annie, who was back in town for a few days, I flew to Indonesia.

They turned on a fog machine for my grand rockstar entrance onto the plane and everything!


Because I would arrive in the middle of the night, I booked a room ahead of time. Behold!


I did not plan much about this trip. I knew how to get out of Jakarta (by train) and that I wanted to go to Yogyakarta and see the temples at Borobudur and Prambanan. I figured that Jakarta, being big and dirty and one of the most polluted cities on Earth, was not worth my attention. I was totally wrong.

I came back from Stasiun Gambir in a tuk-tuk after buying my ticket for the following day. Tuk-tuks in Jakarta have ragtops and cute little carnival-ride doors.


When I got back to my room, I took a bubble bath with an extremely overpriced Cosmo I had purchased in the airport. I went out to get something to eat, thinking I would eat dinner, go back to my room and pack, and then read until I went to bed. I was not interested in Jakarta, and I did not bring my camera. Such folly!

I visited a row of restaurant stalls next to my hotel, and passed one with plates of fried deliciousness that looked like meat in the window. I kept walking until a fellow beckoned me to try some cake, and I said I'd like some cake for dessert but was looking for dinner. Where should I go? He led me back to the place with the golden window-food and ordered a plate of vegetarian deliciousness for me.

The food, he explained, is from West Sumatra. I had a potato dumpling thing, a boiled egg, and a pile of vegetables on rice with chili. It was fantastic. I talked to my new friend, Said, about things I didn't know about Indonesia and Islam, which was a lot about Indonesia and Islam. I didn't have room for cake but went back to his stand for some guava-lemon juice and then he showed me around the old city and explained the big old Dutch buildings, many of which are now museums. Some are posh restaurants or bars, but a lot of them are just abandoned, with trees growing inside them in the middle of the city. I guess a city only needs so many museums, and Jakarta has a heck of a lot of museums.

I didn't have my camera, of course, but here's an example seen from my taxi the next day.


And then we had authentic Javanese powdered coffee on a sidewalk in the old city. (I had tea, actually. You know me.) It was illuminating. The moral of this story: learn something about a place before you go there. I did plenty of research on Thailand, Cambodia and Laos before visiting, but very little on Indonesia except for how to get around. I'm very glad that I met someone who showed me some of the city, but next time I would certainly plan to spend more time in Jakarta to see all there is to see.

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