Well You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere

Right. We made it then. And if anyone ever finds themselves flying with Garuda Indonesia you probably will not be sad about it, especially if you like food and booze being handed to you by attractive people which is actually one of my favourite hobbies. Anyway, you know that thing where you know it’s going to be hot but you couldn’t possibly brace yourself for the level of hot you’re about to experience because you didn’t know hot like this existed outside of volcanoes? That. Okay, so I’ve probably been this hot before but you forget when you’ve just spent the last six months whinging incessantly about the cold. We cleared security and grabbed our bags within an hour then shuffled outside because we wanted to catch a bus run by a company called Damri, assuming we hadn’t melted into a dripping pool of useless by the time we located it, so I asked a chap with “Airport Helper” emblazoned across his cap where we could catch a bus.
“Bus?” he asked a little too quizzically for comfort.
“Yes, a bus.” I told him.
“Bus? What is bus?” he asked.
“Bus!” I repeated somewhat uselessly. “Damri bus?”
“Ah!” he exclaimed. “Damri! Bus! Yes!” He pronounced it like the southerners do. Y’know, not quite as a U, sort of an A to my northern ears. Yeah, one of those, buddy. It’s not my fault that literally everyone outside of the North West of England pronounces their bloody vowels wrong. I decided to let Tarrant do the talking from then on.

Obligatory just-landed application of beer to facehole. I think Bintang is going to be a staple over the next few weeks.

It’s Rp40000 from the airport to Gambir, and you just kinda hang around aimlessly until someone tells you which bus you need to get on which helpfully has “Gambir” written across the front. I’m so glad they use a Latin script here, it’ll make public transport about a thousand times easier than India. Once we were at Gambir though and ascertained that we couldn’t get a train from there to where we needed to be we were at the mercy of a lone taksi driver. That thing when you know full well you’re being ripped off but you’re shattered and melting and it’s dark and you have exactly fuck all idea of where you’d go to find a taxi with a meter. Of course he had one, he just refused to put it on. Whatever, you’re not travelling unless you get ripped off on your first day, right? The hostel is fine if a little out of the way, our taxi driver took us up a huge main road then turned off and took us down what seemed like a series of increasingly stabby alleys, and just as I was wondering if we’d make it out of this one with our internal organs in place I saw the illuminated sign for Teduh Hostel. Which translates as “shady”. Great. We had cold showers, applied the obligatory just-landed Bintang beer to our faceholes and crawled into bed in a gloriously air conditioned room.

Jakarta.

We have one full day in the Indonesian capital and sod all idea what to do with it. So you think you’re gonna spend the day walking around Jakarta? Nope. No you’re not. Well you could but every single H2O molecule in your body will seep out through your pores and you will die and your gooey remains will have to be shovelled from the pavement into a bucket. Fortunately there’s this bus network called Transjakarta and it’s the most wonderful thing to happen to my sweaty, out of shape carcass since I got to Indonesia, apart from nasi goreng, and more on that later. It’s kinda like a Metro with clear, colour coded routes and easy to follow maps, except it’s on the road instead of on the rails, and the buses are little snippets of air conditioned joy which you reluctantly leave as you carefully mind the gap between the bus and the platform. Not the kind of gap you’re used to on the London Underground though. It’s more of an abyss. The doors are just over a metre off the floor I guess, and the platforms where you wait obviously match height wise, but there’s often this gaping chasm when the doors open which results in trying to get from one side to the other as gracefully as someone being jostled from all sides can without falling. Tickets are also a piece of piss. We bought a pre-paid card which you can top up at manned stations. One card did for both of us, one of us tapped in then passed it to the other, then you tap out at the end. I think one journey costs Rp3500.

Sod off great big metal sculpture thingy outside the Museum Nasional.

Despite the badass transportation system we didn’t get a huge amount done on account of our own stupidity. We managed to get on the wrong bus a couple of times, or got off at the wrong stop which, guys, is fucking difficult to do. I’m gonna blame the loss off a significant percentage of my braincells on account of them melting out of my ear. Today we learned that “water” is “air” and it doesn’t matter how much you consume it’s not enough. We made it to the Museum Nasional which is worth a look even though half of it was closed. It’s basically a natural history museum but it focuses on Indonesia. All the fossils and skeletons of homo erectus that have been found around Java, right though to language, written language, law, and how each of these were influenced by the Chinese, the Dutch, Hinduism and Buddhism, the spread of Islam etc. There are loads of awesome artifacts. It’s pretty fascinating and it’s nice and cool inside and as far as I’m concerned the latter is worth the Rp10000 entrance fee.

Monument Nasional. Probably worth your time but take loads of water because getting across that fucking square is akin to trying to cross the desert in a Barney suit.

Once we were done with that we thought it might be nice to have a look at the fuck off great big monument in the massive square across the way. On the map it looks like you can enter and exit at any of the four corners but you can get that idea out of your head right now, sunshine. We got in just fine, then couldn’t for the fucking lives of us find a way out. Every bastard gate we got to was locked up and eventually we ended right back where we started, which would be great, if walking in Jakarta wasn’t as difficult as attempting jumping jacks in an oven. I still have no idea what the Monument Nasional is all about. I was too preoccupied wth trying to find water. We swung by a train station to buy a ticket for travel the next day (which is a lie, you don’t fucking swing by anywhere in Jakarta, you labouriously sweat your way there and hope you don’t pass out before you arrive) then got our starving selves to Jalan Jaksa (closest Transjakarta stop is Sarinah) to find some of this nasi goreng I’d heard so much about.

Nasi goreng: Where have you been all my life?

So it’s fried rice. But it’s fried rice that is somehow infused with the joy of mankind. I don’t know if it was just so wonderful because I was just about ready to eat a scabby dog, but it was great. I’m shit at food photos on account of the fact I pretty much start shovelling food into my trap like I was raised by fucking wolves or something before the plate even touches the table, so see above for a photo of half scoffed nasi goreng. We went for gokil which he told us meant it was spicier, and it very much was, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea given that it already felt like all of my cells had already taken on a kind of molten liquid form before I’d even sat down. It was tasty though. I can see myself applying lots of this to my facehole in coming weeks.

One of the Transjakarta buses. Seriously, you can only fuck this up if you’re still tired from your flight and your brain has turned to lava.

By this point I was quite aware of how badly I stunk. I sweat like a fucking horse and I’d forgotten that women’s deodorant is about as effective on me as rubbing a dead cat all over myself before venturing out, and I was acutely conscious of the fact that the average height of the other humans on the bus was roughly the same height as my upraised armpit as I clung onto railings. Also, maybe don’t time your trip on the Transjakarta network for rush hour. You kinda sorta just huddle around the doors where the bus pulls in, and there’s usually a guard on the bus who’ll make sure everyone who wants to get off can get off before you surge over the huge gap onto the bus, unless there’s no room in which case don’t risk in unless you want to end up in the hole.

Kota Tua Jakarta. The place to be for groups of friends, couples, families, street performers, artists and cats.

Jakarta is like Delhi in that it’s stinking hot and has that distinct smell that intensely humid cities have. That’s where the similarities end. It’s busy, but not as busy as Delhi and the horns aren’t constant. No one demanded our time or money. Street vendors didn’t try to make us aware of them, there was no one begging. I’m sure poverty is rife here and there are undoubtedly people, if not whole families, living rough, but it wasn’t apparent where we went. It’s even pretty clean. There are no street dogs here, certainly no cows, but there are cats. An absolute metric fuck tonne of cats. It’s an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical waiting to happen. And I wanted all of the cats to love me, preferably without having to part with any food because I think I like food more than I like cats. There’s this square called Kota Tua Jakarta where you can just go and hang out, it’s full of people of all ages and families just chilling, and it’s not far from where we’re staying so we wandered over to that to try and make cats be my friend. We sat down for a while until cats wandered over for a no strings attached head scratch before shuffling back, crossing roads like total locals, to our hostel.

Please be my friend without demanding I hand over all of my food in return.

Here’s a fun fact: Heat and humidity at this level are a fantastic incentive to lose a bit of weight too. I’m fatter than I’ve ever been in my life at the moment which I’m blaming firmly on a series of injuries that stopped me from being any manner of active beyond hobbling to the fridge in search of wine. This isn’t like in the UK where you can swan about with your muffin top bulging out over your waistband, swearing the diet starts tomorrow as you shovel your fifth helping of cheesecake into your chops. You know what bulging means here? Chaffing. It means losing the top layer of skin to whatever it continuously rubs on throughout the day. I’ve probably lost 5kgs in fluid today but I need to lose that in blubber because guys, I really don’t need the extra insulation right now.

Jakarta, Indonesia
Stayed at: Teduh Hostel

There are three rows of these pods, each with their own plug socket, light and roller blind. Flashpacking.

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