another almost sleepless night and short flight later, we got off the plane in jakarta, indonesia. for the first time in my life, i’m south of the equator. my experience of jakarta was limited to what i saw in the airport since i had a domestic flight scheduled in a few hours, but i even in that brief time, i got somewhat of an impression of indonesia. my first thought when i got off the plane was that i felt like i was in hawaii. outside the airport windows were swaying palm trees, humidity, and blue skies. i could tell i was in a tropical paradise before i ever even stepped outside.
indonesia is a huge chain of islands just below southeast asia.. it’s actually made up of *17,000* islands! another interesting thing about indonesia that most people wouldnt have guessed, is that it has the 4th largest population out of any country. crazy eh? as i walked through the airport, one of the things that struck me most was how many muslims there were around. according to the guide, 80% of indonesians are muslim, and that was fairly apparent from how many women in the airport were wearing muslim headscarves. after traveling in the middle east, it was a bit odd to see all of these muslim women and find asian faces looking back at me instead of arab ones. for some reason it just seemed unexpected, although there’s no reason why it should be. one thing that i did notice though, is that the women here, though wearing headscarves, seemed more boisterous and less subdued than their middle eastern equivalents, and in fact many of them wore brightly colored clothing and often even tight fitting clothing… something hardly seen in the middle east. i later read that mulsim women here have more freedom than in many other countries, and the country even has a woman president… something unheard of in the middle east.
we sat around for a few hours waiting for our next flight when i noticed a familiar smell in the air. clove cigarettes. Mmmmmm. back home, i didnt smoke regularly or anything, but here and there, at bars or clubs, i definitely enjoyed smoking some clove cigarettes. i just love the way they taste and smell. for some odd reason, i’ve never seen these sold anywhere outside of america. i did know (but had forgotten) that Djarum, the company that makes them, is indonesian, and now i see them being sold *everywhere*. so many people around here smoke them!
eventually we took our flight from jakarta to surabaya, another city located on Java, the main island of indonesia. it’s been absolute hell trying to decide where we’re going to go while we are here. how do you choose what to see when you have 17,000 islands to choose from and only 3 weeks during which to see anything? our guidebook lists *so* much cool stuff to see in this country. i so much wish we had more time to spend here… but i guess i kind of say that for every country. we finally decided to spend most of our time in Nusa Tenggara, a small chain of islands near Bali consisting of Lombok, Komodo, and Flores. it’s funny, since then, every person that we’ve talked to has been utterly and completely shocked that we are not going to bali. going to indonesia and not seeing bali is unthinkable. bali, for tourists (and lots of locals too), is the quintessential isalnd of indonesia and as close to paradise as you can get. despite everyone’s advice, we’re skipping it and instead will stick to some of the less touristy islands. i hope we dont end up regretting our decision!
we eventually got into surabaya, got a hotel and got some dinner. after dinner we asked our waiter if he knew where an internet cafe was. he said he did, and then rook us there. he walked w/ us for about 3 blocks to take us there, and only then turned around to go back to work. it never ceases to amaze me how nice people can be. could you imagine this happening at home? no way. at most someone might point you in the right direction, or possibly draw a map for you *maybe*, but nobody would ever walk 3 blocks with you to show you where something is. nobody.
the next morning we took a bus to a city a few hours away. at the bus stop we got food at this place called Twin’s chicken and donuts. the donuts were just ok, but the fried chicken was excellent. kind of random for a place to sell that kind of combination, but it seemed to work. on the bus, as usual there were tons of people tring to sell stuff to us. all sorts of random junk from comic books to sunglasses to food to hats. one weird thing is that here they have this interesting tactic to try to get you to buy stuff. a guy will walk up the aisle and just put stuff on everyone’s seat. then, he’ll walk up the aisle again and take the stuff back from the people who dont want it. the trick is that maybe if you sit for a minute with that hat/comic/notebook/whatnot in your lap, you’ll end up actually buying it. the people selling this stuff are so funny too. when this guy tried to sell me sunglasses, i pointed to the pair that was actually already on my head… but did that dissuade him? no. maybe i need a second pair? who knows!
the bus ride took us to Probolingo where we needed to switch to a van to get to cemoro lawang. of course, doing that wasn’t as easy as it looked. a guy got on our bus, and lied to us saying that we had reached the bus station. we got off the bus, and realized… no bus station! instead, we had conveniently been dropped off at a travel agent. the guy at the agencey tells us that the van is coming in 10 minutes. we ask him how much it costs and he claims to not know and then runs off. riiiiiiight. he works there and sells van trips every day yet doesnt know how much they cost? at this point, another guy comes in. this new guy says the van comes in 15 minutes not 10. we ask him the price, and he says 7,500 Rp. ok. fine. then he leaves. now a third guy comes in. now he says the bus is coming in 45 minutes! we ask him the price, and he says it’s 10,000! huh? we tell him that the previous guy said it was less but he says that the other guy “didnt speak good english”. somehow i think that no mater how horrible your english is, you wouldnt think that 7,500 means 10,000. either you know how to say 10,000 or you dont. anyway, at this point we had enough. we walked out the door and flagged down a cab to get to the actual bus station.
still, our problems werent over. we paid the van guy. we had 45 minutes to wait till the van went, so we said we needed to go to the atm. they said not to worry, they’d swing by the atm on the way. so we sat there and wasted 45 minutes. when the van was about to leave, the driver comes up and says that they wont take us to the atm but that we can change money in bromo. we tell him that we dont have any money to change!! we need an *atm*. he repeats that we can change money in bromo. this goes on for a while. finally i tell him that he promised we would go to the atm and we absolutely needed to go, and that the only reason we hadnt gone earlier is cause he told us not to. so he finally says ok. we go to the atm. after i get money, he tells me that they now want me to pay *double* for the van trip… apparently for taking me 5 minutes to the ATM. i say no. he repeats his request several times before stopping. ugh. finally we are off. the van is full. 25 people in one van! we’re all completely squished. eventually there are kids that climb aboard the roof. there’s now 28 people. never a dull moment on the road!
we eventually arrive at cemoro lawang. the driver demands money again, and i end up giving him 5,000, much less than what he asked for, but he seems to be satisfied w/ it. the guesthouse we’re staying at is awesome and the people who run it are super friendly… everyone there calls us by our first names for the next few days..
a few other things about indonesia:
indonesian, at least to me, doesnt sound asian at all surprisingly. it actually sound more like spanish or portugese maybe, which is odd.
anyone who’s been reading this blog from way back when i went to thailand a few years ago knows that i have major issues w/ roosters. what the hell is wrong w/ those stupid birds?!! so, they’re supposed to crow at sunrise, right?! wrong!! these stupid things usually start going nuts around 2:30 in the morning and crow all damn night!! i’m a really light sleeper and without earplugs, it’s totally impossible for me to get any sleep w/ the damn roosters crowing like crazy up here! ugh!
we were watching the news in the hotel and they showed this guy holding a hatchet.. and he looked like shit. his whole face was all black and blue and it looked like he had the crap beat out of him by an angry mob. since i cant understand the TV (it’s in indonesian), one of the guys watching tells me that the man on the screen is a thief. it turns out that an angry mob *did* beat him up. i guess people juist take the law into their own hands here. in our guidebook it says that if you are in a car accident were someone you hit is injured or killed, you should leave *immediately* and drive to the nearest police station or you will probably be attacked my an angry mob. yikes!!