First of all, to my critics, apologies for abandoning a daily digest in favour of a multi-day format. Tania and the boys have been hogging the computer, and I have been nose deep in the Kindle reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, and so I am a few days behind!
After being pre-warned the night before of various nocturnal and early morning events that could disturb our sleep we slept soundly. I did surface briefly as the vegetable lady sang out her song and the local mosque called the faithful to prayer, but it was only momentarily. The security guard making his rounds and making his presence known by banging hard on the electrical cable did not register at all.
We went down for breakfast and greeted our hosts amiably. Ilka was accompanying us on our visits to Jakarta and had arranged for her cousin to drive us. She was not keen on taking the wheel, and having seen the traffic, I can understand why! Breakfast over, we got ready to hit the road.
First up today was a visit to the Indonesian National Museum, just across the road from Freedom Square. As the bird flies it is not that far from the house, as the traffic flows, it took a long time to get there. Welcome to Jakarta! The museum is mentioned in the guide as being genuinely worth seeing, and it houses ancient Hindu statues as well as examples of houses, crafts and artefacts depicting life in the various regions of Indonesia, and the guide was not wrong. The boys favourite was probably the necklace made out of human teeth. We took many pictures, but sadly, the treasure room was a no photo area which housed some truly beautiful crowns and knife handles. In the new wing there was an Indo-China exhibition of calligraphy and seals which had been created by a minister of the Chinese government in his retirement.
We left the museum after several hours and returned to the house via Carrefour where we stocked up on essentials. On eventually arriving back, traffic was a nightmare, Nina (Ilka’s mum) had kindly cooked some food for us which was delicious. After putting the children to bed, we talked with Ilka and Nina with ease, it was as if we’d known them for a long time already, before we too headed up the stairs to bed.
New day, new things to see! After completely exhausting Ilka yesterday, I should mention that she had recently had a knee operation, we were to be let loose on Jakarta without guide or chaperone today. This meant we would be taking public transport, and our destination the old town of Jakarta. So, we were dropped off at the ominously sounding Bloc M which turned out to be a large shopping mall rather than some sort of ghetto, and descending into its bowels we emerged at the terminus of the Trans-Jakarta busway.
Purchasing our tickets (3,500Rp) we followed the crowd to the platform and waited patiently in the simmering heat. When the bus finally arrived there was a tremendous surge, reminiscent of rush hour on the tube in London, except that the number of people allowed on the bus was strictly limited. This meant that we did not get on the first bus, and now we were pressed together like sardines with the boys suffocating from the heat and getting rather annoyed with each other.
Finally another bus arrived and we jumped on and bagged some seats. The Trans-Jakarta busway is a dedicated bus lane that runs from Bloc M to the old town. What a difference it made to the journey time as we flew past the stationary cars stuck in traffic jams. If any town is crying out for a metro then its Jakarta!
We arrive at the old town terminus and after getting our bearings and asking a security guard for directions (well actually mis-directions as it turned out) to Cafe Batavia, we end up by the canal. As an introduction to the old town, this is a definite turn-off. The foul stench emanating from this body of water, and I use body here as it had the appearance of being a solid entity as it treacled its way between the concrete banks, made us gag, and we turned away at the first opportunity.
The canal was a good map reference and we quickly found the cafe we were looking for, but as the prices were so high, we didn’t go in. Cafe Batavia is in the corner of a large square the other sides of which are taken up by the Museum of Fine Art, the Indonesian History Museum and various shops and houses.
To be honest, there was not much that interested us in the old town and the boys really weren’t up for another museum trip. We wandered around after eating in a small out of the way food court and saw the old bridge and the governor’s mansion, and then headed back to the bus. On the way, we bumped into two ladies from the US who wanted to take some photos of the boys with their poster of Flat Stanley. We agreed, and luckily enough there was a suitable attraction just next to us…
Cramming back into the bus we sped across town to Bloc M and headed to the Mall where we had arranged to meet Ilka. Tania was on the hunt for some new sandals – her old pair having snapped at the toe strap – and the boys were short a tee shirt. Items found and purchased we struggled through the rush hour traffic back to the house. Rejoicing that it hadn’t taken an hour to go the few kilometres from Bloc M to home, we ate together with Ilka and Nina.
Paper kites and pampering were the order of the day today. That is to say, Ilka and Tania went for some pampering, and I took the boys to the Kite Museum not far from the house. After an short video relating the history of kites and their cultural importance in South East Asia, and some examples of the craft which were amazing both in their size and their creative design, we were taken on a tour of the assembled examples from around the area.
The largest kite recorded was some 10m across and had a tail of 200m! It took 30 people to hold the string and 30 people to launch it! It wasn’t in the museum, but there were plenty of splendid kites on display.
After the tour, we were sat down and given the materials to construct our own kites, and then we got to fly them in the slight breeze of the day.
We then asked for a taxi to take us to the pampering place, but the chaps at the museum said that it wasn’t very far and offered to give us a lift there on the back of their motorbikes. Happy kids and a rather nervous father wound through narrow streets before emerging onto a main road, dodged oncoming traffic and finally arrived at our destination, thankfully only a short distance away.
Tania was mid-head massage when we arrived and about to have a manicure and pedicure, so we retired to a cafe called Miss B. It had only been open 2 weeks but offered organic produce and super smoothies which were delicious. The cafe name was derived from a series of books written by the sister of the cafe’s owner, and we passed an hour or two playing Uno whilst Tania finished her pampering.
Finally she arrived and shortly after we departed for home. I set about packing the rucksacks and then we had our last meal together with Ilka and Nina.
All too soon our brief time in Jakarta had come to an end. We had an early start to get to the airport for our Lion Air flight to Singapore, but time enough for warm goodbyes and some photos with our wonderful hosts. We had really enjoyed our time there, and it had been a privilege to share Nina and Ilka’s home, and to have finally met the wife of my good friend Feraldi.
The flight went smoothly and from Singapore airport with took the MRT (via Burger King, alas) to get to the little red dot hotel. It was a bit of a walk with the ruck sacks, but a pleasant enough place to call home for one night. We shared a dormitory room with a young German man who was returning home the next day.
The web site said that there was a swimming pool, but it turned out that it didn’t, however, there was a huge public pool just around the corner which we made a beeline for straight away. Singapore, or maybe it was just the pool, had an unusually strict dress code. Thigh length lycra shorts, and ladies had to be covered up. There were plenty of people in the pool who sported what could be described as the modern day equivalent of the Victorian bathing costume. That aside, we spent a happy hour or so splashing about to escape the fierce heat of the day.
We ate in a local food court and chatted a little with some of the locals before we headed to bed. Tomorrow we were off to Malacca, Malaysia.