Saturday, 30 June 2012

Day 10


A day off.  Unfortunately no surf trip this weekend - I will have to come back.

After a few hours trawling through work documents this morning, I decided to take the afternoon off in style.

So, it was off poolside with a book for a couple of hours to work on the tan.

Then back to the hotel room for a classic Saturday in.  Unfortunately, I have not yet worked out how to watch the Tour de France live here but as all three Lord of the Rings films were on the TV I thought I should make a virtue of a necessity and nerd out for the weekend.

White wine chilled in the bar fridge, daggy hotel slippers on, pizza ordered - the battle of good versus evil has never been so comfortably bourne.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Day 9

So yesterday in my blog I said that there were 5 million new motorcycles a year in Indonesia - it appears I was wrong, apparently last year 8.1 million new motorocycles were sold - how foolish do I feel?

I was thinking that 5 million figure was a bit of an understatement just from a rough count on my walk home in the evenings.

Friday night traffic appears to be the worst.  In fact, in the walk tonight from happy hour to the restaurant, the traffic was so bad we were moving faster than the wall to wall motorbikes - you know the traffic is bad when even they can't get anywhere.

And then, later, on the walk home, the traffic had eased and there were cyclists out for a ride - some with lights, others without, some with helmets, others without - I guess it all depends on your level of fatalism.

Changing the subject just a bit, just because I can . . . I had my shirts laundered and ironed today and got them back looking so nice that I decided I couldn't face messing one up to go out again once I got back to the hotel.  So, I am sitting in my hotel room watching Lord of The Rings with the sound down low - With the Bahasa subtitles I am never sure when they are speaking Elvish or not.

Oh, and having a nice glass of WA red as a night cap as my hoped for weekend adventure now appears to be a surf too far.  The need to do some work, yet again, messing with my lifestyle.

I suppose work didn't pay for me to come out here to surf now, did they?!

I am, however, starting to wonder whether my boycott of Indonesian surf spots on cultural grounds might be hurting me more than it hurts Australian yobbo surfers.  Since I find I like Jakarta, smog and all, how bad can Bali be?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Day 8

There is no let up in the smog, the smoke, the smells or in the relentless pace of Jakarta - and why would there be?  Walking home I pass sights and people that are starting to become more familiar and will clearly be here long after my little sojourn is over.

I haven't been here long enough to get sick of it, but I guess a lungful of fresh air would be nice.

A couple of facts before I head off to a ridiculously lavish dinner downstairs.

  • Greater Jakarta is the world's second largest urban area with 28 million inhabitants and a population density of twice the world's largest urban area which is Greater Tokyo.
  • 5 million motorbikes join the roads every year in Indonesia.

Yep, its a busy, busy place alright.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Day 7

Well, a full week so I have decided to start living dangerously.

There are two ways to operate here for westerners.  By the risk avoidance handbook or using common sense.

You can eat only in the western catering luxury hotel you are staying in and book taxis from this heavily fortified hotel to your heavily fortified workplace and back and avoid any real interaction with the place.

Or, you fully immerse yourself in the place.

Or, of course, you can do a little immersion, a little toe dipping, if you like.

So, after a week of acclimatisation, I accepted an invitation from the local staff to eat at a local little restaurant - lovely food - I went for the well cooked chilli covered stuff.

And then eshewed the taxi home which takes 15-30 mins depending on traffic and opted to walk which takes 20 mins.

Outside of having consumed at least four cigarettes of smoke on the way home, no harm done - cough cough.

This photo, shows the traffic going home before peak hour hits.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Day 6

Well, after yesterday's post you might be wondering if I am still alive.

If you are reading this I am dead obviously very much so.

Its amazing what 12 hours of sleep can do - I don't know why I don't do it more often - oh, that's right, I have kids.

Back to work today at around 90%, which is pretty good all things considered.

A few facts about Indonesia you might not know:

  1. Number 1 on the twittersphere, i.e. it has the largest number of twitter users of any country in the world - I can see that, Jakartans don't have the time for anything more.
  2. Number 3 country for Facebook users - 42 million of them - it is very friendly country in the virtual world too, obviously.
  3. Number 1 country for Blackberry sales - iPhones are expensive here.

So, what is new today?  Well, it didn't take long but I may have made the most important connection of my stay so far.  A colleague's partner does day trips to the surf from Jakarta and has a spare board - I have expressed an interest and have my fingers crossed for a surf trip on the weekend - cowabunga!

No real other news except to say that after yesterday I woke up and when I looked in the mirror half expected to see an emaciated frame staring back at me - I was sorely disappointed (though it will be interesting to see what the scales say when I return).

Oh, and I know some of you won't believe I am well until you see me, so here is a picture, cheers!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Day 5


Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this place.  Swim, breakfast, taxi ride, work - which is extremely interesting mind you - I started feeling slightly odd in the stomach.

Yep, you guessed it, the dreaded reaction of the body to new foods, new temperature and new bugs.

I had been warned it was a day four thing but felt smug this morning and even had a swim - even though I felt okay I found breakfast and then lunch a bit of a chore.

Anyway, I made it to around 4:30 and then really needed a bex and a good lie down - teeth chattering and cold all over.

So, panadols downed, hot showered, and feeling ever slightly better as a resut, its off to a very early bed with the hope of a speedy recovery.

Its probably just Mondayitis.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Day 4


Travelling is different for everyone depending on where they are at in their lives - a self evident statement - but I suppose one that is particularly pertinent to me being in Jakarta without the family in tow.  I am not sure how much it contributes to the feeling of unreality and calmness that I feel in the middle of what is a pretty frenetic city - then again, it is Sunday - even here. But having only yourself to worry about is so much easier than travelling with kids.

One thing that strikes you here, is how wealth and poverty rub shoulders continuously.  I remember India, twenty odd years ago, didn't have that same juxtaposition, but I suppose it must do now.

Anyway, back to Sunday - a nice full breakfast, at a leisurely pace, reading the Sunday papers.  A rest, a swim and then lunch out and a bit of stroll through a couple of different shopping experiences - an older style bazaar and into one of the new malls that are proliferating throughout the city.

Purchases: 30 DVDs for less than $30; and a large bottle of water.

Back to the hotel to find my room straightened to perfection as usual - and I thought I had folded my pyjamas well enough.  Even my novel has been closed, hotel branded bookmark inserted, and neatly placed just where it should be next to my bed. Lookout Katherine, my expectations are rising.


Its afternoon, the city is looking pretty smoggy and/or cloudy - its hard to tell - and there is a bit of wind that seems to suggest rain might be on its way. I might sneak in one more swim before an evening beer and dinner - its a hard life but someone has to do it.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Day 3 - Part 2

Lunch out in a mall – a great French inspired menu – I resisted the snails but couldn’t go past the fries with truffled mayonnaise - with fresh truffle! - and Australian wagyu steak – a quick shop and back through the crazy traffic – back to Fox Movies and The A-Team.

They have everything here in the food department necessary for sustenance – why am I surprised?

French cheese

And even William food

Hey, and for breakfast I had (amongst other things) beef bacon – great stuff – I am starting to really like this place.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Day 3

New improved blog with pictures!

- morning swim in the pool
- big breakfast (so far so good)
- papers read
- Internet issues reported and sorted
- blog published

the room 
the pool from my room

Day 2

Off I went to work today.  One word – high security – well, that’s two words but you get the picture.  That is the key thing that strikes you about the workplaces and hotels here, the very real security.  You forget about the dangers posed by extremists when you are back in Australia but are reminded of them every time you move about here.

As a result, I am staying in a pampered fortress of a hotel as the luxury ones are the only ones with the required security.  I suspect that my luxury is an unintended consequence of the extremists’ actions - unless I have misread their motives that is.

I can't say I am used to five star hotels with no kids of my own around but have to admit that one could get used to it  - in measured doses of course.

The bed, TV, bathroom, shower and bath are all bigger than we have back home.  The air-conditioner is set for 22 - which feels warmer than the 22 the ducted heating is set on back home - I must check the thermostat on my return.

Anyway, after a hard day at the office and a post work cleansing ale in my room, it was off to a party.  There was a clear expat vibe and a great cover band belting out classic party anthems with verve, and supporting anyone who wanted to star as lead singer for a while.  I resisted the urge to get up for ACDC’s Back in Black and Chisel’s Khe Sanh you might be relieved to know – I am travelling for work after all and there are certain standards of behaviour expected.

The band singers and dance floor provided a great snapshot of the broad church that is Indonesia – from gorgeous OTT glamour pusses to very conservatively dressed headdress wearers – all appearing to have an equally a great time I should add.

Jakarta at night clearly is very much a young person’s town - I am reminded of an Indonesian friend I haven't seen for nigh on fifteen years who went some way towards capturing this joie de vivre in his attitude towards life.

Day 1

Yesterday I was enjoying a bracing minus 6 degrees morning on the Southern Tablelands.

This evening, a muggy 33 degrees in Jakarta – you have to love international air travel.  I didn’t pack the camera I am afraid so this will be a word only blog – unless I succumb to the lure of cheap electronic consumables that is.

I sat next to an interesting fellow on the way over – lets call him Simon (not his real name). “Simon” regaled me with stories of high finance and intrigue from Sydney to Jakarta – his was the company that manufactured the pipes for Saddam’s super gun a while back that saw a brief diplomatic incident and then suddenly got hushed up.  And he had many more stories like this and had obviously lived life in the fast lane.

It sounds crazy, maybe even counter-intuitive, but I have to conclude that business class is better than economy – I couldn’t touch the seat in front of me with my feet and the food was edible.

I looked out of the window only a few times on the way over, due in the main to the tales Simon was recounting, but it was rewarding each time.

Some of the mental snapshots I took then:

- The crenulated, dry, dusty, stereotypical heart of Australia

- The Pilbara coastline and the sense of "going overseas"

- A perfect coral atoll, looking like the picture of an oblong cell from some sort of aesthetically perfect school science book - welcome to the tropics

- The fields, warehouses and houses on the outskirts of Jakarta - welcome to Asia

Flying Garuda was great – all immigration processing is done on board and there is nothing to do when you arrive but to stroll to the carousel to pick up your suitcase.

Suitcase in hand it was into an air-conditioned car and onwards, as dusk began to fall, into a Blade Runner-esque city.  Traffic, giant video screens, sky scrapers, tin sheds, highways and muddy puddles – all standard Asia mega city stuff I am sure – but quite impressive to see for the first time.

It was a long drive in traffic – apparently the record is over six hours from the airport to the hotel – we did it in two.

Jakarta certainly does traffic properly, the cars squeeze extra lanes out of the overtaxed infrastructure and then once they have squeezed together as close as is possible, and then just a bit closer, you add motorbikes that flow through the chinks and cracks between the near solid mass of cars and throw in a few street hawkers until saturation is achieved - and then some.

It is really quite impressive.