After a few blissful days in El Nido we were ready to head on to our next destination, Indonesia. We flew to Jakarta via Manila and arrived late at night in the hectic airport. We had decided to opt for an airport pick up from our hostel and we were really glad we had as it was extremely chaotic outside the terminal. Our flight was delayed by over an hour but our driver waited for us, albeit with a very despondent expression – but who could blame him, it was well after midnight! Our hostel was described as very difficult to find, and when we arrived after driving down some darkened alley ways we realised why!
The hostel was very new and clean but otherwise quite amusing. Our double room consisted of bunk beds – all good fun I guess – and there were nice shared bathrooms and a kitchen facility. It was still very much under construction though, and the claim that it was a hostel offering hotel standards was definitely stretching the truth! Anyway, we passed out in bed and woke up first thing the next morning.
It was a Friday and it also just so happened to be a public holiday, so the city was busy with lots of local people enjoying a day off. We first walked to the large Central Park which has various historical monuments. The park was full of people, including lots of street performers. For some reason, the street performances we saw in Jakarta always seemed to have a slightly dark edge to them. Pinky plonky (and pretty eerie) toy box music played in the background as a lady dressed as the girl from the film The Ring with full freaky make up, a ripped white night dress and clutching a baby doll, stood stock still only moving occasionally to pose for photos with people (WHY?!) or to scare people walking past. Anybody who knows about my fear of people in costume will guess just how quickly I walked (or ran) past her. Sorry, I was also to scared to take a photo!
After this we decided to visit the old town square. This was also packed with people but felt a bit more upbeat. People seem to love tandem bikes here, and several couples were attempting to navigate the town square riding one, pretty unsucessfully, falling off every few seconds and bursting into laughter. There were more entertainers here including a monkey riding a bicycle (accompanied by more eerie music) and this guy, making puppets dance to the Spice Girls to the amusment of a huge crowd:
There was also a range of cool old cars that you could pay to pose in or next to, we took this cheeky photo before realising we were probably supposed to pay:
We were approached by a couple of young girls in the square who asked to have a photo taken with us. We found this quite funny and said yes of course, however, the next thing we knew we had a huge queue of people wanting photos, it was hilarious! We were pretty much the only Westerners in the square so we definitely stood out, but maybe we looked completely ridiculous! We were literally there for about 20 minutes smiling away non-stop when a huge Dutch guy came over and asked if we were famous, we laughed and said no and he persisted, convinced that we must be. Anyway, it turned out that he was over with the Dutch national football team, they were on tour and he handled their press and PR. Jack was slightly disconcerted to realise Van Persie (ex favourite, now arch Gooner nemesis) was in the area. He asked if we wanted to go to a game on the Saturday but unfortunately we were leaving the next morning for Bali.
We took this as an opportunity to escape the square and headed in to the famous Cafe Batavia for a drink and some lunch. Cafe Batavia is a bit of an institution in Jakarta, a beautiful place built in traditional Dutch style with a bar and restaurant overlooking the busy square. We had some drinks and dim sum and enjoyed the cool, calm environment away from the craziness outside.
After this we decided to visit a market I had read about in the Chinatown area. It promised strange foods and crazy sights and smells so it was a must see! After stumbling around trying to find it the smell of an open sewer told us we must be close (the Lonely Planet described one end of the market as selling grubs and crickets on skewers next to an open sewer, nice). We turned left to see live turtles for sale, too sad a sight for a photo I’m afraid. We carried on through noisy stalls, crowds of shoppers and oppressive sewer smells.
The next unusual sight was a melancholy elderly man selling both skin on and off whole frogs ready to be roasted on sticks as a snack. We actually ate this in Vietnam but decided to give it a miss here.
It aint easy being green:
We also saw lots of caged birds for sale as well as fruit stands and some pretty good looking dim sum. Suddenly the street came to an end and the adjacent roads were empty and quiet. We decided to head home, this was quite a trek but we did take this cool photo from a bridge on the way:
For dinner we decided to head to Pondok Laguna, a place that was extremely popular with locals (if Tripadvisor and various blogs were to be believed). It was certainly busy, valet parking outside was a hectic and huge operation and all of the downstairs tables were heaving with local families, all sharing various seafood and rice dishes. After initially being ignored for a while we suddenly got extra special attention from the Maitre D who I think enjoyed the novelty of some western guests (we were the only ones). We had an amazing meal, the whole fried fish was incredible – really meaty and spicy, tofu balls stuffed with fish and chilli put our previous dim sum to shame and the spinach and rice were delicious. Yummy and all for around ten dollars.
We were back in bed by 10PM as we had another early start the next morning for our flight to Bali and the beginnings of Jack’s 30th celebrations