I had pre-booked my flights to Indonesia (for end-Nov 2010) once I found out I am not able to carry-forward my annual leave from 2010, and I had disagreed to taking every Friday off for the rest of the year – I had 8 days.
I was really looking forward to the trip as I had never been to the country before. The months and weeks leading up to the trip, I did loads of reading (the Internet is really something) on Wikipedia, Trip Advisor and forums. All the reading made me feel like I already know Bandung, Bali and Jakarta very well. It was a different story when I was there… While the directions / places I had identified were correct, the journey between the hotel and these places were not what I had expected. It was looking ‘dangerous’ and crowded with small residences (read: huts, wooden houses) filling up the streets or any available space in between the tall commercial buildings. Oh, not forgetting the stalls-on-wheels too and the constant vehicle honks! One can go mad in the midst of the chaos if one is not prepared.
I did enjoy Indonesia as my Bahasa Malaysia helped me to socialise and my open-mindedness allowed me to embrace the charm and warmth of Indonesia. The use of technology had allowed me to track my paths in Indonesia and made a few new friends! Brilliant, isn’t it?
Bandung (3d 2n):
Stay – at Holiday Inn, in Dago area and surrounded by factory outlets (not the busy Cihampelas ones). The hotel was under-going renovation and the staff is very friendly. I had good chats with the receptionist, front-desk, bar tenders (one of them put a weird twang to his English but nevertheless it was pleasant), security and concierge. I definitely will stay there again (and get my rewards points along the way). And I heard over the local TV channel news that Ariel (Peter Porn fame) was having his trial at the local court nearby…
Leisure – I finally made my first trip to the volcano (Mt Tangkuban Perahu – means ‘overturned boat’), believe it or not it is an active volcano! Booked a private tour from the hotel and the 1-hour drive (30km north of Bandung) up to the mountain was a pleasant one. I got to see the rural Indonesia – paddy fields, tea plantations, sloppy roads, bullock carts, taxi horses, motorcycles everywhere. The initial reaction upon sighting the crater for the very first time is priceless. Yes, there were plenty of tourist guides trying to make a few thousands off you – you just need to be wary. I got one of the guides to bring me to the other crater where I can witness it up-close. The hike was 30-mins downwards, so it was a pleasant walk with the cool mountain air. And, you guessed it – we had 4 other “salesmen” who followed us down the track. Every tourist must really look like an easy target for them. But seriously, after chatting with them – they are the nicest people in the world – even after you tell them you do not want to buy anything post-multiple persuasions from them, they still will chat with you. They do not expect a lot from you (monetary-wise) but if you tip them well, they are very grateful. They are after all just trying to earn a living – and most of them live in the villages within the vicinity. My volcano guide does not have electricity in his home… and I must be blessed with what I have in Singapore and KL.
Shopping – I got that really-needed pair of jeans – two pairs, in fact. As advised by my driver, I went to Toko Tiga instead (popular with locals and Malaysians) rather than the Cihampelas area (which is too commercialised).
Clubbing – I even had a chance to go clubbing at ‘Embassy’ and enjoyed local rock band talent show at ‘Score!’ Both are within the same complex in CiWalk. The rock band show was great and really made my trip felt worthy. I even managed to be friends with the bouncer there – so maybe next time I go back, I will get free entry! 🙂
Coffee – Managed to also get a cappuccino at Starbucks on my last day (at Plaza Dago, just 5 mins walk away from the hotel). One of my lunches during my stay was Sundanese food (which my driver took me to) – it was really spicy but really tasty and way better than those you find back home. And of one my dinners, I went to a local food court-like area and had ‘sio mai’ (dumpling) and ‘batagor’ (another form of dumpling).
Photos – Indonesia Trip 1 (Facebook)
Bali (4d 3n):
Stay – I stayed at Ida Hotel in Kuta area (10-min drive from airport, and 3-min walk to the beach and nightclubs). A very simple hotel, next to a primary school and I had the luxury of living in a bungalow with an open bathroom. The main door lock was a wooden latch – how about that?
Leisure – Bali had loads of to-do’s but one needs to be focused. I was more the scenery person and I had wanted to see those amazing temples by the water… So, I had a personal driver for two days – recommended by the concierge from Holiday Inn Bandung, and the guide in Bali turned out to be owner of a tour agency there. So, he (and his wife) took me around Bali in his C-Class. Haha. Talk about luxury for a good price… So, I managed to squeeze in visits to temples – in-land to those in a lake and on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. The scenery was just breath-taking. The country-side was also great with the cool air – lunch on first day was overlooking Mt Batur while the second day I had the view of a vast paddy field. It was really blissful!
Nightlife – I walked around the Kuta beach and the streets in the evening and ended up in 2 clubs – M-Bar-Go (one of the hottest around, where I got a free-drink pass for between 11pm-12am) and Sky Garden. Both are in the middle of the busy Kuta streets. The only club (which is widely talked about) that I missed is Double Six at the Seminyak area…
Massage – did 3 massage sessions throughout my stay (one per evening) and it was really relaxing for me, after a hard, long-year at work. Who can complain!
Beach – the evening walk along the Kuta beach was difficult with such a huge crowd there. I had prefer the beach at Seminyak… quieter and more quaint. The sunset was nice (as good as the one at Feringghi in Penang). My next trip to Bali must include Ubud and will stay out of busy Kuta area…
Jakarta (4d 3n):
Hotel – On way to the hotel from the airport, I had gotten stuck in the famous Jakarta traffic jam – and yes, Friday evenings can be mental! I stayed at Crowne Plaza, just outside of the CBD. Really nice hotel and I would stay again. My room overlooked the sunset, so it was a nice view – besides the heavy traffic gridlock on the highway below me. There is the Plaza Semanggi next to me, a busy mall with everything you can ask for – including a very busy Giant. Across the road is the Police Complex and Pacific Plaza mall.
Shopping Malls – I managed to see a different variety in what the local shopping malls have to offer. From the quaint and busy Plaza Semanggi to Pacific Plaza (super up-scale) to Grand Indonesia & Plaza Indonesia and EX!. I liked Pacific Plaza – especially the food variety and the cinema. I caught 2 movies at different cinemas and the seats are super posh. Plush sofa-like seats with ample space for people to walk in front when you are seated and no excuse for kicking your chair from behind… Boo to you TGV and GSC (and GV/Cathay in SG)! Other observations I made were that the well-to-do families have maids following them in the malls, and they are together during any activities and sit together with the families during meals – only difference is they have to wear the “uniform” – not the french maid type but it is very distinctive. See the example I found on Flickr:
And there still were heaps of beautiful people out there! I just love the atmosphere – you can really feel the warmth in the air – and you know everyone is equal out there, no matter how rich or poor you are.
Nightlife – The scene in Jakarta is really amazing. I would have never imagined it but due to the open-mindedness of the people here (no, not the ‘tidak apa’ attitude type), everyone just knows how to have a good, great time. Nobody wants to get hurt and nobody likes to be intimidated – so party safe is the motto of the party folks here, or at least to the clubs that I had visited.
> The Rock Cafe (Kemang, south Jakarta) – the local band performing was great. This place was recommended by my hotel concierge. The Kemang area is a great strip of nightlife – including a 24-hour Starbucks and McDonald’s. 🙂
> Nu China (one of the hottest dance club in Kemang area) – loads of college and young executives, esp of Chinese ethnicity. Everyone was friendly and having a good time – I was even included as part of one group as they knew I was alone and not from around here… 🙂
> Club 36 (Kota, north Jakarta) – again, this was recommended by the concierge and radio-friendly music was the order of the night. As it is near Chinatown, you see more Chinese crowd here. Various dancers took positions on stage until a trio of girls started the night, around 1am by doing exotic dances and finally stripping to nothing! Umm, they were also joined by 2 male dancers. Well, the crowd (both guys and gals) were not affected by it – probably because it has been a weekly affair for them… Haha.
> Golden Crown (Kota) – one of the darkest discotechques I have seen, and it was justified by the existence of a Light Jockey (LJ) alongside the DJ. I could hardly see anything except the light show, the lights on stage and the toilet lights. Haha, and guess what – I was approached many times with requests for the ‘pill’… Maybe standing alone with a drink is the protocol of a pusher. 🙂 I stayed there till 6am when the sky was already bright!
There were other clubs like Blowfish, Bats, Stadium and those in the Blok M area which I didn’t go but there’s always next time. Well, the ‘next time’ is approaching as I will be back in Jakarta for the Iron Maiden gig in mid February…
Photos – Indonesia Trip 3 (Facebook)
Overall, my trip was in fact an eye-opener on how unity can be bonded together within a country of various ethnicities, foreign influences and cultural backgrounds in the post-Suharto era. I am impressed by the fact that no matter who you are, Bahasa Indonesia brings everyone together and is the one language that is used – no such thing as Malays speak Bahasa, Chinese speak Mandarin or dialects, or Indians speak Tamil/Hindu. This is truly a ONE NATION. The path to economic recovery is coming along well and I am sure one day, Indonesia will be a powerhouse in the region.