Thursday, 31 October 2013

Jetting into Jakarta

Due to timing and other circumstance fate had forced our hand and we were going to take the first flight of our 5 month trip. Knowing that we had covered 22 countries without flying and that this was just a domestic flight was of no consolation to us, we were gutted.

After we purchased our tickets and sat ourselves down in the waiting room of Pekanbaru airport our depleted spirits were lifted by the arrival of around 30 students of what seemed to be a young air/pilots school. The kids took one look at this mopey white couple and swarmed us asking for a picture.

Their teacher took some photos for their school whilst they asked us all sorts of questions about what we were doing in Pekanbaru and Indonesia. It was really humbling to see them taking an interest in what we were doing, as well as being the centre of a little positive attention whilst we were feeling a little down.

Anyway the flight left at 5pm in the afternoon but didn't take long, and we soon touched down in Jakarta and the southern hemisphere. The sun had past the horizon by the time we arrived at our chosen guesthouse, so we couldn't do much more than head out for some local street food around the corner.

That decision turned out to be one of the best we made as the Nasi Ayan (fried chicken and rice) was one of the most delicious meals we have had in Indonesia. The homemade chilli sauce was hotter than anything we had experienced on the entire trip so far! We were able to finish our meal but mixed with the humidity we must have looked like this guy afterwards.

We said our goodbyes and headed back to our hostel for an early night, however on the way we walked past a taxi depot where the guys there were watching a premier league game. Like most Indonesians, the men watching the game were really friendly and mad about football so they invited me to sit down with them to watch the second half.

By the end of 90 minutes Man Utd had won which seemed to make the locals happy. I left them to it, and headed inside to see Jess to get a good nights sleep.

In the morning we woke up and decided to go take a look at one of the attractions Jakarta has to offer. A large park called Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.

Mini Indonesia is a large centre that contains a massive park complex that contains individual sections dedicated to the architecture, art and culture of each Indonesian province or island. You get a real sense of the vast area that Indo covers, as well as the unique cultural heritage that each island has developed during its individual history, whilst also gaining a sense of unity for Indonesia as a modern country.

This Indonesian Disney World is over 250 acres in size so we opted to hire a moped instead of walk around in the heat. So we were soon off, pootling around the complexes massive lake and enjoying the architectures of each compass point of Sumatra, Jawa, Sulawesi and Kalimantan to name a few.

The park even has a Disney's Cinderella style castle that you can walk around at the end of the lake. Its obviously a great place to bring children and we felt a little silly at times walking around but in such a huge city (9.5 million people live in Jakarta) it is actually a nice place to come and enjoy a little bit of space.

As we made our way around the park we found a small section dedicated to the island of Komodo, which is famously home to the worlds largest lizard (the Komodo Dragon). And supposedly they had a Komodo dragon there as well.

We must have arrived at feeding time as almost all the enclosures (housing various lizards and snakes) contained a live baby chicken or two. All we could do was sit and watch as the monitor lizards chased these helpless babies around the cage, squawking and squeaking as the big reptiles finally caught up to them. It was a little brutal.

A little further along under a big sign screaming Komodo Dragon, we found the beast we were looking for. Much to our surprise there was a keeper in the enclosure with the 2.5 meter long creature! It was even more of a surprise when he looked up at me and asked if I wanted to come and stroke him. Not one to turn down such an opportunity I raced down and walked into the enclosure of the largest carnivorous lizard in the world.

He didn't seem too fazed by my presence but I still jumped when he turned his face towards me, and shifted his lumbering bulk off a rock to make himself more comfortable. However after that he was happy to let me get a picture with him. It was a fantastic feeling being that close to a beautiful but very dangerous creature. Maybe one day I'll make it over to Komodo to see them in the wild.

After playing with the reptiles for a little longer we continued around the park enjoying the beautiful traditional buildings. Mini Indonesia is a really interesting place but we were soon overwhelmed by the humid heat and headed back in a cab to the city centre where we knew we could find a shopping centre with air con.

The Grand Indonesia shopping centre was amazing. We have been through a few SE Asian cities now, but none of them had anything with the sheer number of clothing stores like this one! If we didn't have to keep moving I think Jess could have stayed shopping for a week in this place. However after a brief mooch around the shops, mainly just to allow our body temperature to cool done, we grabbed a cab back to our hostel.

That evening we went back to our spicy chicken food stall. We rarely go back to a place to eat (because we want to try new things, not because they are bad) but this time we felt it was so delicious it deserved a second visit. We must be getting used to the hot food because we didn't drown in a puddle of our own sweat this time.

Finishing up we thanked the owner for another lovely meal and headed back to the hostel for a night dreaming about Komodo dragons. Tomorrow we head to the tropical Gili Islands off the coast of Bali and Lombock.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Instagram Picture Map

We have just embedded the Instagram Picture Map into the "Where Are We?" page.

If you want to take a look at some of the pictures Jess has posted to Instagram from the trip just click on the Where Are We link at the top of the page or click on the picture of the map here:

If you still want to see more pictures, we have a facebook page that you can get to by clicking here: Our Long Drive Home Facebook Photos

Monday, 28 October 2013

Du Mai to You

Mike and I woke up in Batam and left our spooky hotel for the ferry terminal at 6:30am.  As we got told it would get busy we decided to get there a little early to fight off the crowds and make sure we got some sort of a seat.

We had read up the night before how the ferries over weren't the best so we were prepared for the worst.  Ten minutes later we were there and all checked in, making our way to our boat.  To our surprise there were no crowds what so ever, just families who had stocked up on goods from the amazing Mega Mall in Batam and were taking the trip with us to Sumatra.

Once on the boat we found that the information that the ferries weren't the best was an outright lie. We were chaperoned to the VIP seats on the top deck of the ferry, where all the seats were leather with heaps of leg room. There was even a massive screen at the front ready to play movies back to back for the whole seven hours. Jackpot!

In all honestly even the seats that were located downstairs were good. We were just relieved that we had a seat and weren't fighting for floor space outside on the deck like we had heard from other people.

The only beef we had was with the name of the company, it was called The Dumai Express which is a slight exaggeration as we made stops on the hour at every town along the way to Dumai. However the crew were awesome and kept offering us food & drink not to mention the endless amount of movies starring my guilty pleasure actor Dwayne Johnson (the ferry company must have known I was onboard!)

We finally got to Dumai at 3pm and were herded off the boat like cattle. The locals looked pretty shocked to see two young whities getting off the ferry and were a little leery, particularly at me, but they were friendly enough.

One guy frantically waved us down and showed us to his mini bus where we waited for several minutes to see if anyone else was making the three hour trip too. No one else showed up so as we left we were content with having a slightly battered mini bus all to ourselves.

Hot, sweat and not impressed!

We were dropped off at the bus depot in the centre of Du Mai and told that the bus would be leaving in an hour. So with time to kill we did what we do best and found a local restaurant and dug into some delicious food.

Finally the bus arrived, well I say bus, but what we got was an old Suzuki people carrier covered in BMW symbols. As we sat in our seats a wave of panic came over me as two policemen jumped into the seats behind us carrying their assault rifles.

We didn't know if they were going to drive us down a dark alley and rob us, or whether they were our protection, and if they were protection, what did we need protecting from that required rifles!!

Our fears of being robbed disappeared as more people arrived, including a pregnant lady, and soon the people carrier was full to the brim. However, google maps had suggested that the trip could be done in 3 hours so it was ok being lumbered in for that long.

True to form as soon as we set off the heavens opened. We didn't even have time to ask ourselves why it always rained whenever we got a bus when the thunder and lightening began.

Being driven in South East Asia is always a little hair-raising but it is especially uncomfortable when you're sandwiched in the middle of Mike's fat arse and another person on a Suzuki people carrier. In the dark. Driving through a storm.

To make matters worse there were no seat belts, and I was in the middle. One false move or slip in concentration and I would be directed head first through the windscreen in the middle of nowhere Indonesia. The drive seemed to me more interested in singing to the radio than concentration which didn't help ease our fears.

At one point, as we only just cut back into the left lane narrowly avoiding a head on collision with a dump truck I was so scared, that I actually started to mentally prepare myself with the fact that I might actually die in a car crash tonight.

Six hours later of winding pot holed roads, rain, no room to move our legs, numb bums and extreme exhaustion we had finally made it to the city of Pekanbaru.

Our hotel Tune Hotel was located on the outskirts of the city and we finally we arrived bang on 11pm, 6 hours after we set off from Dumai and 16 hours from Batam. I pretty much had to tuck and roll out of the car as my bum and legs were so seized up. We checked in and made our way up to our room feeling like zombies.

Mike went and asked the reception how easy it is to get a bus from Pekanbaru down to Jakarta and arrived 15 minutes later with a bottles of beer and some bad news.

He was told that for us to get a bus from Pekanbaru down to Jakarta would take up to three days.
Three days! That would mean that if we left tomorrow we would arrive in Jakarta on the 28th. We would then have to get a bus from Jakarta to Bali which is an even longer distance which would take us straight up to the 31st. We were gobsmacked and downhearted.

After lots of talking, debating, planning different routes we decided that we were going to need to fly down to Jakarta if we were going to be sure we could make our flight to Darwin. It would be our first flight in the whole of our trip. Indonesia had defeated us and we are pretty gutted by it.

The only thing consoling Mike at the moment is that the flight is a domestic flight, we had still made it from England to Indonesia without flying, and this short 1hr 30 min trip will now be putting us a day ahead of schedule which can only be a positive thing. Something we needed after such a difficult day of travelling on our long drive home.

-- Jess