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.

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