A Travellerspoint blog

Pangandaran, West Java

sunny 33 °C

The delicious and memorable meal with which I ended my last post has proven to be even more memorable due to the dose of gastro it gave me. There’s only circumstantial evidence mind you, but Trudy (wisely in hindsight) took the vego option and this is the only meal in which we’ve differed, so it’s getting the blame. Nothing too bad luckily, just an afternoon and evening tucked up in bed – thank god for the antibiotics we slipped in our travel first aid kit, as important as the Vegemite I forgot to pack!

Anyway enough of that, this post is about Pangandaran, a pleasant seaside resort town on the southern coast of Java. We only spent a couple of days here, strolling the streets, doing a little shopping, drinking a little beer. We lucked out again with our hotel, only small but very stylish. The two local blokes running it were extremely friendly. They’d come and sit with us and have a chat at breakfast, they kept offering different local foods (I went to take some noodles from the buffet and one insisted on cooking me up a fresh lot) and just generally amuse the guests with their over the top friendliness (I say this in the most positive way). When they heard I was unwell they even made up some toast and juice and brought it up to our room - no charge!

The Lonely Planet didn’t give this town a very good review at all but we found it a nice enough town and an easy place to relax (and recuperate) for a couple of days. You be the judge from the photos below.

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Posted by Shaman Wanderer 20:34 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Bandung, West Java

Upgrades, shopping with Rambo & waiting for the bus

sunny 33 °C
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I know it’s been a long while since I last posted but we’ve been very, very busy doing absolutely nothing in an idyllic surf village called Batu Karas. But more about that in a later post.

At the time I’m writing this we’ve been in Indonesia for three weeks and I'd like to say something about the Javanese people. We have never met a people that are so quick to grin. Travelling through western Java has been an experience so far. It really isn’t set up for tourists and we’d be lucky to see three or four other westerners each day. As such we attract a lot of attention from the locals. There are a lot of stares but every time we smile back they just beam at us. And we are universally acknowledged as “mister” and “missy”. Even hotel staff will address us as Mister Andy and Miss Trudy. We have been absolutely overwhelmed by how friendly and welcoming the locals have been on our whole trip so far.

So after Bogor we headed to Bandung which is Indonesia’s third largest city. The three hour minibus trip (which actually took six hours) took us up over the mountains and through an area called the Puncak Pass. There really is some beautiful scenery through here and it is also renowned for its tea plantations. Unfortunately it is pretty much built up the entire way so we only caught glimpses here and there and the traffic was horrendous. Buses are even banned from the road on the weekends in an acknowledgment of how bad the traffic can be.

Here are a few photos of the Puncak Pass.

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Bandung itself is a pretty uninspiring city although we spent a few days here unwinding a little. Bandung is essentially just a working city, a couple of million people living here but not a lot to attract the tourist. We also spent three nights in three separate hotels as each one we booked was unavailable the next night when we tried to extend. The last hotel we stayed in, the Zodiak Hotel, was actually the pick of them, as although it had the smallest rooms the staff were unbelievably friendly and went the extra mile in organising our transport to our next destination. But I’ll get to that shortly.

The first night we spent in the Novotel on a $50 deal and we got an upgrade to an executive suite on top of that so we were pretty chuffed. Here is the view from our room looking out over central Bandung. From the look of the houses this is a fairly well to do area (well we were staying in the Novotel). I also recorded the six o’clock call to prayer from the mosque next door. This sounded amazing as night fell across the city.

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Apart from strolling around the vicinity of our hotels we didn’t do much in Bandung. We did, however, spend an afternoon and evening in an area known as Jeans Street which is full of factory outlets. Bandung is well known for its cheap shopping and we saw plenty of bus tours bringing Indonesians in and out from other parts of Java. It also allowed us to pick up some cheap souvenir t-shirts. I love one that I bought that promotes Bandung for its “shooping” – I love good Engrish.

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Jalan Cihampelas, colloquially known as Jeans Street.

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Doesn’t every factory outlet need a giant Rambo?

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A view of residential Bandung from the back of one of the shops.

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This area of Bandung also has an amazing upmarket shopping plaza. From walking down unpaved streets we just turned a corner and stumbled upon it. We felt like we were back home with the top end shops and restaurants. This is obviously where the elites and students of elite parents hang out. Another example of the vast social stratification that is so evident in Indonesia.

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So once we’d had enough of Bandung we tried to organise transport to our next destination, the beachside resort town of Pangandaran. We had the name of a minibus company out of the Lonely Planet but the phone number didn’t work. Our hotel staff couldn’t find them either so we headed onto the streets to find a bus company we’d read about online. A fruitless search returned us to our hotel where Miss Astry told us she’d found the company on Google and that they’d take us the 9 hour trip for $8 each. Hooray! The next day we were waiting in the lobby for the minibus to turn up. And waiting...and waiting...and waiting. Three hours after it’s due the hotel staff sheepishly approach us and say, “We’re so sorry but the bus has left for Pangandaran without you”. We know well enough not to get upset in developed countries, so we shrugged our shoulders, asked them to book us another bus the next day, and poured ourselves a rum each. Five minutes later the manager and Miss Astry come up and tell us they had had stern words with the minibus company and they had turned around 90 minutes out of Bandung and would be at our hotel in ten minutes (Trudy had heard quite a commotion coming earlier from the hotel office – the staff were obviously on our side). Sure enough the minibus turns up three hours overdue with three Indonesian passengers already on the bus. Funnily enough they didn’t seem to mind at all and just smiled and welcomed us on board. We can’t praise the staff of the Zodiak Hotel highly enough.

Thanks to Miss Astry from the Zodiak Hotel.

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A very long bus trip was broken up with a stop literally in the middle of nowhere at what could only be described as an Indonesian style truck stop. The food here was delicious, I had the beef stew and rice (it was really a broth type soup but absolutely delicious) and Trudy had the vegetarian option. This is the sort of moment that we’ll always remember.

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Posted by Shaman Wanderer 07:43 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Jakarta onto Bogor

Public transport, birthday celebrations & the kindness of strangers

sunny 32 °C
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Travelling with a hangover is never easy, even more so when one is not exactly sure how it’s done and knowing the station staff won’t know much English. Our plan was to catch the train to Bogor so we head down to Jakarta’s main train station. One of the station employees tells us that the train to Bogor doesn’t run from there and we’d have to go to the next station along the line (it turns out this is correct). So while we’re waiting for a cab to take us there he very persistently tries to offer a mini bus instead - $40 he says. We’re pretty sure the trains are really cheap here so we firmly decline. After a lot of frigging around with this guy we finally get a cab to the next station and buy our tickets – 90 cents each! So the first train comes along – it’s packed! The next even more so, some don’t even have the doors closed and people are sitting with their legs hanging out. Anyway this local bloke I’d started talking to says he’s going to go in the other direction to the start of the line and get on there so he’ll have a seat and we’re welcome to come with him. We (and our hangovers) jump at the chance. Sure enough once the train gets to the end of the line he tells us to quickly grab a seat before the rush pours in. This is just a local commuter train and Bogor is at the end of the line, it’s an hour trip. The trains are clean and comfortable, air-conditioned and also have additional ceiling fans on the ceiling (Metro take note). The men are very polite too, all women getting on are offered a seat. When we get to Bogor everyone gets out and we’re at a platform the other side from the main station. There are no connecting walkways or underpasses, everyone just climbs through adjacent trains until you get to the station entrance.

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The path from our train to the main station

The path from our train to the main station

We get out onto the main street to get a cab to our hotel. It’s complete pandemonium of people, traffic and local shuttle buses but no cabs. (We find out later that cabs are rare in Bogor.) So after a while we start walking up the road to the next intersection in the hope of finding a cab. Trudy has booked a hotel for my birthday the following day and we have no idea where it is. So with no luck hailing a cab at the next intersection we ask some girls walking by for directions. An older lady who was using an ATM overhears and asks where we’re going. “I know where that is”, she says and she and her husband offer to drive us there. 50 metres later we pull into our hotel. We had been virtually standing outside of it but they were a very lovely couple wanting to help out strangers to their town. Their help was greatly appreciated.

Trinny and Yusuf

Trinny and Yusuf

Trudy has booked us into a lovely old Dutch hotel overlooking the Bogor Botanical Gardens. A lovely way to spend my birthday. Thanks honey! We’ve also been blessed with the weather so far. Jakarta was in a flooded state of emergency the week before we arrived but we haven’t had rain since we got here. Bogor is even known as the city of rain but we arrive to another clear day and tomorrow turns out to be a glorious day as well.

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The next day we spend in the botanical gardens, known as Kebun Raya. These were developed by Sir Stamford Raffles, were expanded further by the Dutch and also contain the Summer Presidential Palace. The gardens are simply world class. Bogor has long been the retreat of the Jakarta elites and this is still the case to this day. We were visiting on a Sunday and this is the day that families head out to the gardens. People were doing what they do the world over, picnicking, playing ball games and generally just enjoying themselves.

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Always time for a birthday beer

There were also a couple of groups of school students, who were obviously doing an English project for school, who bailed us up a couple of times and proceeded to interview us. Aside from asking us about ourselves they also quizzed us on Indonesia and were overjoyed whenever we said something nice about their country. This was a lot of fun.

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And of course we had the usual collection of groupies just wanting to pose for photos.

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On the way home we dropped into one of Bogor’s shopping malls. It was packed but we were there in time for a little dangdut show. Dangut is sort of a meld of pop and traditional music and is very popular in Indonesia. It is also sometimes controversially raunchy by Indonesian standards.

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Posted by Shaman Wanderer 21:28 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Jakarta sightseeing

Markets, an erection and ex-pat beers

sunny 32 °C
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We checked in to our new hotel last night, very nice and a great location. It must also be located very near to a mosque as we were woken by the 4am call to prayer – TripAdvisor had mentioned the noise from the street could be an issue. It was very soft and melodic though, really made us aware we’re in a foreign country. Right next door to our hotel was a local market. We were there at lunch time and it was packed with locals having lunch (we were the only westerners there). We picked up a couple of $2 t-shirts and 60c DVDs. I also effortlessly bargained a $15 pair of sunglasses down to $2 (footnote, they broke two days later). Apparently Friday is also Batik Day, the day when all government workers must wear batik shirts. Takes casual Friday to a new level.

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We then strolled the short walk to the National Monument, known as Monas and also ingloriously dubbed “Sukarno’s final erection”. The 132m high monument was commissioned by then President Sukarno in 1965 (he was removed by General Suharto in a coup the following year) and is Jakarta’s principle landmark. Monas also contains the National History Museum in its cavernous base – 48 dioramas depicting Indonesia’s struggle for independence. The Dutch are not treated favourably and the many uprisings are celebrated while the 1966 Suharto coup and the subsequent communist purge (up to a million people slaughtered) are completely glossed over. The views from the top, however, are outstanding and we were lucky to catch a windy day that seemed to clear most of the smog away. As usual we attracted our fair share of admirers.

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I do love my political history

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For dinner we returned to our favourite dodgy backpacker bar. A few quiet beers turned into a lot more once we hooked up with a table of ex-pats working in Jakarta. The Bintangs flowed, a very enjoyable night.

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Posted by Shaman Wanderer 20:26 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Jakarta - the Big Durian

Opulence, cheap beers and rock star status!

semi-overcast 32 °C
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Jakarta – big, loud, smelly, hot, incredible displays of wealth intertwined with abject poverty. Known as the Big Durian to the locals it certainly is a city of contrasts.

Worried about the extensive flooding from the previous week we arrive to find it hasn’t rained for a couple of days and Jakarta has dried out nicely. A big relief! Having flown in late the night before, we’re up very early on day one and hit the streets. Our hotel is a block away from the Welcome Monument roundabout which is home to a couple of five star hotels and a couple of Jakarta’s ubiquitous shopping malls. This roundabout was knee deep in water just a week ago.

Welcome Monument

Welcome Monument

Jakarta skyline from Grand Plaza Indonesia

Jakarta skyline from Grand Plaza Indonesia

The shopping malls are enormous – multi-storied, multi-winged and often joined to a luxury hotel. These dwarf any shopping centre in Australia. Home to all the top Western fashion labels they epitomise the wealth disparity evident in Jakarta. We had a coffee at a Starbucks and paid pretty much Australian prices (and it was terrible coffee). These malls are only for the well off - there is obviously a lot of money in this city and it's on display. It's just a shame it's not shared around a lot more.

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By now it's a stinking hot day and we wander up to the backpacker district. The area around our hotel is a bit sterile so we plan to suss out a possible change of accom. The Lonely Planet says this area is a bit rundown - and they're right. But it's certainly got some atmosphere and we find a dodgy backpacker bar that sells cheap Bintang! Two dollar tallies – giddyup!

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This is more our style of location so we find an okay hotel around the corner and book in for the following day. Time for some street food on the way home. A spicy rice based omelette – superb! Poonki was the lady served before us - a lovely local happy to chat for a while.

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I have to show at least one traffic photo. It’s not too bad in the morning but the afternoon and evening is nuts! Entrepreneurial locals take it upon themselves to jump into intersections and direct traffic for tips - some even have whistles. It's the Indonesian version of washing windows at traffic lights.

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Day two we head down to the old town. This is the docks area of Batavia (the Dutch colonial name for Jakarta) and is full of old colonial buildings from the heyday of the Dutch East Indies Company and Dutch colonial rule. Some buildings have been renewed but unfortunately most are in a sad state of disrepair. Although mooted for redevelopment the whole area is prone to flooding which I think deters any substantial investment. This area copped the worst of the recent flooding and people are doing it hard down here as shown in the photo of shanty life below.

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We do, however, make an impression on the locals and are treated as rock stars. Everyone wants a photo with us!

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Another stinking hot day, we've done a lot of walking by now and we're dusty and sweaty. Bali Hai time at an old Batavian colonial building. The Dutch certainly didn’t rough it.

Chilling at the VOC Galangan Cafe, Old Batavia

Chilling at the VOC Galangan Cafe, Old Batavia

In closing here is one very important travel tip. On your last day of work before you fly out overseas DO NOT throw your passport into the office recycle bin with your old newspapers while cleaning up your desk. That will ensure that when you can't find your passport on the weekend you’re leaving and realise what you've done you don't have to contact a work buddy with 24 hour building access and meet him at the office, all the while stressing that the cleaners have already cleared the bin. A big thank you to my good friend, Manoj.

Manoj saves the day!

Manoj saves the day!

Posted by Shaman Wanderer 20:27 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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