Excitement slowly crept in. The week of February 22, 2011. My first overseas outing with friends. We were going to visit Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. We were going to the 11th biggest city in the world, in terms of population & size.
One Friday evening, back in the later part of 2010, Aditya messaged saying there are cheap tickets to Jakarta, and that they are planning a trip. Feb was a long time ahead, but even if I can’t make it for some reason, 30$ is not a big amount take a chance. I had no inkling of an idea of what Jakarta has in store for a tourist! Six of us from our group, minus Venu & Stephen “signed” up.. And what fun it turned out to be! All the credit for planning goes to Aditya, well, apart for one thing – that he did not schedule any time for lunch on any of those days!
Feb 24th, 2010. Arrival.
Rushed back from work slightly earlier, quickly refreshed, grabbed some food & took the train for a long ride all the way to Changi Airport. The leader of the pack led us to staff canteen for supper, I made sure to have something lest I starve later in the night.
Arrived in Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at around 8.30 pm. The airport looked pretty decent, although only slightly better than Chennai airport. One step outside the airport, and we were surrounded by touts for taxis & cars. Totally reminded me of Chennai or Bangalore airport. After a bit of haggling, we finally settled with a sort of mini van from the airport to Ibis Mangga Dua Hotel for about 200,000 Rupiah.(Here starts the arduous counting of zeroes in the Indonesian currency!) Roughly a 45 minute ride. The first thing that caught my attention was the number of cars on the roads. The roads were literally jam packed with cars, and took a little while to even get out of the airport. The in-taxi entertainment was Aditya-Jason sweethearts, with Aditya constantly nagging Jason to take pictures using his camera (Owing to the front-seat advantage Jason had) & Jason wondering why anyone would bother taking photos of toilet signs!! Of course, we can’t leave out dear Prof Loh, who kept insisting that billboards are as common in Singapore as Jakarta! Yeah, billboards, another instance we Indians of the group found very familiar. And not to forget, the occasional road bumps during the ride.
It was not very different from travelling in Chennai. The weather, the crowd, was all too familiar. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s a joy to simply break away from the extreme orderliness of Singapore & sink into the chaos around. The taxi turned into a small lane leading to the hotel from the Mangga Dua main road, and at around 10 p.m, this lane was lined with tent shops (or whatever you call them), selling stuff from bags, to footwear, and hardwares and what not; also road side food stalls. The lane was only lit by lights from these shops. Brought back memories of walking down the streets of my native place, a town called Pollachi (Tamil Nadu, India)
We finally arrived at the hotel & decided to refresh, rest & meet next day for breakfast. Some of us took a stroll outside the hotel on the streets to find the shops closing down, a few bajai drivers touting, but the place was more or less closing for the day.