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A First Wheel Through the Jakarta Rain

We strolled through the Jakarta airport, with no idea of what to expect. The sloping red tile roofs and lush tropical vegetation looked cheerful enough, but our Indonesian Bureau Chief, Jackson Fu, had alerted us to possible dangers. He was to meet us at the airport, but first we needed to get visas, collect our baggage and negotiate customs. As Jackson explained to us while we were documenting the inventory, this might pose some issues. Corruption was quite rampant in Indonesia we had been told, and it was not uncommon for officials to detain foreigners on trumped up pretenses in hopes of extracting a bribe.
The airport was plastered with signage advertising the administration the capital punishment for those caught trafficking narcotics. I immediately thought of the AsiaWheeling mobile pharmacy, and began to entertain fears that they might mistake it for a covert and illegal drug trafficking ring specializing in anti-malarial medication…
Luckily I was snapped back to reality when a fellow behind us in line (a giant line had formed for visas upon arrival due to some malfunction in the innards of the visa issuing machine) began to chat with me about my ukulele. He was a Taiwanese business man and somewhat of an amateur musician, here to trade garments in Indonesia. As a large team of officials struggled to repair the visa machine (many of them it seemed by staring intently at it), we discussed his business and ours. He offered his assistance when AsiaWheeling finally arrived in Taiwan, some 8 months in the future.
Indonesian Passport Control and Customs proved to be speedy and all smiles. I doffed my panama hat, and made my way to towards baggage claim. The smiling was a welcome trend we would find extended further into our time in here. As we traversed the airport, both employees and other passengers smiled and said things to me in languages I knew none of. We collected our bags and the cycles. Despite the fact that we had neglected to release the air from the tires before checking them, the tires has arrived in tact, and no major damage seemed to have occurred to the rest of the cycle components as well.
Jackson met us looking dapper in the sticky Indonesian heat, sporting a large grin and a relaxed attitude. His driver arrived shortly after, and we loaded our belongings into a the Fu’s Toyota Kijang. The Kijang is the staple car in Jakarta; and the roads and parking garages are packed with them. It was strange, it occurred to Scott and I, to, in such a crowded and narrow land city, to drive only SUVs…. “Flooding,” Jackson explained.
We stared out the windows and I began to draw lines between Jakarta and places that we had traveled in India during the pilot study. Though Indonesia and India were soon to become very different entities, at this point it was the closest data point I had: littered with people, littered with road-side food stands, and littered with litter.
Jackson snapped us back into reality by presenting us with a packet of material that he had prepared: an introduction and itinerary to Jakarta which he had prepared himself (don’t worry, dear reader, copies of this for you are forthcoming); a collection of scans from the lonely planet; indonesian SIM cards, and a bundle of Rupiah for each of us which he had changed in advance. We inserted our SIM cards and were asked to select our religion, as atheism and agnosticism is illegal in this country.  Jackson helped us navigate the menus and successfully initiate our first call.  Needless to say we remain helplessly indebted to this fine Indonesian gentleman.
Jackson’s house is gorgeous and in the city center not too far from the airport. We had heard traffic could become positively heinous in this city, so it was a blessing that we were able to make it back to Jackson’s pad in quick order. After dropping our stuff in his most luxurious room, and refreshing ourselves with some water and a glass of freshly juiced oranges and papayas, we embarked for a wheel.
The Indonesian traffic was dense, hot and raging all around us. We rode with Jackson in search of what he told us was sure to be a startling display of gridlock traffic. Having lived for some of the past year in Washington DC, I was eager to see how much worse it could possibly get.
AsiaWheeling was in full force. This wheel was already equal to or greater in intensity than any we had experienced during the pilot study. Jakarta traffic was a tumult of SUVs motor-bikes and city busses, which roiled through the streets with utter disregard for lanes, traffic lights, or turn signals. Yet, with focus, we found it to be manageable.
As we rode people called out to us, smiled and waved. No doubt half the communications were insults in one light or another, but they were delivered with smiles and in a most urn-threatening way. To be honest, it felt great to be wheeling again. The stresses of planning and leaving, and the myriad of logistical hassles which stood in our path melted away as we pedaled our speed TRs through the boiling hot city.
As we rode the sky began to open and a light but steady rain began to fall.   Traffic was becoming denser, but so was the rainfall, so we decided to turn around for home. A fine first wheel.
That evening, we dined at an imperial restaurant called Bungarampai. it was absolutely delicious. Jackson spent some time debating the menu with the waiter and calling in for support from friends and family on his iphone. In the end we settled on a hot pent salad, a roast duck, a large tower of fried egg and tofu, a plate of stewed vegetables and a hearty fried rice dish.
Full and happy, we retired to a “gothic” restaurant for a drink. The interior felt like a cozy and mysterious brothel, with many layers of red cloth hanging from the ceiling, and islet river running in a geometrically snacking pattern throughout the place. The walls and corners were filled with artifacts: stone statues of Buddhist and hindu gods, old imperialist painting, and rows upon rows of Javanese puppets.  The roof was constructed from found timber, and we speculated as to how old it was. The humidity and the rain in this city, no doubt, age wood quite quickly… in the end we settled on something between 80 and 20 years.
Satisfied and flabbergasted at our good fourteen, we collapsed into bed to slept the sleep of men contented with the world.

Jakarta from the Air

We strolled through the Jakarta airport, with no idea of what to expect. The sloping red tile roofs and lush tropical vegetation looked cheerful enough, but our Indonesian Bureau Chief, Jackson, had alerted us to possible dangers. He was to meet us at the airport, but first we needed to get visas, collect our baggage and negotiate customs. As Jackson explained to us while we were documenting the inventory, this might pose some issues. Corruption was quite rampant in Indonesia we had been told, and it was not uncommon for officials to detain foreigners on trumped up pretenses in hopes of extracting a bribe.

The airport was plastered with signage advertising the administration of capital punishment for those caught trafficking narcotics. I immediately thought of the AsiaWheeling mobile pharmacy, and began to entertain fears that they might mistake it for a covert and illegal drug trafficking ring specializing in anti-malarial medication…

Luckily I was snapped back to reality when a fellow behind us in line (a giant line had formed for visas upon arrival due to some malfunction in the innards of the visa issuing machine) began to chat with me about my ukulele. He was a Taiwanese business man and somewhat of an amateur musician, here to trade garments in Indonesia. As a large team of officials struggled to repair the visa machine (many of them it seemed by staring intently at it), we discussed his business and ours. He offered his assistance when AsiaWheeling finally arrived in Taiwan, some 8 months in the future.

Indonesian Passport Control and Customs proved to be speedy and all smiles. I doffed my panama hat, and made my way to toward baggage claim. The smiling was a welcome trend we would find extended further into our time in here. As we traversed the airport, both employees and other passengers smiled and said things to me in languages I knew none of. We collected our bags and the cycles. Despite the fact that we had neglected to release the air from the tires before checking them, the tires has arrived in tact, and no major damage seemed to have occurred to the rest of the cycle components as well.

Jackson met us looking dapper in the sticky Indonesian heat, sporting a large grin and a relaxed attitude. His driver arrived shortly after, and we loaded our belongings into the  Toyota Kijang. The Kijang is the staple car in Jakarta; and the roads and parking garages are packed with them. It was strange, it occurred to Scott and I, to, in such a crowded and narrow land city, to drive only SUVs…. “Flooding,” Jackson explained.

We stared out the windows and I began to draw lines between Jakarta and places that we had traveled in India during the pilot study. Though Indonesia and India were soon to become very different entities, at this point it was the closest data point I had: littered with people, littered with road-side food stands, and littered with litter.

Jackson snapped us back into reality by presenting us with a packet of material that he had prepared: an introduction and itinerary to Jakarta which he had prepared himself (don’t worry, dear reader, copies of this for you are forthcoming); a collection of scans from the lonely planet; Indonesian SIM cards, and a bundle of Rupiah for each of us which he had changed in advance. We inserted our SIM cards and were asked to select our religion, as atheism and agnosticism are illegal in this country.  Jackson helped us navigate the menus and successfully initiate our first call.  Needless to say we remain helplessly indebted to this fine Indonesian gentleman.

Selecting Our Religion

Jackson’s house is gorgeous and in the city center not too far from the airport. We had heard traffic could become positively heinous in this city, so it was a blessing that we were able to make it back to Jackson’s pad in quick order. After dropping our stuff in his most luxurious room, and refreshing ourselves with some water and a glass of freshly juiced oranges and papayas, we embarked for a wheel.

The Indonesian traffic was dense, hot and raging all around us. We rode with Jackson in search of what he told us was sure to be a startling display of gridlock traffic. Having lived for some of the past year in Washington DC, I was eager to see how much worse it could possibly get.

Woody in Traffic

AsiaWheeling was in full force. This wheel was already equal to or greater in intensity than any we had experienced during the pilot study. Jakarta traffic was a tumult of SUVs, motor-bikes, and city buses, which roiled through the streets with utter disregard for lanes, traffic lights, or turn signals. Yet, with focus, we found it to be manageable.

Woody and Jackson

As we rode people called out to us, smiled, and waved. No doubt half the communications were insults in one light or another, but they were delivered with smiles and in a most un-threatening way. To be honest, it felt great to be wheeling again. The stresses of planning and leaving, and the myriad of logistical hassles which stood in our path melted away as we pedaled our speed TRs through the boiling hot city.

As we rode the sky began to open and a light but steady rain began to fall.   Traffic was becoming denser, but so was the rainfall, so we decided to turn around for home. A fine first wheel.

That evening we dined at an imperial restaurant called Bungarampai. it was absolutely delicious. Jackson spent some time debating the menu with the waiter and calling in for support from friends and family on his iPhone. In the end we settled on a hot pent salad, a roast duck, a large tower of fried egg and tofu, a plate of stewed vegetables and a hearty fried rice dish.

P1051215P1051213P1051210

Full and happy, we retired to a “gothic” restaurant for a drink. The interior felt like a cozy and mysterious brothel, with many layers of red cloth hanging from the ceiling, and a little river running in a geometrically snaking pattern throughout the place.

P1051239

The walls and corners were filled with artifacts: stone statues of Buddhist and Hindu gods, old imperialist paintings, and row upon row of Javanese puppets.  The roof was constructed from found timber, and we speculated as to how old it was. The humidity and the rain in this city, no doubt, age wood quite quickly… in the end we settled on something between 80 and 20 years.

P1051242

Satisfied and flabbergasted at our good fortune, we collapsed into bed to sleep the sleep of men contented with the world.


Comments

  1. Rebecca | January 8th, 2010 | 10:02 am

    What was that river doing in the gothic bar? I love the first panoramic picture of Jakarta.

  2. Woody | January 10th, 2010 | 4:55 am

    I think the river was a stylistic choice. Glad you are digging the pictures!

  3. aili | April 6th, 2010 | 10:38 am

    i have to find to gothic restaurant when in jakarta. it looks hilarious!

  4. aili | April 6th, 2010 | 10:38 am

    i have to find to gothic restaurant when in jakarta. it looks hilarious!

  5. jakarta | April 29th, 2012 | 1:11 am

    jakarta…

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