Day #2 in Indonesia

Thursday: Feb. 7, 2013

The essence of traveling, defined: Through traveling, we turn the pages of a magical book, in which the story keeps changing at every turn. Our eyes open, our paradigms shift, and we give up what we once thought about the world around us and take on a brighter, broader, and more beautiful perspective.

I had a fantastic time in Jakarta today. It was an all-around win; my prayer was answered and my wish came true. Allow me to tell you the story.

I was so sick and busy the weeks before my trip, that I did not spend adequate time researching destinations and planning an itinerary. I ended up doing most of this preparation on site (which worked out just fine in Hong Kong), and it wasn’t even until the night before leaving that I booked a hostel in Hong Kong, confirmed my lodging for Bali, and purchased my return ticket to Taipei. Yeah, I’m a slightly haphazard traveler, but the important thing is that I don’t let anything stop me.

So this morning, I pulled myself out of bed around 9am. It was a beautiful day outside, and I knew it was time to get off the campus and surrounding area of the Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH) known as Lippo Karawaci and venture onto the streets of Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.

I spent about about two hours online in the office of Craig Cook, my friend and professor I’m visiting here in Karawaci, researching popular destinations in Indonesia, specifically around Jakarta. I took notes on my iPhone, writing down directions, names of places, and created a rathe substantial list that assured me I would accomplish something and not waste my time in the country. I also found a map of Jakarta that included a route map of the Jakarta busway, which I later learned is Transjakarta, which is literally an overground subway system that takes you all over the city. This was perfect, because I honestly hate taking taxis when I’m traveling and only do it if I’m with people who prefer it or it’s absolutely the only practical option left. Besides, nothing gives you a better feel of the rhythm of a city than the beat of public transportation.

As I was researching and reading different reviews and recommendations on varying sites, I came across a rather insightful statement: “Remember, the best experiences that happen in Indonesia are the ones you just stumble upon.” This sentence was nestled in the context of how friendly and helpful Indonesians are and how foreigners just need to be friendly and not shy when getting around. I kept this in mind and aggressively applied this principle ALL DAY.

For those who know me, you know I rather detest asking for directional help. Not today. Today, it was my greatest strength.

After having lunch with Cook, I started my venture. My journey started at the Karawaci Super Mall, outside of which is the bus terminal for the buses that go into Jakarta and other areas beyond. Thanks to the help of an Australian university student, I bought bus ticket and boarded the correct bus. She even told me what to say in Indonesian: “Drop saya di Taman Nanggrit.” (Don’t quote me on the spelling.) English: “Drop me off at Taman Nanggrit.” Taman Nanggrit a mall where I could get on the busway. I successfully found everything the university student described, and once I was at the busway ticket window, it was time to ask more questions.

I pulled out my map and told the guy where I needed to go. He waved over another guy who could apparently speak better English. The other guy pulled out another map, which was way more detailed and laid all the routes of the busway. It was perfect. I pointed to my destination and he told me where I needed to go, which was Harmoni.

Getting on the correct bus was the next challenge. I stood in a line of people because it felt right. I kept asking the conductor who called out the arriving bus’s route, “Harmoni? Harmoni?” I was constantly refused. This wonderful local woman standing in that same line saw what was going on. She had my back. She made eye contact at me and pointed at the other line. That was where I needed to wait for the Harmoni bus. I thanked her profusely. But it didn’t stop there. A bus would arrive, and I would glance in her direction. She gave a negative signal, indicating that it wasn’t the bus I wanted to get on yet. Finally, she gave me an affirmative nod, and I was on my way to Harmoni. I will never forget that woman.

Riding the busway was great. I saw the city, rubbed shoulders with the locals, and felt the bumps and sharp turns of the road. I got off at Harmoni and successfully transferred to the next bus I needed to ride to Kota, which is the terminal stop of the red busway line. At Kota, I was having some trouble finding an exit out to the road. I turned around a couple times, asked some people how to get to Taman Fatahillah. Seeing the sidewalk but being incapable of reaching it was becoming a rather perplexing. Then this girl came up to me and asked, “Are you lost?”

Gaby became my friend and tour guide for the rest of the day. My prayer and wish of a local just reaching out to me with no ulterior motives other than friendship was answered. We had an incredible time of sight-seeing together and the destination I was headed to, the Sunda Kelapa Harbor, was a place she had never been. The harbor was basically a hub for the local boating industry, and the people even let you climb onto the boats! It was awesome and beat most of the tourist gigs I’ve seen. There was even a boat that you could take across the small harbor, but Gaby can’t swim and the water was pretty dirty, so we passed.

After that adventure, I asked Gaby if another destination I had written down, Ancol, was nearby. It was, so we hopped on an angot – another mode of the local public transportation – and got off at Ancol.

Ancol is this extensive waterfront recreation area where you can even rent bikes to navigate all the trails that run through Ocean Ecopark Ancol, which is – and I’m quoting from the sign I took a picture of – “the biggest waterfront recreation area in Indonesia.’ It’s a beautiful and green network of agriculture. There’s also an amusement park named after Dufan the Defender. We walked all the way through to the pier. There’s even a beach. It was totally non-touristy and a weekday so not super crowded and full of locals. I loved it. We ate Indonesian food at one of the places next to the pier and talked about life.

Soon, it was time for me to head back if I wanted to try to catch the last Lippo Karawaci bus back to Lippo Karawaci. I ended up missing it and took a cab back, since it was literally the only practical option for me to return, price-and-time-wise. And of course, staying true to the theme of the day, it was a fantastic cab ride complete with language exchange and an extremely basic lesson in Indonesian. “Nama saya Victoria.” (Again, don’t quote me on the spelling.) English: “My name is Victoria.” And I learned that the word for the number nine sounds like “Zombie Land.” The cab driver laughed at my revelation hysterically on multiple occasions during the ride. I’ll never forget the number nine.

And I’ll never forget Gaby and every Indonesian that made my experience in Jakarta awesome today. Gaby and I are actually meeting up again tomorrow morning. My other destination that I want to hit up before going to Sentul City for the weekend is another place she has never been.

It’s true, you know. Happiness is only real when shared.

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