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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Jakarta...an Eye Opener

Jakarta wasn't a holiday destination for many, but the flight we were on board the eve of Hari Raya was full.

Mostly Indonesians back for the holiday, a few business executives and then some Singaporeans not sure why they are heading to this country like us.

My girlfriend wanted a short getaway so i left her to make the purchase. She chose Jakarta for it was the cheapest flight despite the peak period. Days leading up to our departure, horror stories from friends itched at our ears and worry start to creep in our hearts.

"Jakarta is SO not safe!"
"You're going to be robbed and raped."
"TAKE CARE."
"It's worse than Manila."


And the winner was...
Him: "Don't walk on the streets."
Me: "Why? I will get kidnapped?"
Him: "No. The car will bang you."

What??!? It's not just the typical kia see (afraid of everything) Singaporeans who are giving words of advice, some were Indonesians themselves.

I was worried. I didn't want to die.

Arriving at the airport, i clutched my luggage at my chest, my eyes darted around looking for suspicious characters. Been forewarned to ONLY take cabs from the Blue Bird group, we ignored the touts and joined the ambiguous queue.

20 minutes later, we got our cab. He couldn't speak English, we showed him the hotel address and got him on the phone with our Indonesian friend. Will he send us to the right destination? Part fear, part excitement. I peered forward and know we will be doomed if he kidnaps us. It's a manual stick and i can't drive.

My travel partner, without a care in the world, was fast asleep snoring away.

Our friend checked us in at Fave Hotel,  a brand new budget hotel in Central Jakarta within walking distance to some of the biggest malls. He claims that if a local reserves and check in, it can be 30% cheaper than the published rate.

Bless that kind soul of him, i found an envelope waiting my arrival and even though he wasn't around to receive us, he had already checked us into the spa next door to keep us girls busy in his absence.

His handwriting hasn't changed since 1999. I was very touched by his sweet gesture, making sure our transition was smooth despite his busy schedule. The detailed thought process he had in receiving us even though he wasn't physically around, he gave credit to his National Service training days.
A luxurious spa treat awaits us next door. Taman Sari Royal Heritage, visited by many beauty pageant contestants to keep them in tip top conditions for competitions and others (will explain the others later).
Browsing the spa menu, my girlfriend pointed "intimate service" to me and giggled. The website reads,"Beautiful Princess Package pampers and prepares the bride-to-be with beauty treatments as well as EXERCISE and CARE for intimate areas." We later found out through our friends that the therapist fingers you, washes you below and smokes in pheromones preparing you for consummation night.

If only the sweet friend of mine booked that for me, what a pleasant surprise i'll get when the therapist starts fondling me. But no, he got me a 2 hour Javanese massage with good strokes on THE BACK.

After our spa, we wandered about ourselves and we found men but little women walking on the streets. Can those allegations be true? There were stares, but none menacing or threatening. Still, i clutched my handbag close to my chest, a giveaway sign i was a tourist.

We quickly ducked into the first shopping mall we saw, away from the "dangerous streets".
 We found green eggs, a street snack we reckon.
 Making into a rice pancake of sorts, sprinkled with a generous helping of brown flakes that i guess is coconut. It was average tasting but i wouldn't taste it again. We wanted to be adventurous and ordered from the food court Indonesian food, it was a mistake. We should have stuck with Western food, until we met our friends who brought us to good Indonesian food.

After dinner, we staked out at the lounge of Shangri-La and watched working girls swinging in and out of lifts and doors. We received a very interesting history lesson as our friends discoursed on the social hierarchy of the Indonesians, the pressures one face because of culture, the imbalance of riches and the corrupted politics.

Because of the huge social disparity, women are categorized into "gold diggers", "social climbers" and "socialites".

Gold diggers are the poor who latch on to the rich.
Social climbers are the rich but latch on to the richer.
Socialites are the elite who mingle only amongst the rich.

Then there is the huge sex industry. Unknown to many, Jakarta hosts many sleazy clubs comparable to Japan. Our friends graciously took us on a city tour, pointing our innocent buildings that are not-so-innocent.

Like the mafia bosses soaking in large common jacuzzis and naked women parading that you only see in the movies? They exist in Jakarta.

Along the streets, there are mom-and-pop stores who publicly hawk Viagra. Pity i didn't snap a picture as i was in a moving car. They are necessary as our friends educate us on the forced arrange marriages among the rich. Children are born rich and they bow down to arranged marriages so as to inherit, for they cannot live like a commoner if they disobey their parents wishes to breed amongst the rich. It's a vicious social cycle.

Celebrities sleep with men who are willing to pay, but not in cash but in kind like the $20,000 branded bag or $50,000 Vertu phone.
This bright orange Police car makes it hard to stake out, but i was later on corrected by my friend who enlightened me that the bright Police car is meant to TELL people there are Police in this building.
 Looks like they are doing something dodgy, but he is just selling tea...i think.
Jakarta, the city who was the first to introduce cinema is unfortunately now lacking far behind in urban development compared to other cities like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

While we took the dingy public transport where we hopped on and off a MOVING run down bus that has no regular route, i came back in one piece, alive and knowledge widened.

Thank you, my friends. I miss you sorely.

1 comment:

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