SIXTH MOVEMENT: INDONESIA
I woke up today at 06:00, got ready, packed my bags, and checked out. I grabbed a taxi and as I was throwing my bags in the back seat, a man came up and opened the passenger door for me, but I sat in the back as I usually do and closed my door; the man then held out his hand demanding money for doing nothing to help me at all; I ignored him to discourage that kind of behavior and eventually the taxi driver told him that I was not paying and to go away. There were many people on this street (mostly kids) who wait to open the taxi door for passengers and then expect payment – it’s a shame they can’t do something more productive with their lives.
I then took the taxi to the airport, found the Philippines Airline counter, checked in after another long wait (just like in Taipei – this airline company is slow), and then had to pay my departure tax, which I gladly did. I then passed through Immigration where the government lackey spent a considerable amount of time studying my visage and trying to match it up with my clean-shaven passport photo. It appears that the longer my facial hair grows, the longer it takes for personnel at Immigration to verify I am who I say I am; I usually have to direct their attention to my scar, eyes, nose, ears, and sometimes I assist by covering the bottom part of my face with my hand. When I was in Khatgal in Mongolia, I had asked an Israelite there if he had ever encountered any problems at Immigration on account of his passport photo and his current beard; he told me “no” and that the officials don’t really care; I believed him since in my past I had worked for a government agency and I knew from experience the type of people that are usually employed by the government; however, the Israelite’s experience is not proving to be my experience.
Finally it came time to board the plane and after a short delay, we lifted in to the air and left the Philippines. I will miss some of their food and countryside . . . that is all. Earlier in the airport I had a beer and I then supplemented that with five glasses of red wine during the flight in order to properly prepare me for the holy lunar-month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim year, when fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset) – since Indonesia is an Islamic nation.
We then landed at about noon in Jakarta, I paid for my Visa, received my Visa, and then passed through Immigration. I then grabbed my checked bag and found a reputable taxi to take me to my hotel. Thank God for the internet, the greatest invention to benefit mankind; by using sites like wikitravel.org, I knew exactly which taxi companies to rely on as well as the process for receiving my Visa on Arrival, allowing me to ignore all the scammers and touts trying to take advantage of mine and other foreigners’ ignorance in a strange land; in time the internet will continue to educate the masses and criminals will lose more money and have to seek legitimate work.
I reached my hotel, checked in, dropped my bags off, and then headed outside, through a light rain, to the National Museum. I had also asked the concierge in the hotel about local laws concerning Ramadan and he assured me that at least on the island of Java people are more relaxed and you can eat, drink, smoke, and even joke during daylight hours – just don’t do it near a mosque. While walking through the city’s alleyways and streets, I observed the concierge was correct; there were many carts and stalls selling food, drinks, and cigarettes (some were obviously manned by Muslims) and people were eating, drinking, smoking, and joking outside as well. Another observation: at least where I am in Central Jakarta, the city is rather clean and no where near as disgusting as Manila – this makes me so happy and has brightened my outlook concerning the rest of my journey through Indonesia. Some drawbacks: they drive on the wrong side of the road here (lousy British influence) and I watched a lot of motorbikes scream through red lights.
I then made it to the National Museum of Indonesia where they had a very impressive display throughout their courtyard of Hindu statues and steles. Inside, there were ethnographic exhibits on the various cultures found throughout the Indonesian islands; these exhibits contained weapons, masks, statues, clothing, ceremonial instruments, musical instruments, boats, hats, and all the different types of dwellings used – the dwellings were showcased through photos and miniature models, most of which were very impressive designs made all the more impressive on account that these homes were only built from logs and thatched roofs. There was also exhibits on ceramics which had been imported from Japan, China, Vietnam, and Myanmar, as well as historical exhibits on early inhabitants (Homo Erectus) and European and Asian influence through their trade and colonial rule in Indonesia.
Having finished touring the museum just when the security guards began to usher us out, I left and walked across the street to the Monas (National Monument). The monument stands tall at 132 meters in the center of Merdeka Square (one square kilometer in area, making it possibly the largest public square in the world) and commemorates the struggle for Indonesian independence. The design of the monument incorporates Lingga (in the form of the phallic tower, shaped like a rice pestle) and Yoni (in the form of the womb-like bottom, shaped like a rice mortar) which symbolizes harmony, balance, fertility, and eternal life. I walked around the monument and then walked outside around the square. On my way I passed a deer enclosure containing the native Javan rusa; all the rusa deer in there had white speckles on their coats and were grazing the grass. Along my walk I bought sousop fruit juice (something I’ve never had before) which was refreshing and tasty.
I then walked back to the hotel, passing by a canal that had one of the most repugnant smells I have ever smelt, making me believe the canal must contain raw sewage – it was absolutely horrid. After resting a while in the hotel, I went to a nearby restaurant and had three dishes which were all spicy to varying degrees and a shake that had the infamously smelly durian fruit (something else I had never had before) – the shake tasted kind of funky, but the food was delicious. I then walked back to my hotel room and settled down for the night.