Monday, 27 February 2017

Jakarta to Bukittinggi

I can't say Jakarta was very impressive, though I did like that there are commuter trains, saving me from the chaos of the streets.
I visited the historic centre, now called Kota, which was once the Dutch colonial city of Batavia. Sadly all that is left is a square and a few streets. I looked in a rather bizarre museum of puppets and then in the history museum.
This had two rooms with old maps of the city and intermittent English signs. The rest was taken up with rather plain wooden furniture. This was presumably historic but there were no signs indicating how.
After lunch in Cafe Batavia on the square I tried to get to the historic docks but gave up in a maze like light industrial area with sacks of metal bits and sheets of canvas all over the streets.
In the morning I flew to Padaang in Sumatra and took a blue bird taxi to Bukittinggi.  This turned out to be way up in the hills and so cooler than I've seen so far. Checked in to the De Kock Kafe and guesthouse, which I would probably like more if I hadn't been told all onwards transport runs overnight. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017


So, to solve my visa conundrum I went to Kuala Lumpur for a night. The first pleasant surprise was that there are decent taxis, no fighting off a scrum of drivers, no arguing over the price. I simply walked up to a row of blue taxis, gave my destination as Gambir station and he turned the meter on.
From Gambir there was a bud to the airport and then I was temporarily back in the first world, enjoying such luxuries as signs in English and shopkeepers who stayed in their shops, confident in the price tags doing their job, instead of chasing down the street shouting "For you special price".
I saw virtually nothing of KL taking a train to a small guesthouse, which had to my amazement UK plug sockets. I was so shocked I nearly forgot where I was completely and ordered half and half for dinner. Remembered in time though and went for the roti with dahl.
Rested and back in Indonesia I find myself liking Jakarta more than I thought I would. The streets are surprisingly walkable and there is less hassle than many places.Tomorrow I will have more of a look around. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Yogyakarta to Jakarta

I woke feeling much better and booked an afternoon trip to the Hindu and Buddhist temples at Prambanan. Then I strolled to the train station, enjoying the fact no one shouted at me and booked a train to Jakarta, because I really had enough of minibuses.
I waspicked up by a car with one other passenger, a lady in a hijab who turned out to speak good English and we discussed where I had been. It was nice to have a conversation with an Indonesian that wasn't about them selling me anything.
Prambanan was amazing, not that I understood all of it. One highlight for me was when they called the afternoon prayer from several mosques, while I was looking round. Yes I know it's a completely different religion but it just seemed to fit.
Afterwards I had an iced tea in the café and followed the signs for exit. To my surprise, instead of the carpark they led me to a side street, but the carpark entrance was clearly visible so I headed towards it.
Then as previously mentioned I was surrounded by four large men demanding that I go in one of their taxis.
Anyway I survived, and the original driver showed up at the hostel around 7pm to apologise for not realising there was more than one exit.
Bisnis class train travel is certainly better than a bus for eight hours, even if the aircon kept breaking. Then I took a motorbike taxi,  which was terrifying in the traffic to Six Degrees hostel.

Java is proving to be more of a challenge than I had hoped but at least now, apart from my visa hop to KL I have one base until I go to Sumatra. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

No Sleep till forever

No sleep till forever
That may be the most exhausting thing I have ever done.
First I had to take a minibus back to Kuta, which all transport in Bali apparently goes through. Then I was put in a car, no idea why I had to have a private car but it was all that was on offer. I started to nod off a few times but each time the driver would shout "Sir, sir you ok" so no rest there.
After two and a half hours we got to the ferry where I apparently needed a man to hold my tickets and point to a seat. In Java I was made to sit in the front because "aircon he broke" and the windows were open. The seat was that special plastic that sticks to skin and someone had thoughtfully fixed a handle on the door in exactly the right place to jam into me.
We stopped at a restaurant and then again after three hours when a new driver and a group of Germans got on.
An hour after that we left the coast road and began to climb steeply up numerous switch backs. The air got cooler and it began to rain. The driver experimented with turning the headlights off a few ti
Another hour and we were finally in Cemoro Lawang. I had to distract the driver after he scared a young woman by trying to follow her to her hotel. He responded by producing a single croc from under a seat and asking if it was mine. One of us was clearly crazy but I'm not sure which by that point.
Up for 3.30 to get a jeep, which of course arrived at 4 to a viewpoint for sunrise. No point really in the fog but the other few hundred people seemed to like it. One good point it was cool enough to wear a coat at least till the sun was up.
From there we drove to a large flat area of sand with a ridge above it. There was an option to walk to the ridge but I was feeling lazy and took a horse to the bottom of some steps. The steps were not high but I was out of breath almost instantly, maybe altitude?
My promised 9.30 bus never showed up so I jumped in a random minibus promising to get me to Probolingo, the nearest town on a main road.
From there it was a tortuously slow nine hours in a minibus that at least had aircon but was still nowhere near comfortable enough.
I arrived in Yogyakarta, checked in to what turns out to be a European style hostel, found my bed and lost consciousness.

Feeling much better this morning but I have definitely concluded that Indonesia is simply too big and slow to see much this way.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Ubud and Batur

I took a very hot minibus to Ubud in the middle of Bali and immediately liked it. There are still lots of tourists, if anything the proportion may be higher than in Kuta, but it feels less like a tourist town. The tourists are in ones and twos rather than packs, the shopkeepers actually let you walk past and there are temples all over. I looked at one before getting an early night ready for a 2am start to see sunrise from the volcano at Mount Batur.
The views were stunning and the hike not that hard,  completely flat for the first 20 minutes but then steep scree. I became a little annoyed at the way the guides assumed all tourists are lazy and need constant stops and to be pulled up anything where you need to balance but it was worth it.
We saw a sacred cave and learned that once a year there is a sacrifice that involves drowning a dog in the lake at the bottom of the mountain. Not sure about that one.
Back in Ubud I realised how little time I have and how hard it is to book anything as a single traveller when I tried to arrange onwards transport to Java. It will take most of tomorrow and cost double the normal price to Bromo. Still the alternative involved a lot of waiting around bus stations being shouted at by taxi drivers and a lot more time.
Tonight, with any luck I will see the traditional dancing at the palace. 

Friday, 17 February 2017


I've been in Kuta for three nights now, which is enough as it's a bit too touristy for me. I did make the most of the experience though by trying a surfing lesson, which was really hard and visiting Sky Garden for the all you can eat and drink night. The venue was really large and impressive in its way. Shame about the music but what can you expect from a place that advertises having the 82nd best DJ in Indonesia.

I have decided the only way to deal with touts is to totally ignore them as even a quick "Hello, no thank you" seems to end in someone chasing me down the street shouting "Very cheap". The funny thing is that when I've gone into actual shops or cafés the owners are usually absent or busy with something and want me to wait. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Country 41

I was up at the crack of dark to wait for a pre booked taxi,  who proved yet again that no taxi drivers in Manila actually know their way around.
From there it was a matter of multiple queues to get through and a mad dash to my gate, only to find the flight to Singapore was late.
I spent most of the day wandering around the surreal environment of Singapore airport, no I didn't get to the pool, which was in the other terminal.
Landing in Bali I had a traditional argument with taxi drivers about the fare before finally reaching my hostel. First impressions are that Kuta is very crowded, the streets are very narrow and everyone wants to sell something.
Thismorning I attempted to sort out a visa extension, however it required a reference from an Indonesian, then a wait of at least seven working days so I gave up the idea and solved the problem by booking a flight to Kuala Lumpur from Jakarta and back. Reducing the time involved to two days and freeing me up to actually see some of the country instead of having to return to the same office.
After that I've been mainly just trying to get my bearings and explore on foot. This isn't as easy as it sounds with motorbikes everywhere and people jumping out shouting offering everything from taxis to massas (massage).
I found the beach but in the rain wasn't that impressed then made my way to the memorial to the Bali bombing and back to the safety of the hostel.
Tomorrow, with any luck I will get a surfing lesson, then it's time to explore beyond this corner of one island.