Sunday, 31 October 2010


"the only good Blackberry is one found in a pie, not stuck to your hand!!!" - Luke Regler 2010. I said that in postering kind of stance as I have been a Nokia fan through and through and had a great Nokia phone in my 5800 xpress music. Now I am the 'proud?' owner of Blackberry curve.Why? hmmmm all will be revealed.

After a week long attempt of nature trying to destroy parts of Indonesia and the weather and traffic trying to destroy me and Jakarta, the weekend finally came and the rain stopped and the sun shone.
Elsewhere in the country, it is raining ash, stormy waters are preventing aid to Tsunami victims, Mount Krakatau is making so much noise it can be heard in Serang (about 40 minutes from Jakarta) West Java, another volcano is kicking off in Sumatra and there are now stories in the paper about 2 more in Java grumbling and groaning. I can only hope they all quieten down and the most violent one Merapi, does cease and become quiet.
The most interesting and fascinating thing I have learnt this week apart from not to go to Pondok Cabe ever again was that each Volcano has a paid guardian who's job it is to keep the spirit of the volcano happy or appeased and to be the last one to leave the volcano should it erupt. Total respect to those that live and die in those areas.

So its the end of the month, it is also Halloween which is something happily I can ignore, not because it is an Islamic country as many schools and people celebrate it but once I am at home no will come knocking and I can just watch crap movies on TV all connected to horror, although I am watching 2012 and well it aint that horrible or suspenseful but mildly entertaining.
Being the end of the month it also means I have to pay the bike finance instalment and this month was the last one! 11 months earlier I bought my bike and now I own it. Well, when I say I own it, my girlfriend is the name on the blue book and the STNK but technically it is mine. No more finance.
The plan was to go to Dann Magot to pay the last instalment, get the blue book of ownership and that would be that. However the plans slightly changed and instead of Dann Magot, we had to go to some part of the city called Pondok Cabe, famous for a helicopter crash and not much else.
Pondok Cabe is far from where I live. In the south. Thats all I can tell you.
So on my one weekend off I get a month I was in a taxi in the rain by 6.30am and off to pick up Yovita and then go from there. I managed to choose a taxi driver that could sleep and drive on the toll and by the time I reached Yovita, he was almost sound asleep so I got out, and we found another.
An hour later we were at Pondok Cabe and in a tiny office full of men wanting to pay the finance on their bikes. The office must be just full of money by the speed the tranacations were taking place, anyway the process is not as simple as it should be. First pay the cashier and get a receipt, then wait until you are called to request the blue book. Then sign a piece of paper and then wait another period of time, sign another piece of paper and then eventually another hour later it was finished.
Flagging down another taxi we took another hour and a half to get back to Central Park. I was dreading the taxi cost as it was a way away to the south but it was around 140,000 in total (return) so pretty good I think.

Breakfast in Central Park was nice followed by some shoe shopping (not so good) but ok and then a trip to a phone shop. I am not sure what spurred me on but I managed to walk into one and ask for a Blackberry Curve, and then pay for it and walk out of the shop 30 minutes later with one. All a bit weird still as I am not sure I needed one.
We were off out for an afternoon of drinking but I had to go back to the shop to have the BB and its settings sorted out as it is not as simple as a Nokia in that respect. 45 minutes later that was done and so then off to do something more enjoyable. Drink.
The Marina was empty bar some friends and so we settled down to an afternoons drinking in the cool air and fading light . Beer was good and the company excellent. Yet another taxi to get home and by 9pm we were home and with pizza delivery and a mildly scary movie on TV, it finished off a good day.
Today, we went to sell my Nokia at one of my least favourite malls, Ambassador. I cant actually sell it as I am a westerner and so the price would be lowered so Yovita sold it for me while I had a cup of tea in Dunkin Doughnuts. Then we wandered around the place until I got fed up being pushed and shoved and so we headed to another shopping centre, Pasar Festival for lunch and books.
In 10 minutes I walked away with 4 more books to read and so I was happy with that.

A busy weekend with a trip in at least 6 taxis and a visit to 3 malls but at least the bike payments are finished and I have a new toy to play with.
Happy days

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

It's all going on....

No individual raindrop ever considers itself responsible for the flood.

What a week its been; storms, rain, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and traffic. I must be in Indonesia. 
I have to say if things keep going they way they are, then its going to be a hell of  ride until the dry season next year. 
It seems that this year the weather certainly has been more extreme and created more hardship and misery, or is it that the news is now delivered so quickly and so accurately that we are all learning more about the world and issues that we face everyday.

I remember back in the early days of being here, being stuck in the teachers house unable to go out due to the floods around cengkareng being so bad you could not get to the city so we had to have beer delivered by the case just to get over it. Also coming back from the city after a night with the gf, getting confused in the floods and making the taxi go through the worst floods twice! My last house there used to flood and the water used to pour down the walls and everything would get soaked.
Ahh those were the days. Then the weather changed and the rain last year was less and not as heavy. Then this year. Bamm!!! it has returned with such a force that it is crippling the city.

Not only that, but the last few weeks there have been big earthquakes around the country, landslides in Papua, volcanoes erupting in Sumatra and now on Java.

In the past week there has been 18 earthquakes, 3 over 6.2 and the last one, on Monday night near Sumatra triggered off a Tsunami and that sadly has killed people on the islands around Sumatra. For the source click here:

Still on Sumatra, the volcano Sinabung has been erupting and worrying the locals and now as I write this, the volcano Merapi on Java is now reaching critical level, 000's have been evacuated and scientists are ready for it to go bang. It is Indonesia's most volatile volcano.

So its tough time in country with all this going on and there seems to be no sigh of it abating.

Back to the city of smells, and Jakarta has been getting hotter and hotter and the traffic more and more intense. I had to pick up my gf from the city on Saturday and from Puri it is a always a long hot ride in but because of the sheer amount traffic everywhere, I took a different route and I managed to get into the city within 30 minutes which was great and so I was in and out of the city within an hour. The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging in Starbucks and eating lots of food. 
On Sunday I went to Pancoran Barat again on the bike and it was a good trip as the city was light and not too heavy. It was a nice ride though and not too slow.

Then there was Monday. It rained Monday. When I say rained lets put it like this, it went very dark at 3pm and never got light until 6am the next morning. It rained so hard, you could hear it hitting the concrete roof. It rained like that for 2 to 3 hours. 

I left my office in Puri Indah around 7pm after most of the storms had gone. I was heading for Mediterania Apartments in Tanjung Duren. I got as far as Kedoya where everything had ground to a halt. Knowing that roads would be full and flooded, I turned around and went to Kebon Jeruk to enjoy sitting in traffic in another location and bumping and squeezing my way past cars on my bike, this took about 30 minutes. From there I headed towards Slipi but the way was full of bikes, buses and poorly managed roads and police/security and anyone else who could be bothered blowing whistles and waving at traffic as everyone on 2 wheels was moving at a crawl whereas everything on 3 wheels and more was stopped.
I ran out of fuel close to Slipi so I pushed the bike (much to the annoyance of other motorists) to the nearest  Pertamina and stood in the queue. As expected it was badly signed and so people were complaining about having to buy Pertamax + instead of the usual and then a fight broke out, which actually helped me get re-refuelled quicker as everyone got out of the way. Eventually with fuel I got back on the bike and arrived at slipi Theatres. Then the sight of total chaos was before me. Still I followed the other bikers and wove through traffic, jumped up onto the busway and down again until I reached the 5 ways crossing near the front of Taman Anggrek. 
It stopped raining so I took off my poncho. Sat in the mess, casually observing motor cyclists smoking, chatting, shouting, hitting buses? and so on, a big policeman started telling us to go down the toll back towards Kebon Jeruk. Nah. I squeezed through to the a point of no return. Suddenly the dam burst and a few bikes were pushing through somewhere and so I followed. 
I managed to jump onto the sidewalk, most regrettably blocking the way for people who were walking, and spinning and slipping in the mud got to the entrance of Taman Anngrek. It was now 8.30.  Stuck in the traffic again, I began to wonder how long the buses and cars had been stuck and why they refused to turn off their engines.  Raining now, so its back on with the poncho and again the bikes started moving. Someone in Taman Anggrek had the clever idea of letting bikes take the small road between that mall and Central Park, so pushing and shoving I managed to get through that way, to find the way home was empty and devoid of traffic for the last 500 meters. I got back to the apartments safe and sound and whilst the bike took a beating it was over for the night. 
Arriving at the bike park, that was underwater also, so splashing my out to the elevator raised looks of 'bule gila' and smiles.

I have promised not to complain about the traffic until the next time which knowing Jakarta, wont be long.

I hope the rain eases off for a while and if has to, comes about 1pm and goes around 4pm, that way all the water will have gone by the time I leave for home. I am also hoping that the rain over the weekend is so heavy I can go and get some pictures of the traffic and the floods to amuse myself and share.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Freeflow Jakarta

All you can eat and all the wine you can drink for 198,000 rupiah. Now doesn't that sound too good to be true. Well it almost is.
Quiet kind of week really with the blog countdown clock reducing every second but to watch it is driving me nuts. Tomorrow leaves me with less than 60 days to I get to feel the cold and be in the UK so that has to be a good thing.
The usual otherwise, weather is unpredictable and the traffic is just getting worse. I dont know whether it is because I keep reading about how bad it is getting or there is actually more on the road. The holes are certainly getting bigger thats for sure. The roads around the apartments have been dug up and refilled, the rain has since washed the holes refilled with stones empty and bigger. This makes for a more challenging ride home in the dark but so far so good. I am exceptionally careful getting home and I could draw a map of where all the holes are currently. Saying all that though there is no sign of anything being done about it, with the exception of the locals filling the holes in broken ceramic and stone, sticks, tyres and other assorted debris.

I need to go book shopping again as I seem to run out of books as I am on my last book. I am reading Michael Crichton's 'The Lost world' which is a great read. I have also read recently 3 or 4 Stephen King books again, a couple of John Grisham novels and a  great book about Krakatoa and the history of the eruption which was very impressive, so I am out of books and so I will have to hit the second hand book stores and get some more in.

So back to all you can eat and drink. Freeflow is a sort of a new word for me and the concept is very appealing being a westerner who enjoys drinking alcohol.
All you need to do is find out where these events are held, book a table and then drink all you can. Pay and leave.
I went to the Hotel Nikko opposite Grand Indonesia. Hotel Nikko is apparently a 5 star place of luxury but sadly as with most hotels in this city, it is too big, too full of empty space, graced by the super rich mainly and this one was full of Chinese or Korean tourists and wedding or birthday parties.
I was with a birthday party, although this was a pure western affair with the exception of a few wives and girlfriends. Inside the Nikko is a restaurant called the Olive and to enter it you have to go through a small corridor, actually it like the entrance to the toilets. However once inside it was a small restaurant dining area. We were kept in a corner room but that was ok.
The range of food was staggering as there was so much choice. Indonesia food, Italian, Japanese, A steak and seafood grill, salad bar and lots of cake and ice cream and then the breads. I can eat everything but I do miss good bread as Sari Roti, Bread Talk and Carrefour whilst selling decent bread do not really have good bread. This bread was great. Sticks, rolls, buns, all shapes and sizes. I think I ate more bread than anything else. The quality of the food also was very good and plentiful. I guess after my fifth plate I was full and had tried everything.
Then there was the free wine. I have missed drinking wine here mainly as it is too expensive and hard to find good wine. So being in a 'posh' hotel there was I thinking that it would be good wine. And for those that know wine you will appreciate it when I say that Lambrusco Rosso is not my favourite choice of Italian wine, if in fact it is wine not sparkling ribena. (Ribena is a blackcurrant fruit drink famous in England). Served cold as it is red wine (red wine like Indonesian food should be served at room temperature) not cold.
A bottle of this stuff in Tescos in England costs £2.08 where as a decent bottle of red costs at least double that (don't forget wine is very cheap in England). I have a suspicion that a glass of that stuff would cost 80,000 idr here. Besides the sheer cheapness and poor quality of screw bottle wine the waiter, clearly alarmed that 6 people were drinking the way through the profits disappeared and reappeared when no one was looking. So whilst it was freeflow, it was more drip feed than a steady stream but then we should have that .
So rather full and still sober (shame) we waddled out of the restaurant and went our separate ways.....

And finally dont forget....

When the wine is in, the wit is out.  ~Proverb

I feel sorry for people who don't drink.  When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day.  ~Frank Sinatra

A woman drove me to drink and I never even had the courtesy to thank her.  ~W.C. Fields

Beer is the cause and solution to all of life's problems.  ~Homer Simpson

and this one is one of my favourites......

Winston Churchill to Lady Astor

"Sir, you're drunk!" "Yes, Madam, I am. But in the morning, I will be sober and you will still be ugly."

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Life in Jakarta

Its been a topsy turvy couple of weeks and more weeks with out taking any photos, something I regret really but to be honest I have had little opportunity what with work, being lazy and not taking my camera out and about.
I had some good things happen and as usual some bad things which, well seem to come as part of the package of living in Jakarta.

The rains here have been extreme and even tonight when I rode home quite quickly with no traffic and dry streets. I park the bike in the underground park and by the time I got to Indomart the rain was so thick and heavy that I had to wonder where it came from as there was really no sign it was coming. I got soaked going from the Indomart to the laundry to get my washing and my trousers are still dripping now.
The other night I left work as normal just after 7 and at 8pm I got home. 1 hour to go 9km! and on a motorbike!!! Why? well the roads outside my apartment were flooded so badly that nothing was getting through and there was traffic backing up a long way before, something I should have taken notice of. As it was I got to the firestation opposite the apartments before turning around and going another 4 km to go past Taman Anggrek and home that way.
The rain and storms have been extreme on and off and that has been playing hell with the traffic which needs no help to be bad thats for sure.
However the 10 10 10 was one of the nicest days weather wise I think we have had this year and it was a powder blue sky day all day and swimming under it was great.

Finally got the bike washed after 4 weeks ( I am so lazy to go and sit and watch someone do it) and I must say it looks great when it has been cleaned, maybe I should do it more often. I was however stunned when after waiting for 40 mins, this guy with the whole family in tow arrives. Has one of the bike washers come to see him and then the next thing you know the bike is the next one to get washed. The passing of money was obvious and ok you have to wait but its 8000 to have the bike washed why pay to push ahead for a bike wash? I guess I should not really grumble as I have done that for my SIM, when I get taken to Immigration and a few other places so I am as guilty as the rest but at a bike wash??????????
I guess corruption has to start somewhere and why not at the grass roots of society....

I also finally got my bike serviced. To wash the bike normally takes an hour or longer due to the queue but the I like the wash so I dont mind waiting. For my bike I arrived at the service building or whatever it is called at 9.30 and there were 4 bikes ahead of me. Thankfully I brought a book with me!! At 12 noon I was done. And I dont mind waiting when it cost 30,000 rupiah (£2.50) for a complete service, oil change, brake adjustment, tuning and  anything else they do. It goes like a dream again. Soon be January and so I will be able to get it done again. I wonder if by the end of December I will have travelled over 5000km on it.

Bit of a scare this morning, getting to the bike park I could not find the bike. Now at the Apartments, the lower basement is often flooded for some reason and last night was no different. When I say flooded, I mean there was was water everywhere but it was not deep just every where, with no real idea where it came from. Any way, I go and get the bike and it has gone. Sh*t was my first thought, thats all I need. Luckily the bike ticket collector seemed to be awake for a change and he wandered over to me and pointed to my bike. Someone moved it to brush the water away. He mimed that and that is my interpretation of his mime. I would say I was right.

I have a love hate relationship with my apartment at the moment, mainly due to my landlady messing everyone about over money, it affects me as I am the one who  is threatened with coming home to the apartment and having no water or electric.
I went and got my utilities bill (water and electric) and to my surprise the bill was even less than last month, mainly due to the fact that the electric meter had not been read, there was no tax and or administration fee. Knowing that you cant escape paying these things where ever you live, I decided to go and get it sorted out. Mainly because if I did not my bill next month would more thank likely be over 600k something I dont need. I could not go Saturday as I had to work all day, Sunday no one works so Monday it was.
I was told by someone to see the cashier so I went to the cashier and produced my bills and started to say something but the cashier was a blur. She had all my bills spread out while she busily typed away on a keyboard. The printer sprang into life and then click click click and stamp stamp stamp all my bills had reciepts and were stamped with 'lunas' (paid) and the she gave them back to me smiling. Which I could understand why, she was ultra efficient. When I pointed out the meter readings, she looked deflated like she had done something wrong and so led me to the service desk. Sadly the girls here were not as efficient and whilst they spoke English could not help me. They understood my meter had not been read but even after 4 phone calls to somewhere could not tell me why and so I had to go back Tuesday. I left dismayed.
Tuesday at the service desk I left dismayed. However the engineering department thought maybe my meter was broken and so they would send a man round to have a look on Wednesday. I said no later than 9am as I wanted to be awkward but that met with a yes or a maybe if we can (almost the same thing).
Today is Wednesday and I woke up early hot and sweaty sadly not through lurid dreams but through a power cut. Great I did not know whether that was due to the engineer or it being a power cut.
At 9am I had a telephone call saying the engineer would be there soon. Great. Then the power came on.

The meter was broken and had not recorded any electricity useage for 2 months. Great. So the apartment has a new one. As for the bill. I dont know. I am none the wiser. I will wait for more information. But then I knew that.

My other source of power is Gas. I have been using the 3kg bottles as they are small cheap and easy to carry and take up little space. So as predicted it ran out while I cooking. I went to the store to get a another and was told that the management of the apartments has banned the bottles due to the real danger that they might explode as they are know to and have all around the country. Great. No gas. I can buy a new 16kg bottle for 700k if I want to have a fried egg or just have take outs and toast. Hmmm, 700k for a gas bottle or take outs and toast, decisions, decisions. Toast and take out it is until January as I have better things to do with my money at the moment.

I shall end on a high which is something new and I am going to Bali for a week the day after I get back here from England, Jet lag aplenty but I want to defrost in Lovina and  Kuta before getting stuck back into work. I had been roaming and searching through the local airlines for flights and found cheap flights with Air Asia. 265,000 one way and 465,000 back before tax. For 2 people a top price and so I went to book it. Their website was playing up but I got through all the boxes and taking off the additional added extras (luggage, food, insurance etc) and entered the credit card details and pressed send.


Was my next message. Great so that meant I had to do it all again. So I fired up Chrome and started the process again. The promo flights had gone and everything was going up in price when I got an email saying your credit card has been approved and your seats are booked. Yeay.....

So, just another couple of typical weeks of life in Jakarta. You cant beat real life for real entertainment.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Airline Tickets Jakarta

For those that have yet to be told and to be honest I have told very few, I have been planning to visit England for Christmas and New Year to visit my family and catch up with some old friends, have a mince pie or two, a few fingers of whisky by an open fire and pull a seasonal cracker on Christmas day, basically try to have a 'normal' English Christmas or as close to that as normal. I am struggling still with Christmas in Indonesia because they dont have parsnips or Eastenders Christmas tears and so its not the same. Don't get me wrong, sitting in a beach restaurant Christmas night tucking into something like turkey with a glass of red wine and a live band on Bali is sheer paradise but I am yearning for some cold nights with lots of festive cheer and great decorations!!!!
Saving for England has been a nightmare as things have cropped up, but finally with enough saved it was time to part with my hard earned cash.

 typical English family after Christmas dinner, tired and watching TV

Due to it being Christmas, everything goes up in price, the special offers are withdrawn so I was left with few options. Had I chosen to fly back to the UK 3 weeks later, I could have saved a fortune. But I did not want to do that.
Checking Air Asia out for flights to London, this was the naturally the cheapest choice and with daily flights also a good option. But, I have flown AirAsia around Asia. It is comfortable and simple but a 12 hour flight? No.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur is cheap enough but.... but here are the drawbacks

1. You have to fly to Kuala Lumpur from Jakarta and so that costs
2. You have to pay for the luggage in the hold as that is not included in the price
3. The flights from and to Jakarta from Kuala Lumpur do not match and with my experience of every flight I have been on with Air Asia is delayed s I would have to spend a night in a hotel before flying back to Jakarta
4. On board, the long haul you have to buy your meal, water, snacks, etc and for 12 hours thats a lot of cash for me
5. You also have to buy your blanket etc
6. With Air Asia you land at Stanstead Airport North London and further from my home. I also preferH  Heathrow (Heathrow is west London, which is on the main motorway west, which is where I live, the west of England)

So a promise of a cheap flight to the UK actually started to cost more than it should.

 Our Survey said too expensive and too much hassle

Etihad and Emirates were more expensive still. Direct flights from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur were also more expensive so I opted for Qatar Airways. You know the worlds 5 star Airline. Now, if they are anything like Emirates or Etihad then it will be a great flight.
For 4 weeks every day I checked the online price of the flights to London, I got prices from the offices here and all the information I needed. I checked with my mum back in the UK for costs of flights as she was a travel agent and so knows this sort of stuff and buying the ticket here was the cheapest option.
I thought I would have to exchange Rupiah into Dollar as that seems to be the normal thing here to do when buying airline tickets. My gf made a lot of calls and found out that I did not need to exchange the money but I could pay at the Qatar sales office in cash, rupiah cash.
The Sales office is on the 3rd floor in Grand Indonesia shopping Town somewhere I wont be returning too soon as it is so sterile and boring...and that's all I have to say about that (thanks Forrest)

I found a Permata Atm that gave out 100,000 rupiah notes and unlike usual I was pleased it did as it is easier to count and carry than 50,000 notes, otherwise 100,000 ph ATMS are pain.

Going to the Qatar offices to get this ticket I had envisioned all sorts of pallava, disputes, complications, holdups, etc so I braced myself for the worst.

15 minutes later, I had a ticket, change from the money I gave over (11.5 million) and a smile and handshake from the service assistant. 15 minutes. All in English, no complications. No discussion, no questions, nothing.


I have checked my ticket 6 times since to make sure it is correct and it is.

I have to say that this has possibly been the easiest transaction I have encountered in Indonesia and fastest. So well done Qatar. It will be a while now until the next bit, checking in at Hatto airport and flying but so far great!