Saturday, 26 February 2011

Tomorrow and beyond

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

In life as with all things sometimes you hit a bump in the road. As an expat the road is slightly more bumpy (its a metaphor, I am not speaking about Jakarta's roads, which is a whole other story). There is a huge bump at the moment and I hope it solves itself soon enough and thats that. 

Here are some links to Far Side cartoons which will explain things better. There used to cartoons here but I did something wrong and upset the Far Side legal team :(

Thursday, 17 February 2011


I have been wanting to post for the past few days about the past few days as there have been a few things happening but at the end of the day I simply have been too busy to do so for one reason and other and so I have been resting. 
I have been to the airport again to meet another new teacher, been to the marina to meet friends and also to Singapore.

Due to being an expat I have to occasionally go outside the country to refresh my visa or something, I truly don't understand or ask I just do it as I have to, and it is as simple as that.

Sarinah at Thamrin on a holiday, McD's is also open so more fat kids
The city is great when there is a holiday, so why not make every day a holiday here

So after a day with my friends drinking, eating and talking I have the great task of waking up at 3am to get to airport for the first flight to Singapore.... oohhhhhhhh not good!!!

Up at 3am and I was taken to the airport at 4. As normal the driver is a little bit er of a rocket ship pilot and at 4am the roads are pretty much empty. At 4.20 much to my delight and enthusiasm I was at the airport and dropped Terminal 2 D and then had to find the Lion Air check in desk which is at the far corner of the international checkin.
As it is customary for me I am not the happiest in the morning and check in desks wont help. So I stood in line and eventually someone asked if I had any luggage and because I did not I was shown to the no luggage check in desk. Signs would be helpful at this point.
After some words with Immigration over my new passport which is over a year old I was eventually stamped out. I always get some issue with Immigration, I don't know. 
Starbucks is occasionally useful and at 5am in the morning at the airport it was a beacon in the darkness. For those that don't know it is on the way to the departure gates starting with D.
Coffee is hand I then sat and waited for the gate to open and was joined a man who continually spat into a bin and ate an orange the same way but only occasionally spat that out. What a delightful man

The flight was uneventful and it was a nice flight and I managed to sleep a little. After getting through immigration which was about 20 minutes from the arrival point as Changi is so so so big, I took the sky train from T3 to T2 and then got an MRT card so I could around the city.

Waiting for the train and when it comes it is empty, clean and no one calls you mister

I am not a stranger to Singapore, I have been there a few times, done Sentosa, Little India, China Town, Orchard far too many times, Bugis and the like. 
I have flown into S'pore and left the same way and also taken the train out of the city. I have seen the Merilion, the tower at Sentosa and many other things in all my visits there so another visit was not really filling me with excitement. However the TV ads had managed to wet my whistle so to speak and I was curious to see Marina Bay and a few other places.
The MRT is a fun thing to take and I forgot how almost pleasant it can be to travel in a tube with lots of other people who are all either talking through their phones or plugged into them.

I got a card for $12 sing dollar which needs to be topped up after so many trips and it can be used infrequently as well which means if I go back or friends do then they can use it as well

Marina bay is new. Brand new. The MRT station is under a lot of construction and then it is a bit of a walk in the Singapore heat to get to the shopping center and then to the helix bridge, and the giant clam what ever that is.

I am sorry my photos are all messy but I struggle to put them in neat lines!!!

Yes I took a lot of photos but all the buildings and the skyline is amazing. The mall is huge, it has theaters and a casino and it really easy to get to. 

Final picture is on the Singapore flyer which is a huge orbital viewing structure which is just a walk along the helix bridge, turn right, then a short stroll by a huge reservoir of water and there you are. I wish now I had taken of the rubbish floating in it to prove that rubbish is a problem every where but it was far too hot to and I was tired.

The Singapore flyer is great. Its a huge ferris wheel which the highest point you are 165m above the sea and so the views are amazing. Getting on it there is relatively no glam or glitz just a few signs and overly excited assistants. For a Wednesday there was no one about and so I had a booth to myself for the 30 minute experience. 
$29.50 or 250,000 idr gets you this and I must say it is worth is as the fews are great. I can only imagine what the view must be like at night or when Indonesia is not burning forests etc and the view and visibility is smog free, as it was you could see mountains in almost every direction.

Back to Orchard road for lunch and to be honest I was not really thinking or wanting to think so I headed into McD's at the Forum. I desperately tried to connect my BB to the wireless internet but failed so that was that and so I wandered of to find somewhere to connect and communicate. 
The best thing was really getting lost in the tunnels under Orchard as they all link to malls and that way you don't have to go into the air if you don't need to. So I wandered around looking at books in borders, went to the lucky mall to get cheap souvenirs for everyone and then to a haven in all this mess, Muddy Murphy's Irish bar, only to be harassed by the waitress who asked me 6 times if I wanted to eat which I never as all I wanted was a few quiet beers to pass the time.

The bar is great though and I know the food is great. The Guiness is $12 dollars a pint and they sell Bulmers cider as well. It is always worth a visit.

Finally with the boredom and tiredness creeping in, I headed back into the airport and waited to check in. With Lion you can check in upto 2.5 hours early and then go into the departure lounge. Changi is losing its touch I think and I guess that is why they are updated it all and doing lots of building work. The free internet is still very useful and the viewing lounges a pleasure. Duty free for now seems to have shrunk although it is still full of everything you might need and for me it was chocolate.
Eventually after some food at Subway it was time to board the plane. I should thank the Lion air staff as I had leg room on both trips and that was appreciated. Free water would also be nice but I know that would be too much to ask for, on an international flight but hey ho.

Immigration again at Jakarta were not the friendliest as they demanded all sorts from me but I got it and everything is all ok again. 20 hours is a long time but I guess as I posted on Facebook 'Singapore is both interesting and uninteresting at the same time' , the phrase does sum up how I feel about going there. Maybe next time Universal Studios will beckon but I don't know when that will be.

I guess I missed the wierdness, traffic, mess, noise, dust and chaos of Jakarta for a day and for its bad points it was nice to be home!!!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Daan Mogot

Jalan Daan Mogot is principle route leading west from Grogol until Tangerang. It is in places 3 lanes plus busway which runs from the city until Kalideres. Kalideres is the most western bus terminal in the city and you can travel to Carita, Bandung, Merak etc from there. The route takes goes past Green Garden, Indosiar, Talem Palem, Cengkareng as well and it follows river pretty much all the way into or out of the city.
At one end of the road are paper mills and heavy industry, ABC batteries, BASF have factories there. You have to travel through Daan Mogot to get to the airport should you desire, or to get to Puri Indah and onto the toll for Merak although a tollroad from the Airport joining the Merak toll is now finished but that has had little influence on the traffic.
Until the recent flood barriers were put in, large sections of the road would just disappear under water when it rained.
And also if you need a SIM then the licence center is also on Daan Mogot. Wow, are you impressed with my knowledge of this road? Well I used to travel it daily when I worked in Cengkareng and either was using a driver, taxi or the Transjakarta Busway from Pesakih into the city.
It is also so far in any of my driving and riding experiences of Indonesia the scariest, unpleasant route I occasionally I have to take.
Back in 2009 I had a crash on the flyover on my bike when I rode into a man pushing his bike over the flyover. I never saw him as he was hidden from view by a vast amount of bikers who just moved out of the way at the last moment.
The bike was ok, I cut my foot, my fiancee hurt her knee and arm. The man's bike was more damaged and he was a little shocked. I just shook my head and rode on vowing never ever to talk the flyover again. Ever since having a bike it was always the ultimate challenge for me to ride over it. It was, I failed to do it correctly, I never did it since.
When I last had to renew my SIM we got stuck there due to an accident. I remember back in the early days going through the floods twice with water up to the bonnet of the taxi as we were getting lost. So it has a place in my mind for ever. And the time I took a taxi and the driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the side of the road. He was so stressed out, I changed the blown tire for him and still paid for the trip!

Above Daan Mogot in all its glory

So to the point of all this. On Friday I was going to Cengkareng to give a presentation to some colleagues and I had to go via Daan Mogot to get there.
As I entered the street next to Ciputra Mall I was met with a flurry of buses and trucks all going at speed and very carelessly. As I continued on it got a little less hectic and the flow was back to normal.
At the traffic lights at Green Garden I, with a thousand others was waiting for the working traffic lights to change to green when there was an almighty bang and glass and plastic scattered up the street, this was followed by lots of shouting and blowing of air horns. Everyone turned to look.
A yellow mini truck had taken the mirrors clean off a huge container truck. After some noise and horn blowing, (clearly the big truck driver wanted to sort it all out) we moved off up the road. A couple of minutes later, the yellow truck went by at a speed far too fast followed by... yep! the Container truck blowing his horn and as I continued to ride I watched with a sense of fear as the two trucks weaved in and out of buses and motorbikes as the chase continued. At one point there was a sudden screech of brakes and smoke everywhere as both vehicles were forced to slow but then they carried on racing through the traffic. The sudden braking of these 2 trucks caused everyone else to stop very quickly and I am thankful that my brakes work and I was alert as I was close to riding into a car.
Then we all moved on again and still you could watch the chase which eventually ended as the small truck just turned sharp left again causing traffic to swerve and slow down and much to the audible annoyance of the big truck everything slowed down to its normal fast paced chaos of buses, motorbikes, cars and trucks all going at high speed. It is madness.

On the way back to Puri Indah again I had to travel down Daan Mogot, do a U turn and then head up to Puri. As I was riding a man on a push bike came hurling out of a small side street straight into traffic and into my driving line, again I braked and skidded to stop while he just looked up and rode on.  The old heart was thumping again.

I suppose those that grow up to a road like that must just ignore the risk it poses or I am too aware of it.

Happily that will the last time I have to go through Daan Mogot for sometime.

As I have already said, I have been riding for over 3 years, all over Jakarta, East Java, out into West Java, Lombok and across Bali, Kuta and Denpasar and still that one road manages to scare me everytime I set out on it.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Indonesian Kosts

That had to be longest week I have ever endured. I have no why but it was just so long. The days just dragged by. I did my best not to get stressed out or worried by stuff rather just focus on the what was in front of me and get on with it, however everything is falling into place and with a little luck and good judgement it will remain so. 
I have started some self study with the aim of improving my qualifications, this means getting to work even earlier (if this is at all possible) and focusing on that for a few hours before starting my work. It is stretching me but I know that it will pay off and be a good thing in the long run. 
The weekend was a typical weekend, where I work on Saturday morning and then have a the rest of the day off and then Sunday as well. I work nearly every Saturday morning at my school doing admin, teaching, planning etc and it does give me an opportunity to sort stuff out and get a head start to the next week. I could really be spending the weekends travelling and relaxing but currently that is not possible. 

I have had a plan to help with the cost of the wedding, to stop renting the apartment and move into a Kost or boarding house for the foreseeable future, so I have been looking and  have been assisted by my fiancee. I still want to live around Tanjung Duren as there are lots of restaurants, 3 great big malls and there is everything I need there. Even with the noise, dust and pollution this part of J town has a lot to offer, except no bars (although the Markas Bar is close) and to be honest the appeal of bars is slowly wearing off.

So after work we rode into Tanjung Duren armed with addresses, telephone numbers and high hopes and started to look for the kosts listed. Wow what a maze. It is amazing how big this city is and how small the streets are. The smaller streets with narrow walkways are fun to ride down and nicer than the lumpy bumpy roads which are everywhere.  
We all in all visited 3 Kosts and they were asking around 1.5 million a month for the rooms which included bed, wardrobe, wifi, own shower and bathroom,free laundry,  table, ac, tv point and access to kitchens and free parking. Now 1.5 million is a lot of money for a room even with all that thrown and so I was expecting something big and nice. Oh how disappointed I was with the rooms. I guess I have never lived in single room and to be honest I don't think I could. The biggest room was 4x4m and that is smaller than my bedroom. There was no window or natural light. The walls were paper thin and the smell of cooking was everywhere. Now I am not a snob but the shock was huge, and something I was not prepared for. I have seen bigger prison cells.

Stock photos found on the net to illustrate this

So I guess it is back to the drawing board for that one. I have a month to find a solution or I will have to stay in the apartment and find another way. I guess also the cockroaches in the bathroom and the mosquitoes I encountered also put me off. I do battle with ants daily in the apartment but I am not bitten or have roaches which is nice!!!
In the evening we went in Kemang via Blok M and the roadworks for the flyover. The city is a mess. There are holes, signs, closed roads and far far too many vehicles with not a policeman in sight to help or control. It is simply getting worse.
We went to the Irish Bar and ate and drank with friends until the place was overrun by expats dressed as women drinking and shouting. Oh how I had forgotten all about those things. 

Sunday I took a city tour with a some teachers to help the see the city and understand even in a small way where stuff is. Of course we went to Sunda Kelapa and the Marina!!! But then it was a lovely day and despite the wind just warm and sunny.

The boat full of bamboo was amazing and I was a little sad to see no-one loading the ships by hand anymore, especially the cement that gets ferried to who knows where. The harbour is a mess, the water dirty but there is a charm about it, I guess the boats as they are all wooden and the access and the fact you can wander about and no-one pays you any attention. 
The marina was great.
We then moved on through Kota Tua and then into Harmoni, Monas to the Main mosque of Indonesia, the Istiqlal Mosque which is facing directly opposite Jakarta Cathedral. Both are amazing buildings and worth visiting. 
After that we rode around the city along Sudirman to Senayan, back to Menteng via Kuningan and then back home. It was a good day.

It was a good start or end to the week and this one is just as good, as Thursday is Chinese new year and the year of the rabbit so that means another day off!!!

I love all these new years so many days off.....

Gong xi fa cai