Friday, 22 April 2011

3am blues

For a large part of my life I have suffered from Insomnia and the unwanted skill of being awake through the night and being able to function normally through the day.
The worse thing is that this comes in cycles happens once or twice a week and is not consistent. It seems to come from no where, linger and then I have nights of good sleep. I know tonight I will get my usual 7 hours but maybe not Sunday night or another night in the week. I put a lot of it down to two things, beer and stress. Which is rather unfortunate as I like to have a beer on the odd occasion to help me relax and stop thinking. 
I used to think my lack of sleep was connected to not getting enough exercise but then I discovered that the more I did then the more I was awake at night.

The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some say that the reason for insomnia is some mighty worry or pressure of life that keeps us awake to remind us to sort it out. I think there is some truth in that although from my past and my past experience it also is not the case. 

What troubles me now?

To be honest, its too complicated to write down and involves thinking too much!!! I know after this has been written I will feel less awake which is good, Work, Expat living, the future, the now, and everything in the middle occupy my mind enough.

The temperature here at the moment is a factor, it is wildly hot currently, I dont use AC as it makes me dry out and have a bad throat and I am used to not sleeping with it. My apartment has fans but no AC and when I had AC it was never on when I slept so I know that wont necessarily help. Also in England when it happened, there was no AC there either.

Nothing cures insomnia like the realization that it's time to get up.

Heres a thing. When I do feel sleepy which will be in about an hour as the sun starts to make an appearance, I shall return to some kind of sleep and wake after 9, and then feel like I have not slept at all. I used to have this feeling when I was working nights and would get home at 8am and then wake at 2pm dis-orientated and totally exhausted yet I would and this still happens, be ok within about an hour and then am just tired for the rest of the day.

The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.  W. C. Fields

Ironically living in Jakarta, I am astonished at the lack of sleep people get, with many getting by on 5 hours a night and then working 12 hours and not feeling tired. I suspect the coffee is something that keeps them going. 

But for now I will listen to the call to prayer and try once more to catch up on my ever distant sleep.

"O Sleep, O Gentle Sleep, Natures Soft Nurse, How Have I Frightend Thee, That Thou No More Wilt Weigh my Eye-Lids Down And Steep My Senses In Forgetfulness?"
— William Shakespeare

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Kuala Lumpur

I kind of consider myself lucky at times working and living in Jakarta and for the company I work for but like I said only sometimes. One could argue its bittersweet but that is all I should say before it is interpreted as negative criticism.
So courtesy of my employer I had the opportunity to visit Kuala Lumpur last week, well it was that or Singapore and I have been to Singapore many times and I have not been to KL since 2006.
I took my fiancee along as well so that was good. We flew air asia. Getting a ticket however was a quite a journey in itself, it took 3 days for a ticket to be confirmed, mainly because air asia launched a 20% sale on all seats, and therefore due to the demand flights would not confirm, I guess due to server loading. However I managed to get the tickets, then I had the option of paying with a BCA debit card or a credit card. Foolishly I choose debit card. Then I wandered off to an atm to pay. I had at this point no real clue about how to pay via BCA atm and to compound that fact, the ATM lanuage is in Indonesian and therefore even harder to understand. 20 minutes later and I was back at school and in front of my computer and could not pay by BCA debit so had to start again and this time pay with credit card.
Oh so simple..... This time it only took me 3 hours to book and pay and after that I did my job.

There were no problems with checking in at Seokarno Hatto airport on Wednesday despite the driver not arriving and having to rush along in a taxi. The quick check-in desk was very useful and immigration seemed kind of pleased to see us leave.
Starbucks coffee was nice and hot and the flight was on time.

For the air asia comments click this link

After landing at LCCT Kuala Lumpur airport you have to walk out side to a flight of stairs, go up them and then past a person with a camera scanning you for bird flu, chinese flu, spanish influenza or what ever virus is illness of the moment and then you queue in the immigration hall.

There were limited desks open and each one had a queue of about 10 people waiting. Each desk had an immigration person and their new toy; a finger and thumb print machine which each person had to use to get stickered and stamped in. I chose the queue with 2 families of 6 and a man waving lots of pieces of paper, so I moved queue and waited even longer, in fact I was the last man standing and the last to get stamped in. The immigration hall was empty except me.

Back in 2006 I spent a month in Malaysia and a few weeks in KL loving it and the area and so to go back there was just a good thing. I also travelled through KL on a rail journey from Singapore to Bangkok, in the April of the same year something which was also very exciting. So it felt all a little familiar to go back there and that made me happy.

Once we figured out the train and how to get into the city and then get to the city we had about 6 hours before we needed to fly out again. So we ate at the food court in KL sentral. Thats not the most sought after eatery but the food was definitely Malaysian and I am accustomed to eating in food courts and in strange places so it was just some where to eat.

From there we took the mono rail to KL tower. The mono rail cost 2 ringgits. A short walk up a hill in the rain to the entrance to KL tower and then a shuttle bus to the actual tower. I choose going to the tower as it was the quickest way to see the city and its size from above. Petronas was a no no and there was not really much else I wanted to do. I like towers and try to go up one if there is one in the city I am in.

The views were somewhat obscured by the haze and the rain but it was a great site regardless. It cost 38 ringgits to go up the tower and I consider that good value. After 30 minutes we were pretty much done.

After the tower, I got a taxi to take us to Pentaling street and the main China town area. We wandered around there looking at the same stuff you would see anywhere in a market and then headed to the nearest MRT back to KL Sentral as time was beating us. The taxi was a fixed rate 16 ringgits.

There are 2 trains to Kuala Lumpur Airport. One is the express which goes straight to the main airport. The other is the express which stops at 3 stations and then to the main airport. Both go from different platforms and levels of KL Sentral. 
Once on the train we got to the railway station and then onto a bus. A fierce rain storm hit the area as we got to airport. 
Back at LCCT we had time for coffee and food before checking in. This again took 2 minutes. I am impressed with that bit. Immigration was all fingers and thumbs quite literally as you have them rescanned but once through, time for a quick couple of beers, a nosy through duty free and then we left KL for Jakarta on time and with ease.

No issues getting through immigration which was nice and finally back on Indonesian soil 14 hours later, tired but happy from a having a good day out.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

LCCT to KL Sentral Air Asia

I had the pleasure of being able to go to Kuala Lumpur for the day as a trip organized by work. Sadly only a day mind but still it was good to go back to a city I enjoyed and travelled when I was living the high life as a back packer.
That will come in a later blog but for now I am just concentrating on Air Asia (now everyone can fly).

Firstly lets look at buying online flight tickets. It is I am sure an open secret that the earlier you book with Air Asia the cheaper the tickets are. I was given a weeks notice to book a ticket, so it cost me a million rupiah for a return. This was after the 20% discount that was being promoted that week, but I was in choice to complain.

The next thing is that you will have go to through a list of  added extras which you need to cancel as they are all charged to your ticket price. Once you have confirmed the days you need to fly then you will need to ensure that if you don't want reserve seating you remove that option. next find the luggage option (you get charged if you are checking in luggage) and remove any checked in baggage. Once that is completed, ensure you remove the option for food to be paid for during the flight.
You will then be asked to pay for insurance, if you dont want that, you still need to confirm you agree to the terms and then you need to click to say you do not want insurance. A new small window will open and you need to read it carefully. Pressing OK gets you the insurance and while CANCEL does not.
Finally there is a charge for credit cards per person booked which is 50,000 rupiah but there is nothing you can do about that. Getting rid of the all the added extras does get you a cheaper price.
On busy days their server is slow and you are left to wonder if you actually have paid. If you reclick you may get charged, if you cancel you may lose the booking and get charged, you may not.
Overall buying tickets is simple and very safe but the site is a little confusing and tricky.

So back to the actuals.
Flying from Jakarta meant you can check in using the barcode on your ticket at a separate check in point. It took less than 5 minutes to do that for 3 people and it was very simple. However there is  no control over where you sit and so we were sat all over the place, the times before, that never happened. You need to go to T2D not T3 which is internal flight only.

Our flight to KL was on time and there was no hassle.

Immigration at LCCT is another matter (nothing worrying apart from the queues and procedure).

From there we wanted to get the fast train to KL and save a whole deal of time instead of taking a bus.

We used the money changer by the baggage claim to get some money. For USD it was $1 = 2.8200 MYR ringgit and the online rate is 3.022.
For GBR 1 pound gets you 4.4500 MYR, online it is 4.9490. Not too bad but if I had needed to change a lot of money then it would have hurt.

The information desk for the KLIA transit told us to buy tickets just as we left customs from a booth to the right and so we did.

One person 1 way from the Air Asia terminal to KL sentral is RM12.50, return is RM22. For a child it is half the adult price. This price also includes free shuttle bus to the railway station 'Salak Tinggi' where you take the train.
The bus stop can be found in opposite The Coffee Bean restaurant at bay 3, if in doubt ask..

The train is fast, quiet and clean and the best news is that once you are on ,2 stops later or 25 minutes and you are in KL sentral and then from there you can take the MRT, LRT, Train, Bus, Taxi to anywhere.

 If you want to take a bus from LCCT to KL Sentral they run every 15-30 minutes (big boards showing times are everywhere) and they run from RM8. But they take over an hour depending on traffic.

Checking in is simple at LCCT, for international departures, go left and find your check in point, everywhere else is in the main check in area. You can check in at least 3 hours before flight time.

Links to websites for more information

and now you know a little more

At the end of the day I like Air Asia despite the late departures and crap service they sometimes offer.

I have flown

Jakarta - Bali
Jakarta - Jogja
Jakarta - KL
KL - Bangkok / Krabi / Chiang Mai
KL - Sandakan / Kota Bharu
Kota Kinabalu - Johor Bharu
Chiang Mai - Singapore

So I must like them....

Monday, 4 April 2011

Istiqlal Mosque

Been a long week really and there has been much planning and organising and to be honest all of it in a good way. I have just finished my hardest assignment for my current study course I am taking and I am expect to hear back soon the scores. 
The weekend came and I gave up trying to read all of googles' april fool joke websites and things as there were too many going around and just focused on my work. On saturday I finished work and then decided to go into the city for something good to eat and see something different. I settled from Kenny Rogers Roasters or Hard Rock Cafe, both are which are in the same part of the city, in conjoining malls, Malls EX and Mall/Plaza/Grand Indonesia,l dont really remember as there are too many malls with the words Indonesia in there title (at least 2) and they are next to each other and equally as big and full of shops as the other.
Anyway, I digress, we get to Kenny Rogers and sit down and notice while it is very quiet whilst the other restaurants near by are full. The waiter full of smiles hands us the menus and comes back a few minutes later to take our orders. After I had ordered 3 different things including some french fries and each one was met with a no we dont have. We left. The restaurant was undergoing improvements, although to what it was hard to say. There were / are no notices, the menu is the same and there was no work going on to support the waiters claim. It was in fact a shame but there you go. The lack of information, building work and people eating there should have been clues alone to guess something was wrong. So Mr Kenny Rogers Roasters - Fail
Then we headed to Hard Rock Cafe to see what we could eat there, the menu looked good, it was busy inside but 150,000 ($13 usd) for a cheeseburger before tax was a thank you, but no. 
Pancious it was then. Good pasta, lots of people and great service.... well done!

That took far too long and we had spend 3 hours doing this. So we headed back to Central park, did some shopping and then home. Bit of a trek for a Saturday afternoon. 

Sunday I was out on another city tour with some new teachers. I took my fiancee with me and so once picked up by the car we headed headlong into the traffic and off to the Ambassador somewhere Kuningan  Raya. Due to the major building works currently being carried out we parked in Oakwood and walked into ITC Ambassador for a quick scoot about.
The best thing currently about outside the Ambassador Mall and there is one is a) there are no performing monkeys delighting the crowds while chained to an owner and beaten continuously if they dont perform and the noise the pedestrian crossing makes. This has to be the only pedestrian crossing I have ever seen here and the noise from the siren was a like a ticking duck ready to explode. Still the local transport and security guards managed to ignore that and conduct the traffic however they liked.

From there, time for something more spiritual and interesting. No, not Starbucks Oakwood, although we did stop in, but the Istiqlal Mosque. (see below).

Istiqlal Mosque, or Masjid Istiqlal, (Independence Mosque) in JakartaIndonesia is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia[1] in terms of capacity to accommodate people and building structure. This national mosque of Indonesia was built to commemorate Indonesian independence, as nation's gratitude for Islam's blessings; the independence of Indonesia. Therefore the national mosque of Indonesia was named "Istiqlal", an Arabic word for "Independence". Courtesy of Wikipedia - click for more here

The mosque is actual ly directly opposite Jakarta Cathedral and the cathedral is over 100 years old and looking rather splendid while the Mosque is a 60's type building and whilst its not old for me it is a rather well designed building. It takes a while to appreciate the style and design and while the bridge walls toppings are made of stainless steel that if you touch them in the Jakarta Sun you can suffer 3rd degree burns. Perhaps you could fry eggs on it if hungry, I don't know. It just seems odd.
We were instructed to take our shoes off, and were led to a small room where my fiancee was told to cover up ( maybe her cross around her neck was offensive or the dress she was wearing but actually the kimono she was given was really nice. The guide then asked us to sign in and then we wandered about the mosque bare footed and were totally ignored by the people there. We were taken up to the forth floor to so we could see the main floor where everyone prayed and worshipped and wow, thats some room. Once we were told that the mosque could hold 120,000 people and that they had praying squares and lines I was impressed. We were facing toward mecca and the mosque was also remarkably cool. 

The courtyards outside we nice and calm and peaceful and there were lots of people going about their business. On the way out we left a donation and felt rather happy we could go in and see what was going on. 
Sadly at getting the Cathedral by playing Frogger across the road we could not go into the cathedral as there was a service going on and so we peaked in, said that looked nice and left.
One I day I will take a look around it. 

From there we went into Kota Tua and wandered through the square. If ever there was a time for things to be strange it was Sunday as they had lots of things going on. The square seems to be as popular as ever and there were hundreds or thousands of people there taking photos, riding bikes, eating, drinking, going death from the over loud music, getting harassed by others, sitting about the museums and the like. 

The local Ondel Ondel Betawi fgiures were dancing to some bad music and then we spied the bull whips and the 9 year old kids cracking 5 meter long bull whips for no real reason. The most bizarre thing happened. The men sat about got up and summoned a little girl to lie on a white sheet. She was then wrapped in the sheet and then stood up. Then she was tied and trussed like a Christmas turkey. The crowds just looked on and the whips carried on cracking. Then the men led her on the floor, placed a Javanese dagger on here and then cracked the whip directly over her. It was fairly disturbing as there was no real idea what was happening and to the little girl. Once the whips had stopped, the girls all tied up was bundled into a little black tent. Outside the tent were some fire breathers swallowing flames and doing stuff with liquid paraffin and making even more heat.
Then as if by magic, and maybe it was, the girl appeared from the black tent and walked off. No applause no ceremony nothing. Bizarre.

 We left after that and headed for the sanctuary of Batavia Marina, and to rest and relax, sup some beer and generally chat.

A rather good day out and lots of fun had. I must return to Kota Tua again on a Sunday and I think I will hide in Cafe Batavia and look through the window at the thronging crowds.

Links of video of the bull whipping can be found here.