Monday, 30 April 2012

Jakarta - A city of wonder

And wonder I do. Here are some things which are making me wonder at the moment.

The top 4 things that make me wonder at the moment come with free photos.....

10. Kaki Lima vendors reusing wooden chopsticks and drinking straws

9. The onset of more traffic disruption through building elevated roadways and now the MRT, both going across the busiest part of the city

8. Never repaving the key road arteries through the city rather just patching them up

7. Why no one complains about the driving skills of bus drivers

6. The amount of Komilets at Palmerah

5. Air Asia pricing strategies and the fact you can fly to more places in Indonesia from Bandung than Jakarta
(Bandung to Bali, Medan, Pekanbaru,Surabaya and Jakarta to Bali, Semerang and Jogja)

4. Angry Birds Credit Cards

3. TV advertising for Wheelbarrows

2. Why more people are not killed at railroad crossings in the city

And this one is the biggy for 2012 so far

1. Why on earth someone in their right mind approved to close 2 lanes of Garot Subroto on a Saturday morning in front of the Military Museum to hold an event and provide free parking. I mean come on, isn't the traffic there bad enough at the best of times without deliberately making it worse

Photos from The Jakarta Globe, Ali Baba, Tumbler, tribunnews

Monday, 23 April 2012

Yamaha bike tires

After 3 long years and 10000km my tires on the bike finally started to give up the will to be round, full of air and possess any form of tread. They still stopped me dead in my tracks and never faltered and not once did I get a puncture. I always knew these things were short lived but I think I pushed that a bit too far with the length of time I took to get new ones.
So after discovering a rip in the front tire and knowing full well that the tire would give out when I least needed it, I opened the wallet and spent 400k on 2 tires for the bike in order to feel road safe and reassured again.

I sent one of the boys from work to get me some new tires, that in itself caused me worry as the language barrier is pretty big when it comes to buying tires. However, he went to the nearest Yahama service station and got 2 new ones and a good job he did too.

So now I am riding around on IRC NFs and NRs (whatever that means) with huge amounts of tread, the right amount of air in them and a feeling of not safe riding anymore. The road from Semanggi to Slipi is mainly concrete road with the lines running the same way as the traffic so in the rain it felt rather uncomfortable and more slippery than normal. 
The tires tread allows me to stop instantly which has proved useful recently as I am here to tell you that I could stop very quickly otherwise I would be posting about life in hospital!

Thats what it looks like, if you are not asleep by all this, do read on.

Because there are little or no checks on the condition of motorbikes and I unaware of any legal requirement for tread like the UK, there is little reason to ensure you are legal, safe of course but legal I guess not. However I do know that keeping the bike in a good condition will help keep me in a breathing condition as long as I am alert enough to know what is happening all around me. I guess the other question I should ask, is about the reduced visibility from a full facial helmet and whether using a half helmet is better?

My existing helmet is on its way out, dropped too much, the vents dont seem to work as well and the glass is scratched and damaged so I will start looking for another. This one has lasted the longest as I have managed not have it stolen from the bike, mind I do take it everywhere with me if the bike park looks or feels unsecure, which is well, often or nearly all parks.

Back to the fuel debate. I have almost given up with Pertamina due to the inconsistency of service stations and the service given, also the hardship to get pertamax without insisting someone serve me it. So I have switched to Shell Super which seems to be OK. It is 9950 a litre which is slightly cheaper than Pertamax and almost twice as expensive as the regular subsidised fuel, but that's OK. Shell service stations are always empty, you always get served quickly, always handed a receipt whether you need one or not and the cashier works in a booth so you get someone else sort the payment out. I like all that. 

Photos courtesy of Panoramio

Riding from my house to work there are 2 Shell service stations, one in Mampang and one at Slipi by the DHL building, and on the way home, there is one which is between Permata Hijau and Pessangrahan.
I am pretty certain that the price of fuel will continue to rise and so I will stay away from Pertamina and enjoy the quiet life at Shell. My next task is to get a sticker from Shell for the bike. I will ask.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Visit to the British Consulate Jakarta

I have just been to the British consulate in Jakarta to complete one of the steps in getting married out here. That being completing a notice of marriage in order to get my certificate of no impediment.
The consulate office is on the 19th floor on the Deutsche building opposite Grand Indonesia and not far from Thamrin.
There is a dedicated lift to the 19th floor and a series of security checks and you have to leave id at reception on the ground floor before you can go up.
Once you enter the consulate office, it all of a sudden turns in an almost typical English Post office, complete with bell for attention, a sliding tray on the counter and security glass.
There were some very helpful English staff who dealt with the process which is actually easier than the Embassy website suggests or details.

I was handed 2 forms one being an affidavit and the other for my details and my partners details which we completed and then handed back. The cost of the notice of marriage is 975,000 idr (currently) and they work to 1 pound = 15,000 idr. You can only pay cash and only in Rupiah. Which is so typical as the posters on the walls display the prices in pounds predominantly and then in rupiah if you look hard enough.
After waiting a while the consulate comes and takes you to a room where you have to swear on the bible or the Koran,  that the things you have written are true. She leaves the room as do you and the you wait a little longer.
You then get a stamped copy of the notice of marriage which is displayed in the office for 21 days and after that you have to go back to get your CNI (Certificate of No Impediment) which is also 975,000 idr and necessary to be allowed to wed. They do advise that you ring them the day before you plan to get the CNI to let them prepare it for you as I guess that might take some time.

And tha'ts it. They did keep my passport for a bit but that's OK, I have nothing to hide and well its a little bit of England in a foreign land so of course they can have it.

And as it is a little bit of England there are lots of safety warnings, fire extinguishers and a picture of the Queen on the wall. Almost homely, all it needs is some PG tips and some dodgy plastic flowers in pot, oh wait they were there, well the flowers were!

All rather fun really.

Teaching later in the day, I was lucky enough to be in the class which looks south towards the mountains, so I had a great view of the huge storm that passed our way and watch the darkness and rain clouds approach as the weather turned rather unpleasant for an hour or so. But after a while it all went away and the sun came back out and so by dusk it was rather pleasant again.


For more information about the British Embassy in Jakarta click on one of the links below

Monday, 16 April 2012

Personal Bloggers

If you are looking for the top ten seo tips to improve your google ranking, or which skin cleaner is the best, or how to improve your blog, in fact anything that is commercial and business based then clearly you have arrived at the wrong blog.

Having written this blog for the past 3 years, I have noticed much to my dismay the decline of personal bloggers and where to find them. I used to enjoy my blog log but that closed (thank you Yahoo) and trying to move to a similar blog sharing site has not been a successful one which is again a pity.

I do read a lot of blogs and try to make time to read as many as I can but I am finding that personal bloggers, those that write from experience about their jobs or life harder and harder. There have been some great blogs started and then ended after a few months and even after a few years. Of course peoples perceptions and lifestyles change and so therefore so does their time, so where are all the bloggers?
According to Wikipedia there were 156 million blogs in February 2011 which is an awful lot of words. But no one really knows how many active blogs there are. This is one of them.

However despite my groaning and moaning about lack of good blogs, the ones I follow are damn good. And they are (in no particular order)

I should add a word of caution as a couple contain adult content but then again I am an adult so it does not bother me. 

I will continue to scour the web for good blogs by clicking on links and following when I have time and I am sure to find them. I also also hope more people would blog about their lives and interests and activities as whilst we consider what we do as boring we do love to see into other peoples worlds (sinetron, big brother, twitter, facebook all provide that)  as we are nosy and curious about everyone else and what they are doing. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

Rain in Jakarta

The rainy season has been very quiet this year, I don't think you could say it was a repeat of the rainy season that happened the year I came. That was a bad year and I think that lessons were learnt, flood defences were built in places and some rivers dredged. However, the rivers soon clog up again, more flood plain gets lost to concrete and still the rainy season comes.
Since January, the rains here have been both infrequent and light compared to other years and with riding across the city every day I see lots of weather. Jakarta has micro climates so it can be raining in one street and bone dry in another. The past couple of weeks, the frequency of the rain has increased a little and so I have been wearing my wet weather clothing most nights home. 
Last week due to high levels of rain in Bogor and surrounding hills and mountains the rivers in Jakarta finally burst and floods ensued. From floods spawn traffic chaos and from chaos comes being late. 
So on Wednesday I had to teach in my inschool and that means going across Dann Mogot and following a major river as it makes its final journey to the sea. The rain on the Tuesday had been heavy most of the afternoon into the early evening, flooding the city in places, causing my roof to leak in my house and the yard to flood out back. 
Getting to the school in the morning was a mission. From Puri we got close to Green Garden only to discover a bus had broken down so we turned and headed to Green Garden another way, when we almost got to the railway tracks, we were diverted again as the area was under 70cm of water, so we headed to Dann Mogot but closer to the city. This was after 2 hours of moving slowly. From there we headed down into Jelembar and the floods were still visible but not severe. The river around Jelembar is the same height as the road in places. Even after class at 12.30 there were still major floods and I would assume they disappeared later that day. One of my teachers houses was flooded and there up to 1 metre of water there so she had to clean that up.
Luckily for me, my journey home takes me through a more hilly part of the city towards the south so the water is always running away and whilst there was some flooding around Senayan, Permata Hijau that was pretty much it. Interestingly I am always asked why I ride in torrential rain that hurts when you are riding, the simple answer is that the traffic is lighter and slower and there are not so many bikes out so the roads are just as dangerous but dangerous because of the water not because of the traffic.
Dangerous the roads are thats for sure. Riding across the city I have to ride through some major traffic areas and what is surprising is the lack of care taken on repairing the roads especially at Polda by Semanggi where there are more patches on the road than over the eyes of a boat load of pirates. Just after the railway crossing at near Permata Hijau heading toward Senayan, the pot holes that were filled soon unfilled themselves after rain.
The problem is I think is this. If you fill a hole with more tarmac and don't compress it down lots then the air trapped slowly leaks out and the tarmac sinks, add some rain into the mix then the whole exercise becomes a waste of time, however this being Jakarta, it is a waste of time, given that this activity of filling the pot holes is given to lowest charging, least qualified work force who actually fill in pot holes on occasion in the rain!
I will add that the way roads get repaired here is completely different than in England. Here Tarmac is poured on top of tarmac therefore for a month or 2 making the road surface smoother, but if there was serious holes or road defects before resurfacing then these things shows up after 3 or 4 months. And of course any road markings that were there are removed and not replaced.
In England a road gets shaved, (literally, the top layer is removed) all the defects are repaired and then the road is resurfaced and this way the road lasts a whole lot longer. I cannot recall seeing broken plates and sauces used to fill pot holes, tires to replace manhole covers and branches of trees to warn drivers of holes in England. Which is good, it is just a same that has to happen here.
On Good Friday riding back from Starbucks at Tebet, I nearly died due to overtaking a bus who was pulling out, pumping out jet black death and in front of me was huge hole in the road which must have been formed from the rain, how I missed falling into it I will never know, but it took me a while to calm down and stop shaking. That was the closest call yet I think. 
Riding slowly again
I cant wait  now for the rain to stop and whilst then I am sure to bemoan the heat and the sunburn and the haze I am sure to feel a little safer on my bike, a lot dryer and a little more dusty.