Getting Drunk and Lost Part 7 : Indonesia and Singapore
We had been told that Jakarta (Capital of Indonesia) was a city to missed.
Sadly this turned out to be right, but luckily we only had one night as a quick visit.
As the taxi drove us through bright time street markets and rubble covered roads my mind began to flash back to Mandalay.
Turning off a Main Street and down a back ally my fear started to heighten but when we got passed the gates of the hostel and into the room I was quietly surprised.
I guess when faced with a potential slum and half decent bed can seem like heaven.
Carla wasn’t feeling well but demanding snacks. We hadn’t eaten very well for a couple of days and I was growing low on cigarettes, so I volunteered to roam the streets looking for food.
10 at night in a new city, my mum would of been pulling her hair out with worry.
Everything was closed with the exception of a handful of street vending carts.
I managed to communicate a bottle of water and 2 packets of crisps before spotting a cart selling nothing but Viagra.
The thought of surprising Carla did cross my mind but coming home with no food and a box of boner pills had jack and the bean stork written all over it.
The next day the city seemed a little less scary in the light of day and with a Dunkin Donut and a coffee to fill us up we headed to the train station for our first real stop at Bogor.
An hour out from the capital we arrived in Bogor. Dazed, sleepy and starving!
Being still incredibly apprehensive about the food I spotted a KFC.
While I was inside Carla got chatted up by a local. Usually I can see her concern but she seemed calm around him. Turns out he wanted us to come over to the “tourist information center” to sell us some tours in and around the city.
After an hour of batting away his sales pitch we eventually managed to convince him to get us a taxi to our hostel. What pulled up was a mini version of the mystery machine from Scooby Doo!
The theme tune then wouldn’t leave my head for the journey.
A couple of wrong turns and some door knocking we found our hostel, which was more like a home stay really but friendly enough.
Several beers later, we started chatting to a group of shower dodgers who had conned themselves into spending 10 days at a yoga retreat center in the hills of Bogor
They would have to sit in silence for 8 hours of the day and contemplate life.
Raising my bottle and telling them we’ll be thinking of them.
I took another sip of my beer and tried not to laugh.
With to many beers comes a need for food. Apparently 10 minutes to the hostel was a nice and cheap restaurant with good food.
Great!! Still in our smelly clothes from the train we walked along the rubble of the pavement and found “Lemongrass”
Now I’m not joking when I say this but this restaurant could of easily have been sitting in central London, maybe even Mayfair.
There we were looking like dog-shit and sitting in a proper fancy restaurant. Close on leaving until we saw the menu and the price. Cheap as chips!
The Thai beef salad I order must of been the spiciest thing on the menu, nearly blowing my head clean off but it’s was awesome!!
We spent our first day pottering around the town and getting our bearings, scavenging for food and admiring the outdoor garden centers that lined the pavements for what must of been a mile.
Although the hustle and bustle of people would seem busy to westerns but for Asia this was a relatively sleepy town.
Our second day we headed out of the town and towards a place called Curug 7 cilember. A waterfall set back in the surrounding forest.
To get there you had to get a taxi. We got an Uber! I know what your thinking, we are supposed to be backpacking but it was actually cheaper than the Scooby Doo vans.
After getting dropped off we waved off the motor bike drivers trying to con more money out of us and headed into the park. Busy but not infuriating we got stared at by everybody. By now I had forgotten I was white and in an Asian country my skin colour stands out.
The water falls them selves were as you can imagine amazing. A few snaps of the first, avoiding people already paddling then we ventured to the opposite end of the park to the second. Nobody around at this one so time to whip my kit off and re create a shampoo advert. You no because I’m worth it.
It was fucking freezing!!
And Carla couldn’t stop laughing as I’m stood in my pants, looking like a “bit of a nob” as she put it while some locals smiled and walked politely past me.
With no signal and no internet the walk back to the small village was less fun.
Spending an hour trying to figure out how to get back while hiking our way through rural Indonesia.
We survived and I spotted a small coffee shop with a Wifi sign. Halle Lulla!!
Uber home order and traffic saw us get back after dark. Lemongrass and a few beers where in order.
Next up Bandung. By this time in our traveling we had started to become slack on the old planning.
Instead of getting a bus to the next town, we caught the train back to Jakarta to then get a 2 hour train to Bandung instead of 5/ 6hours on the bus.
That was until we went to buy a ticket and they had no seats left till after the weekend.
desperate for food and growing concerned about where we gonna stay. I parked Carla down in a McDonald’s and headed outside of the station.
In south east Asia you can always find somebody selling something. Sure enough I was hounded by 3 guys trying to sell me tickets for a mini bus to Bandung. Assessing which would do the cheapest, by that I mean letting them haggle themselves down. The price wasn’t bad in the end but Carla’s concerns heighten when we realized that the mini bus was actually some guys Toyota people carrier.
Convinced we might died, she calmed down after some other tourist climbed in.
Bandung turned out to be a white wash for us.
Arriving shattered and no where open for food we settled on some pot noodle type things which contained what I can only describe as cat food like chicken. Disgusting!
We had to drag our sorry asses out of bed on both days.
The first walking through some questionable streets to get to a shopping mall.
Just before christmas and I insisted on buying presents.
The plan was to go off by ourselves for an hour and get stuff in secret.
Carla was furious when I came back 2 hours later. She’d realize at Christmas why I’d taken sooo fucking long. Indonesia shopping malls are even crazier than the ones in the UK.
Shopping is only ever complete with a few drinks to top it off.
So once back to the hotel we headed out to a bar called “Hangover”. The irony was not lost the day after when we both felt like shit after far too many Bintang’s.
I imagine Bandung has a lot to offer but we really couldn’t be arsed. I guess we had just burnt ourselves out.
On a side note being Caucasian was starting to become an irritant, especially after getting asked to star in a crisp commercial for some college students. This wouldn’t be the last time we got a lot of attention from the locals.
Roll on Jogjakarta…
The only tickets that were left to Jogjakarta were business class.
Or that’s what was on the tickets at least
This will be interesting…
As we boarded and found our seats we were greeted by a cockroach. Great start…
And anything but business class.
8 hours over night and early the next day we got a taxi to our hotel.
Hidden inside the alley ways of the backpacking district we managed to find it. A beautiful place with only 4 rooms and a living room which was mainly outside. Perfect for hot days to just lounge around.
We kicked around for most of the day and planned what we’d go and see while we were here. That night we dined on ribs! Yes in a Muslim country we found the best rib place ever – Poka Ribs!!
Day 2 we visited Kraton Palace. Eventually some former wealth guy from the area who presented his mansion as a palace.
You can tell I took in a lot of information. To be honest I was more intrigued with the artwork which was housed in what looked like a hospital from the 60’s complete with yellowing walls.
Day 3 and we sadly dragged ourselves out of bed at 3am, down the dark alleys and away on a mini bus to catch sunrise at Setumbu Hill.
Breathe taking really, seeing the sun crawl slowly over the misty valley. Being surrounded by greenery did have its draw backs though. We got eaten alive!!
Bitten all over we headed to Borobudur. Amazing ancient structure which was so steep it even had me panting.
It was packed with school trips and felt impossible to take any pictures with being photo bombed. Then the school kids saw Carla and her blonde hair and it was game over.
They were all over us worse than the Mosquitos. Asking questions and trying to practice their English.
They were just sweet kids but my patience was wearing thin.
Next Prambanan temple another ancient site with views.
Again another swarm of school kids. Even worse than the last, to the point even Carla couldn’t face anymore pictures being taken. She would struggle if she ever became famous.
All this excitement and not even lunch time. Food and the usual couple of beers and we were out like a light around 4.
Fun place with lots of history but we needed some peace and quiet desperately.
On wards to Jepara and a ferry to Karimunjawa. The picture perfect island.
After getting off the worst minibus ride ever and waiting in the dark at the harbor, I was starting to hope my choice of Karimunjawa was worth it. This feeling was only increased after six hours on a very rocky ferry. On arrival at the port it was chaos but some guys from the hostel were there to pick us up. Most importantly we were starving and it was lunchtime. They pointed out what was basically the only one place on the island which was a busy buffet-style restaurant. I piled up my plate with god knows what while Karl – sorry Les – had a sprite. For 50p the food was pretty good although I genuinely don’t really know what I ate! And the confusion didn’t end there. We decided to walk around and familiarize ourselves with the island. Dodging the roaming chickens we went to check out the food and drink situation and got a bit of a surprise. There appeared to be one restaurant, one shop that closed for prayers and perhaps thus predictably didn’t sell alcohol and absolutely no bars. The guys at the hostel confirmed there were no bars but apparently we hadn’t looked hard enough for the other two restaurants! Anyway the one we found was both opposite our hostel and did pretty decent pizza and pasta. So we ate and discussed just what we were going to do in this crazy place!
Well turns out there is only really one thing to do: rent a motorbike and go exploring. Les got all “I passed by CB Test don’t you know” on me and my one experience on two motorized wheels is nicking my dad’s moped on holiday aged 10 and driving it into a wheelie bin so naturally Les drove us around. It was awesome driving around the island. Considering it only has one road it was in awesome condition (probably because there are about 15 cars there!) Also the beaches were always pretty deserted. Apart from one memorable occasion when we were coming down from love hill – really not as romantic as it sounds- and an entire boat group (around 30 people) were doing what looked and sounded exactly like an Indonesian version of a Hakka and frankly I don’t think we were more amused or frightened. The next few days continued in mostly this fashion, with the odd motorbike accident on the sand and mile after mile of incredible beaches, sunsets and views.
On our “final” day on the island we decided to go on a snorkeling trip. We had the most amazing time in one in Koh Tao and I’d been promised a turtle so we were mega excited. Although the coral was the most beautiful and unusual that I’d ever seen there were no turtles and very few fish. In fact the only comparison to Koh Tao was our inability to learn lessons and getting burnt again on the cloudiest day! However the BBQ lunch on the most beautiful deserted island I have ever been to more than made up for the mediocre snorkeling. We stayed about an hour on the island and it was paradise. The ride home wasn’t as I sat on the side of the boat and got what felt like a bucket of water thrown in my face every couple of minutes.
The next day we were up at 5 to get to the port for 6 and get our ferry back to the mainland. As we waited with all our stuff and 6 turned into 7 we were informed the boat wouldn’t be leaving that day – and possibly not tomorrow! As furious as I was with having to wake the beast even earlier than usual, we started to get a bit worried about the flight we had to Bali in two days’ time. It seemed quite a few people were in a predicament as it was the 21st December and Christmas was looming. There was apparently a small airport on the island that had daily flights to the mainland and could fit 12 people. It was a 49 minute ride and we rented a motorbike to head up there. Despite the stress it was an amazing drive which ended in disappointment: all planes full until January. Shit. On arriving back the hostel the owners said we could possibly get a fisherman boat but it would be expensive. Extortionate, actually, compared to the ferry but we calculated the loss of the flight and decided it would be worth it. Actually said fisherman got greedy, demanded £100 each and that was that. Stuck, for now. In retrospect it was a stupid idea. When a ferry won’t go because of 4 mile high waves you probably shouldn’t risk it in a wooden boat. With only the slightest prospect of a boat plus the ticket wars to actually get on a boat across the island it was a bit stressful to say the least. As always we felt booze could be the answer. To date we had literally only seen Brahma beer on the island. Les asked the owner of the hostel if anything stronger could be found and they went off on a scooter to go find some vodka. When he arrived back Les was laughing and told me he’d ended up going to some guys house, through his living room into his kitchen and getting the vodka there. I have to say it was about 4pm at this point and the bottle was demolished extremely quickly.
So here we are again waking up at an ungodly hour to chance a boat but this time with the added bonus of a hangover. We got lifts to the pier on motorbike which I don’t recommend with 2 backpacks. After waiting with what felt like half the people on the island for about an hour the already packed speedboat was swiftly evacuated and it seemed like we weren’t going anywhere for a while. Christmas Day according to the locals. I declined a lift home preferring to lug my 20 kilos home on my own steam so I could say fuck a record number of times. In the end the prospect of the worlds hottest room, another freezing cold tap shower and questionably cleanliness got the better of us. We decided to stay on the island for Christmas and make sure it wasn’t ruined. So we threw money at the situation and booked a really nice hotel for 2 nights and another nicer one for the immediate 2. It was a great decision and we immediately felt loads better. The owners were amazing and called the airline to help get a refund. Also we found another hidden restaurant and had dinner with an amazing view of the sea.
The next day we went exploring the last part of the island we hadn’t been to before – the far north. We set off on the hour long ride and 50 minutes in I got the distinct impression something was up with the back wheel. We pulled over and sure enough we had a flat tyre. All of a sudden riding around an island with no way of getting back or getting your bike fixed seemed like a really bad idea. Luckily we were 5 minutes walk from a garage and we ditched the bike and went over to ask if they could fix it. Well it turns out when neither of you speak the same language some stuff you just cannot communicate! After 10 minutes of trying while the woman was doubled up laughing with our mime efforts (at this point we are definitely more concerned than jovial) we decided to walk up to the airport and see if they could help with the translation. After wandering around the airport unattended for a bit a woman came back and we eventually managed to google translate and we got the Indonesian for “please can you help with a flat tyre.” She also told us there was a closer garage so we headed over there. On arrival, we showed them the text on the phone and the guy luckily also spoke English. He took Les off to look at the bike and I stayed behind. For about 45 minutes. I sat on this little concrete shelter while various members of the family came to look at me and the more confident ventured some English. All in all horrendously awkward and as the time went on I got increasingly nervous. After all they had only gone to get the bike and I had all of our phones and money. Eventually I saw them come back and Les was back on our clearly fixed bike. Apparently we had been really lucky and the guy (a pilot in Jakarta visiting family on the island) not only sorted everything at the garage but also paid as obviously I had all the cash. Even when they got back he refused to take any money and so we invited him for some beers later to say thank you. After a quick pit stop at yet another idyllic beach we headed back to the hotel. Eryl the owner was doing food for all the guests as by this time food supplies were running low as no boats had been for three days. After a really nice dinner and some more dodgy vodka the interesting day wasn’t quite over. On arriving back in our room we found an unwelcome guest in the shape of a 5 inch cricket. Terrifying. I hid on the bed under the mosquito net and watched man vs cricket for a solid 10 minutes. Eventually Colin was defeated by a well aimed trainer and we could finally go to sleep.
The next day was Christmas Eve and we were off to the fancy hotel. And it was amazing. They had a private beach, table service on the beach and a massive hammock for two to while away the time. It was definitely more like being on holiday than backpacking. Also more importantly they had hot water, air conditioning and an outside bath. My idea of heaven. A typically drunken Christmas Eve ensued. The original plan of course was to be in Bali for Christmas and we had decided to buy a few gifts for each other there. Luckily we had been to a mall in Bandung in Java a few weeks before so we had a few small presents, including some Nerf guns. After a massive Nerf gun fight and me introducing Les to the “no presents before breakfast” rule we had the strangest Christmas Day. Pretty much just us rattling around on the beach in the sunshine with more beers. We ended up watching Muppets Christmas carol and it felt a bit more like a proper Christmas. This was probably also helped by the copious amount we drunk, ending up passed out with the door wide open. Safety first.
So once again we find ourselves off to catch this elusive boat with a stinking hangover. Luckily money talks and the fancy hotel owners got the tickets from the pier for us and we got driven down in an actual car. Fortunately the waves had calmed right down and we were soon off and back onto the mainland. I was starving and the only food at Jepara harbor was the most questionable I’d seen yet. I still had a bowlful of whatever the hell it was and hoped for the best. So with all the issues we had encountered we knew we were heading east and eventually to Bali but we had no idea how we were getting there. The vast majority of people who visit the island (which felt like everyone but us) do so as part of a tour and got whisked off on buses as soon as we got off the boat. We wandered around and Les found us a car that would drive us to Surabaya a city about 8 hours away for £17. Used to some awkward transport at this point we went for it and actually it ended up being really nice. Just the two of us, loads of room and a comfy car! We even got a little food voucher for more random buffet food and once again Les had a bag of crisps and a sprite. We decided to chance a hostel we were supposed to stay at the night before our original flight so we got dropped off there. On arrival at 11pm we were told there was only one single bed free for the night which we happily took!
Writing this in a crazy expensive part of South America I deeply miss how inexpensive it was to have seriously good food in Indonesia. The highlight of Surabaya was a restaurant called Domicial, the only downside being that it had been a while since we’d managed to wash our clothes and we really didn’t fit in to the normal hot young couples on a date vibe of the restaurant. Oops. The worst part of Surabaya was the fact that we couldn’t book new flights to Bali and had to take a train, ferry and bus instead which took about 22 hours longer! We also had to wait around in a hostel with no real communal space all day! However we did get treated to a free traditional Indonesian feast to celebrate the opening of a new sister hostel. Ok this bit has all been about food but bear with me one last time. I had fully given up on trying to be food-safe in Indonesia and this continued with a lukewarm reheated chicken Katsu curry for the train. Les had a snickers and yes you guessed it a sprite.
I won’t bore you with the details of the trip to Bali; suffice to say it was long and tedious. Bali was lovely but a world away from the rest of Indonesia. Loads and loads of tourists, hipster food and bars everywhere. We were there for New Years and made the most of the foodie options. After spying a Japanese couple getting out of a taxi to go to a little Japanese restaurant I told Les we should follow them and it was an awesome decision. After getting a bottle of what looked ok wine for a fortune in the supermarket we went to the beach for fireworks. Which was a bit mental. Teenagers and Australians setting them off wherever there happened to be a bit of space and half the time was spent watching them and the other half checking we weren’t going to be hit. In the end we stumbled home around 3am and surprisingly things were definitely winding down by then.
New Year’s Day. With South America round the corner and with backpacking generally we weren’t going to make any healthy eating promises. But we did have a couple of wank shake boosts to make us feel better. The rest of Bali was just beach time before we headed off to get our flight to Singapore.
Now I don’t know if we’ve slagged off Air Asia as much as they deserve. Anyhow they outdid themselves this time and forgot to give us landing cards for Singapore. So we happily queued up for half an hour at immigration before getting sent to the back with a couple of empty forms. I was mad enough but our plane was also an hour late, it was nearly 11pm and my dad was waiting for us in arrivals! Eventually we got through and got a cab to our hostel. Driving through Singapore is amazing, so clean and bright. When we arrived at the hostel I had to reassure my dad it was definitely above average compared to where we normally stayed. Then we headed straight out to Clarke Quay. Now four months in I’m used to turning up at places looking rough and wearing the same stuff I’d been traveling but this was a new low. Super trendy and full of dressed up locals and tourists alike I felt like a proper tramp! Also at £10 a pint it was a bit of a shock to the system after Indonesia. Thanks dad for picking up the tab :)
The next day we met back up with dad and headed to the National Museum which was really interesting and had loads of stuff that reminded dad of being there as a kid. It also had a vending machine I’d never seen before: blind book vender. You paid around £10 and it dispensed a mystery book. Despite encouragement I decided against it! Next up we headed to Raffles to do the standard tourist activity – have a Singapore sling. They were very good and came with free peanuts. I never got used to the idea of throwing the shells on the floor though. After this we walked down to Marina Bay and had some beers watching the sun go down. This was Singapore in all its glory as all the buildings are spectacular in the night lights. We then headed down to Little India for a curry. It was amazing, one of the best I’ve ever had!
The next day we went to the botanical gardens which were beautiful and then down to Newton food court for some good food and even better cheap beers. As the sun was setting we went to the top of the Swiss hotel for amazing views of the city and back to our favorite spot at Marina Bay to continue the beers. We then went to a food court called Lau Pa which came with a recommendation from a friend of my dads. He used to buy satay often from a woman called Ann and said to look her up (at stand 9) and send his regards if we saw her. The food court was a bit manic and I somehow got separated from them both. When I caught up Les was surrounded by a group of women saying “they know Linda, your dad is over there talking to her.” Sure enough my dad was surrounded by another bunch of women. All these stalls outside sold mainly just satay so with not a lot to differentiate them I guess pretending to know whoever these white guys were after was fair enough. I was hungry and clearly not as drunk, trying to explain to them both that it was Ann and could we just get inside and get some bloody food! We did and we might have made a poor choice with some sloppy burritos. Dad was more interested in the other stands selling such delights as pigs intestines soup and the like. Tasty!
The next day we had to check out so we went to drop our backpacks at dads hotel as our flight was late. He was close to an awesome shopping mall called orchard so I had the obligatory look around! We then headed for our last tourist spot in Singapore: gardens by the bay. There were some stunning collections and beautiful views but we didn’t get a chance to properly explore the inside flower gardens. In true Singapore trip style we bought some beers from the local shop and had them back at the hotel. We also abused the facilities and I had a bath and Les swam in the pool, pretending we weren’t backpackers for a bit. I obviously also stole every toiletry provided. Dad came with us to the airport which proved very useful. A slight oversight on our part. When we came to check in we were asked to show a plane ticket to prove we were leaving Brazil. Which we didn’t have. Or a bus. Or anything. After showing some hotel reservations and a trip we had booked they decided this wasn’t enough and they could only board us to London. Luckily my dads hotel had lent him a phone and it had Wifi. We quickly booked a bus to Uruguay and were on a way. A bit of a stressful start to the next leg of our journey!