Day 1: Flying to Jakarta, Indonesia and arriving at our hotel in time for a dinner in a mall.
Day 2: Exploring Merdeka Square and Monas before taking a bus to Bandung to reunite with a great relative.
The travel from Beijing to Jakarta was pretty straight forward. We had a three-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur and luckily the LCCT had a nice lounge, the Plaza Premium Lounge, to relax on couches and kill the time.
Touching down in Jakarta, we went through immigration after getting our visa on arrival. With an entry stamp in the passport, country 52 became official!
Jumping into a cab we drove towards the city center and soon ended up in downtown traffic that was absolutely awful! I haven’t seen many places with worse traffic than Beijing… Jakarta takes the prize. It took us almost two hours to get to the hotel from the airport, but fortunately the fair was pre-negotiated at 10,000 rupiah with tip (~$20).
Driving into the hotel in the embassy district, we noticed the overly suspicious security for incoming cars. With concrete barriers on both sides, security officers checked the bottom of the taxi with a mirror, the trunk and the passenger area while a bomb sniffing dog did his thing.
After a warm welcome, we had to put our bags through metal detectors to enter the lobby.
The hotel and large comfortable room was a pleasant respite from the chaos outside.
The doorman recommended some local Indonesian cuisine for dinner and told us a name for the black Mercedes taxi that pulled up.
Setiabudi One turned out to be a shopping mall. Not exactly what I expected, but we were too tired to be picky.
We walked around the mall which was very modern, Starbucks and all, but couldn’t find an Indonesian restaurant. We settled for the chain restaurant, Chatterbox which has a few Indonesian dishes among their asian cuisine on the menu.
Our order came out fast and really hit the spot.
After dinner, we took a stroll back to soak in the city life. It turned out to be much further than we expected and the sinister stares from some locals made us feel uncomfortable, so we hopped in a cab back to the hotel.
The quiet interior of the hotel allowed for a well needed rest.
In the morning we went for a swim in Gran Melia’s pool. The water was a bit chilly but the sun warmed us up. After a shower, we indulged on the amazing breakfast buffet. They had a fresh fruit juice bar, a Western, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, bread and pastry station. The selection process itself was delightful.
After making a few arrangements from our room, we started off to explore Jakarta.
The traffic was excruciating especially as we had such limited time. With no subways or other forms of transportation that could bypass the disaster, we had to sit there and patiently grind our teeth. Moving an inch every five minutes, we finally made it to the highway which let up a bit. The driver dropped us off at the southwest corner of the square.
Merdeka Square is one of the largest squares in the world. In the center is Monas, the National Monument. There were hoards of people around for the Ramadan festival. Mostly locals, we spotted a few tourists as well.
The path to the center was lined with street stalls selling clothes, souvenir shirts and trinkets.
There were a lot of shirt sellers so I got my tourist shirt there.
Unfortunately after walking to the far North side, we found that Monas closed early for Ramadan! So much for the view over the city.
We then tried to walk to some other sites in the center like the Istiqial Mosque which was also closed. Passing by the Army Head Quarters, Supreme Court and Merdeka Palace, we finally hailed a tuk tuk.
Even the tuk tuk hit traffic.
He dropped us off at the mall where we were I read we could catch a bus to Bandung. After asking several people who didn’t speak English we eventually found the ticket seller. The company, Baraya Travel, was not the one I looked up but they had a bus leaving at 5 p.m. so it worked out.
With about an hour to spare, we went into the mall to get an early dinner. We picked a restaurant that turned out to be Chinese with an Indonesian twist.
Bus from Jakarta to Bandung
The minivan seated eleven and we luckily had the two center seats with extra legroom. We were told to put our bags in the back, which made me a bit nervous as we couldn’t see over the seat.
Then we were set for a three hour ride on the highway. Everyone on the bus eventually dozed off, including our driver who kept jerking his head up randomly. Fortunately we stopped at a rest station for gas and for the driver to wake up. The rest-stop was huge and even had a type of strip mall with different restaurants and stores. This was our only stop.
There were two friendly people we met on the bus. One student who spoke English congratulated us on finding the cheapest bus to Bandung (50,000 rupiah per person), little does he know, it was a complete accident.
When we arrive a smiley old man gave us directions and even let us use his phone to make a call.
The main reason for visiting this city was to see my grandaunt who has lived in Indonesia almost her whole life meaning I haven’t seen her since I was a young whippersnapper.
Our phone call confirmed the way, so we set off from the bus station and eventually found a taxi to take us to the compound.
We drove along the walls of the convent, before we found the entrance where a guard opened the gates, expecting us. He led us to the large doors, where my grandaunt was waiting with open arms along with a sister and a novice.
They gave us a very warm welcome and took us to the room they prepared. It was a large room with two beds, a living area and a large bathroom. Located right adjacent to the chapel, the room houses guests when they visit.
My aunt then brought us into the kitchen where they had some food prepared. We sat and had a tea while chatting and catching up. It was exhilarating to be reunited and acquaint myself with a relative that I’ve known for such a long time, but know so little about.
We had a full day of Bandung exploration tomorrow, so we soon retired to our cozy chambers.