Monday 10 November 2008


We arrived in Jakarta on a Thursday evening, to be greeted by a queue of everyone who had been on our plane, waiting for a visa. That took a while...Then we were introduced to the full force of Jakarta via the many terrifying taxi drivers, begging us to take their taxi into town. The first question, when we had finally negotiated a price, was "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?"

We successfully reached the Novotel Batavia (aka the Omnia Batavia) and managed a couple of beers before crashing. We got up early the next morning, in the hope of buying tickets for the many flights we needed. Back to the airport for a hi speed tour of all the airlines' desks, including many that we read were grounded a little while ago since they posed a threat to safety. Eventually, in possession of a fistful of old skool hand-written tickets, we flew to Jogja.

We spent a few days in Yogyakarta, pronounced Jogjakarta, and more usually known as Jogja. It's a lovely city whose main attractions are the Kraton, and day trips to Borobudur and Prambanan. The differences between the enormous sprawl of Jakarta and the "real world" of Jogja were marked. At first sight, it kind of reminded us of some of the Caribbean towns we've seen, like Roseau in Dominica. There are no chain stores, the roads are in terrible condition, and next to the potholed carriageway you'll find a foot-wide open sewer. The other side of the sewer are the shops - often disproportinately large, with a desk drawer for a cash till. It seems like plenty of people while the day away sitting under trees, chatting and smoking kretek (clove) cigarettes. Jogja is overrun with becacks, little bicycle taxi jobbies. Becak riders spend a lot of the day sleeping in their becaks, which seems entirely understandable when you think that for several hours a day they are ferrying lazy tourists around a bumpy city by pedal power alone.

There's quite a knack to riding a becak. The becak riders' community has somewhat altered the normally accepted rules of the road. It's so bloomin' hot in Jogja that once you have got up some momentum, the last thing you want to do is stop for some pesky little inconvenience such as a red light, or a load of traffic. So roads just gain and lose lanes as the traffic situation alters. If you are turning right onto a big road, but there's lots of traffic crossing your path, don't bother crossing to the other carriageway - just create another lane, and carry on along there until there's a pause in the traffic, and you can push across to the "correct" carriageway. Hard to explain, I hope a video will clarify!

The Kraton is a huge old palace, which is home to the Sultans of Jogja. There's a central palace compound surrounded by a larger walled city, where more than 25,000 people live. At the middle of the compund is the palace itself, currently home to Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X - more on him later. When we went in, a group of artists was performing a leather puppet show, accompanied by traditional gamelan music.

It's a curious place - there is a museum section, but the exhibits range from a pair of gloves, to a photo, to an old coat and so on. They all belonged to previous sultans, but they were terribly unprotected - most of the textiles looked like they were gradually rotting away. However, ther are sections of the Kraton which have been restored. Rather like Topkapi in Istanbul, or the Red Fort in Delhi, the compound comprises many open sided pavilions, as well as other little reception halls and waiting areas.

We stayed at the Delta Guesthouse (aka Duta Garden Hotel) on Prawirotimaran II street (try saying that after a few Bintangs). There are many hotels on the street, as well as plenty of little cafes and restaurants. It's quite a traveller-y area, with a lovely laidback vibe, and lots of hotel swimming pools!

See all our Jogja photos.

Indonesia, October 2008 - Java and Sulawesi

So our holiday involved lots of flights, here's the lowdown:
Hong Kong to Jakarta
Jakarta to Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta to Jakarta
Jakarta to Makassar
Overnight bus to Tana Toraja - shudder
Tana Toraja to Makassar
Makassar to Manado
Manado to Makassar
Makassar to Jakarta
Jakarta to Hong Kong

The most important things to remember about Indonesia are:
1) it's HUGE - nearly 2 million square kilometres. Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world
2) Everything in Indonesia has at least two names - towns, hotels, people (I became Hannah at some point...)
3) It's a foolish person who thinks flip flops are suitable foot attire for the land where the squat 'n' mandi bathroom combo is king
4) By the time you leave Indonesia, you will be in many, many strangers' photos. Hello Mister! People are super-friendly, but it does get a bit wearing after the first hour of saying cheese

Bledisloe again

OK, got the whole Bledisloe thing wrong...I think that any match between Australia and New Zealand (which is not a world cup match) is part of the Bledisloe Cup. This was the first game played in a country other than Aus or NZ, and HK seemed happy to see it.

The Hong Kong Stadium has a capacity of 40,000, and attendance on match day was over 39,000.

It was a fantastic afternoon out - a bit warm (surely the stadium is the only public place on the island without air con?!) but the beer in obligatory slightly floppy plastic cups was flowing and the Aussies and Kiwis sang rude songs. Apparently the match was a bit ugly, but we enjoyed it very much. I've never seen an international before, and the difference was quite marked.

A very big thank you to Belle and Henry, who generously provided tickets. I now have a lovely blue ANZ hand so that I can tell everyone how great ANZ is. It's also really useful for entering the door code downstairs....

...and I can't quite explain why Ross likes it....

Here's another big fan of the rugger:

Here's the hi tech solution for the TV-interview-backdrop-support:

After the match, we had supper in Happy Valley, then went into SoHo, to meet some friends. We had a lovely time, sitting on the steps on Staunton Street, being serenaded by a drunk Aussie who was standing on a postbox singing Waltzing Matilda in Cantonese (for shiz!) We then headed to Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong's infamous party zone. It is a proper expat trap, so accordingly the music is all of the Bon Jovi genre. And there's a bit of Guns n Roses thrown in now and again. It's a pretty scary place at the weekends anyway, so you can imagine what happens when 40,000 people (who've been drinking for a good 4 or 5 hours by now) descend. Here's a video to give you an idea. Be warned - you may be involuntarily transported back to Churchill's / DTMs / Filth: