Sunday, January 25, 2009

Journey to Jakarta

On Friday I made a quick day trip to Jakarta for some customer meetings. Jakarta is only a little bit south -east of Singapore but it is in a different time zone, possibly because most of Indonesia is further east. When I asked at the hotel for a taxi to the airport they were very surprised that I had no luggage. I had to keep telling them and the taxi driver that I was only going for the day, this is obviously not a frequent occurrence. I told the taxi driver I wanted to go to Terminal 2, he was very talkative and when he found out I was going to Jakarta he started rambling. I wasn't really paying attention as it was early in the morning and I was tired. When I got out of the taxi I realized he had dropped me off at the wrong terminal. Garuda air is the national airline of Indonesia so in all his talking he must have just assumed I was flying that airline and ignored the fact that I told him I needed to go to Terminal 2. No problems though as there is a sky train to go between the terminals.

A quick 90 minutes later and I was in Jakarta. I was told to go to the visa on arrival desk for a visa so naturally I followed the signs which was a mistake. I found out after that most people don't read signs in Jakarta, people have been known to drive the wrong way down the streets. After finally getting to the desk I was surprised to find out that the price of the visa is advertised in USD. Had I known this I would have brought my US dollars with me, all I had was Singapore dollars so they had to convert to Singapore dollars and then give me change in the local currency Rupiah. For a $10 visa I got 10000 Rupiah note in change.

As soon as you clear customs at the airport there are a number of private taxi stands in the airport which try to get you to book a taxi with them. I had a pre-booked taxi but it was interesting to see the hawkers trying to get business directly in the terminal, typically this occurs once you walk outside. Traffic is an absolute nightmare in Jakarta.

It took about 90 minutes to get to and from the meeting site which should have probably only taken about 30 minutes. Given the insanity of traffic many people ride bikes, which reminded me a lot of Paris. The only difference is that frequently there are 2 and even 3 people on a single bike.

The meeting went well and I finished within the allocated time which was important as we had to make sure we did not interfere with the prayer time. The Regus office we were in had a small prayer room to accommodate visitors. Those that weren't praying women and non-Muslims went off to a Chinese restaurant for lunch - the others joined us after their prayers. The food was amazing and absolutely gorged myself. I ate so much I didn't even eat dinner that night. I tried chicken feet - very strange mostly skin and lots of tiny little bones. My most favorite thing though was a drink that I saw others get. I had to ask when it arrived since it was green. It is avocado and chocolate and is a local favorite. It is very rich but well worth it. If you ever go I recommend you try it.

After a nice leisurely lunch it was time for a return trip to the airport even though the flight wasn't until 5, as traffic can be impossible it is better to give yourself plenty of time. What was odd is that it took forever to get a taxi. The office building is attached to a mall and there is a taxi stand but those taxis won't take you to the airport instead we had to book a taxi similar to the one I took from the airport, we had to wait about 30 minutes. Luckily we still had an hour to spare once we arrived. In the taxi on the way to the airport I was so tempted to take out my camera and start taking pictures from the window. The only reason I didn't is that I was sharing a cab with a colleague. Along the way to the airport there were all kinds of little shops and shanty towns that were so picturesque, oh well I'll have to go back.

Boarding at the airport was something I had never seen before which is unusual. Instead of boarding by row or zone or a free for all you are given a colored card at the gate. Boarding is then conducted by color, when you board you need to hand over the card, if you have the wrong color card you are told to wait. My question was how many people walk off with the cards?

That's it for Jakarta, tomorrow or later in the week I will post a summary of the week in Singapore.

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