J is for Jakarta, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer
Jakarta, Indonesia (August 1989)
We started our three weeks in Indonesia in the capital, Jakarta. Driving from the airport through the city in a taxi nearly gave us a heart attack. We arrived at the Wisma Ise Guest House, where we climbed three flights of stairs up to reception. As soo as we walked in, a woman came up and put her arms around me and said, "I am so sorry!" They had just promised their last room. She was extremely kind and told us to sit down and have a cool drink. Then she had an idea. They had two Indonesian customers from the same company who were together all the time anyway...so she would ask them to share a room so we could have the other one. She said we could leave our luggage and come back later. We went to the bank to change money and the cheap accommodation centre. We checked out another hotel, but the rooms were more expensive and the people were not as nice. We decided to trust our luck at the guesthouse. Sure enough, when we returned, they had a room for us.
Our general impressions of Jakarta were noisy, heavily populated, and dirty, and it tried our nerves. One of the windows in our room was permanently left open--before I went to sleep the first night, I wrote "I hope I can sleep with the noise." However, it was not a restful night. The couple next door to us had a loud fight. She was English and he Japanese, and they fought until about 1:00 a.m., so by that time I was wide awake. Then at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. call to prayer from the mosque right next door to the guesthouse. I will never forget being woken up by "Alla Ahkbar" sung over the loudspeakers, a sound that might be beautiful if you're not trying to sleep.
mandi." It's a cold tub of water, and you scoop bowls of water out of the tub and wash yourself next to the tub. Jakarta was our first experience with the cold mandi.
Our second day in Jakarta was "trying," as I wrote. We walked in the hot sun to the square and went up in the national monument for a view of the city...and then down to the basement to see a panoramic museum of the history of Indonesia. When we went off in search of the post office, we asked several people for directions, but they all gave us different ones. Finally we just gave up.
And then we tried to find transportation to take us back to the guesthouse. We asked a man about the average price for a bajaj (like a Thai tuk tuk), and he said 500 rp. He was very kind and flagged a few bajajs for us, but the lowest they would go was 800 rp. Most of them said 2,000 rp! Because we didn't have any change for 800, we decided to take a taxi. The fare was 1,400 rp, and I gave him 5,400, but he gave me only 3,000 in change. By the time I realized this, he was gone! I realized, by this time, that I was too trusting, probably because of three years in Japan, where this would never have happened.
That afternoon, back at the guesthouse, we talked to a man from Arizona, Chris, and some Vietnamese women who were studying English in Jakarta for three months. Chris spoke to us for about an hour--he taught Southeast Asian studies and had been traveling all over Southeast Asia--but we couldn't get a word in edgewise.
I have such fond memories of Indonesia that I'd completely forgotten that it started in a not-the-best way, similar to our first few days in India...a good reminder that sometimes it takes awhile to get used to a country. I had similar first few days in both Japan and China, too, now that I recall...
Fortunately, we did realize right away that the Indonesian people are, in general, warm and friendly.
|Photo with the nice people who ran the nice-but-noisy guesthouse in Jakarta (with rooftop views!)|
Jaipur, India (September 1989)
After spending a few days in Agra, we set off for our Rajasthan tour. Mike and I like to get to know a place well, so we'd rather spend our time in one region than trying to scramble on a whirlwind tour. We wouldn't do well on one of those "see 20 countries in Europe in 21 days" types of tours! When we were planning our trip to India, we wanted to go to Kashmir, but 1989 was the year that the violent separatist movement began heating up in the region. So instead we decided to focus on Rajasthan in the northern part of India, which the Lonely Planet (our trusted guidebook) describes as "romantic India wrapped in gaudy royal robes. Here the fearsome Rajput warrior clans ruled with gilt-edged swords, plundered wealth and blood-thick chivalrous codes.A vast and wonder-laced state with treasures more sublime than those of fable, the Land of the Kings paints a bold image."