For the second half of our trip to Java, we stayed with a local household. Matt, a former college classmate of Bayley’s, moved to Indonesia after graduation and now works out of Jakarta. He and his girlfriend Anne hosted us at their house in one of the city’s quieter neighborhoods. After so long in small hotel rooms, having a living room with a couch, and a yard with a pool, made us feel like we’d arrived at Sandals Jakarta. Minus all the fat people. We spent the morning relaxing at the house, enjoying Matt’s company as well as refreshing beverages not available in Hangzhou: fantastic coffee for Mom and “rad-Dad-da-dad,” fresh coconut water for everyone, and pool water for Owen. This was Owen’s first time in a pool, and he lapped it up.
We then headed into the old city center for the afternoon. There we browsed one of the ‘best’ (by our standards) Chinatown markets we’ve seen yet. While the Chinese-ness was pretty weak (no surprise given the history here), diversity of the biological kind was well-represented in the market stalls. Zig-zag lanes were lined with crates and piles of alien-creature fruits and squirming things from the bottom of the sea. One fruit we tried, called sea coconut, was pulled apart to reveal wobbly, edible juice packets that released sweet water when bitten. It was a big hit with these foreigners. Why aren’t these in our grocery stores?
We rounded out the day with a walk through the old town center, where the Dutch-built canals (what else would Dutch overseers build in their colony? okay, other than windmills) all lay stagnant and putrid, and the colonial buildings continue their crumbling. The liveliest place was in front of the old customs house, where every day men take turns whipping each other, literally, in what is surely one of the world’s dumbest street performance acts. After a nice lunch overlooking the action, we drank some more fantastic Java coffee and headed home, contentedly jittery.
Jakarta’s probably a pretty difficult city for most tourists, but our hosts made it a good visit. It’s a big, messy place, and we only scratched the surface, but as a result of what we learned I think I’ll be much more attentive to future developments in this extremely important SE Asian country.
It will also be important as the place where Owen took his first step.