Tag Archives: Indonesia 印度尼西亞

In Jakarta, an Indonesian Home-Stay

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.

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In Java, Legends of the Kid in Temple

We’re on Java, Indonesia’s most populated, and completely overwhelmed, island. (Having tested the transportation infrastructure in the endless mess that is Jakarta, as well as in Yogyakarta, I think we have now experienced in reality the sort of nightmare visions that keep nervous Chinese urban planners up at night.) But other than the transportation, our visit in Indonesia has been great.

Yesterday we got around the traffic by going above it, and took a quick flight from Jakarta to Yogyakarta, about halfway across the island. Yogyakarta claims to be the center of Javanese culture, which can perhaps be best described as a form of Islam layered on Buddhism layered on Hinduism, and is proudly still ruled by a sultan, although his powers don’t seem to extend much beyond living in the palace and owning the nearby shopping mall.

We spent a day and a half with Unggul, an English-speaking Javanese Renaissance-man-turned-guide who drove us to the once-hidden, now-famous jungle temples built by long-ago Hindu and Buddhist rulers. Between masterful tales of Javanese folklore, his boyhood in the jungle in Sumatra, and how he knows Obama (lived next door to his Indonesian step-grandfather), we stopped to sample wild cinnamon bark, durian and mangosteen. It was pretty great. We also passed through a Chinese settlement along the way, and the outward contrast with other overseas Chinese communities was stark: in forming this massive assortment of far-flung polities into an ungainly nation, Indonesia’s first couple post-colonial rulers made no room for Chinese identity, and along the rows of Chinese-built shophouses there was not a single hanzi to be found. Of course, comparisons with the Mainland are often complicated, and here we noted the prominence and ornateness of the ancestral graves (see the picture below). In much of the Chinese countryside, local officials discourage or prohibit such customs, since the graves use up valuable dirt space that could otherwise be used to generate more agricultural output. Here, though, the practice appears to continue.

Owen had a blast at the temples. His Chinese upbringing was apparent in his desire to grab onto every really old thing we came across. Since that’s what UNESCO sites in Asia are all about, and with just about every single day of Siddhartha Gautama’s 80-year-long life carved in ancient stone reliefs at Borobudur, he had a lot of fun.

We’re nearing the end. Jakarta again today, with stops in the old Chinese section, and then a late-night flight to Manila, our last stop before home. Travelling outside of China has been interesting and a lot more relaxing, but we miss having the ability to really communicate. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem in the Philippines.

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