Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mall Madness, Manga Dua, Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Terima Kasih Indonesia! (Day 3)

I only had a few hours left in Indonesia so I decided to check-out early and get a head start on the day.  Fittingly, the first mall I visited was Sarinah Department Store, the oldest mall in Jakarta.  Despite being a little long in the tooth, Sarinah is still a favorite among Indonesian mall goers.  It is a good place to buy souvenirs as there are floors dedicated to goods like batik, handicrafts and jewelry from all parts of the country.  The prices are a bit high compared to street vendors but the products sold in Sarinah are of better quality and guaranteed authentic.  There's also also a Mcdonalds & Chilis restaurant if you're hungry.  Across the street is a Lotus Department Store selling clothes and footwear.

To get here, take the BRT to the Sarinah stop, the mall is conveniently linked to the station.  From here, the bigger malls are an easy 7 minute walk away.

Jakarta...Monas, Kota, the Business District & Shopping Malls (Day 2)

Jakarta: A Society of Extreme Contrast and a City on the Rise

"Now where has it been?
I mean the good old wild days
...There something in the air..."

Pogo by Digitalism

For some reason, this song was stuck in my head throughout my entire stay in Indonesia.  The Big Durian, as Jakarta is fondly called, isn't a popular tourist destination, not even to the locals, but I was here to give it a shot and try to find reasons for you guys to visit.  A place I like to call the Muslim Manila, it is infamous for traffic, over-population, high pollution levels, corruption and making international headlines for all the wrong reasons.  But like Manila, the shopping malls are first rate and if you muster up enough courage to walk it's historic streets and seldom visited tourist sights, you just might enjoy your trip, like I did!

Despite the freezing aircon in the train, I managed to get a good sleep and woke up an hour before we reached Jakarta.  The train stopped at Gambir Station, Jakarta's main rail terminal located in the city center; an adequate fully functioning transportation hub connecting Jakarta to all of Indonesia's major provinces.  It has shops & restaurants as well as reliable transportation options to wherever you're going in Jakarta in the form of Blue Bird Taxis.  Taxi drivers in the city have a bad reputation but one company (Blue Bird) has been well recommended by locals and previous visitors as honest and reputable.  I've stuck to taking Blue Bird Taxis during my stay in Jakarta and I can tell from experience that their drivers use the meter, take you to anywhere you want to go without refusing and are courteous and professional despite difficulties in communication.

From Gambir station to your hotel, your best bet is to hail a Blue Bird cab depositing passengers in the station.  Don't worry there's a lot of them in Jakarta and trips to anywhere around the city won't take more than 30 minutes (normal traffic) and won't cost you more than IDR 50,000.  There's also a Damri bus from Gambir Station which goes directly to the airport for IDR 20,000, leaving every 15-30 minutes.

For travelers looking for a more comfortable option, you may pre-arrange a private car transfer with Jakarta Airport Transfer.

Business class on the sleeper train

Java...Prambanan, Borobudur, and Yogyakarta (Day 1)

Java: My First Solo Adventure / Spectacular Sights All Around

Spontaneous, not part of the plan, unexpected yet somehow ends in amazement.  The Piso Sale had me in a panicked frenzy as I swiped my credit card away to my target destinations.  The craziness resulted in one random moment (which I still I can't explain), where I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to go to Indonesia, alone, without any prior research, and so I made it happen and arranged my one-on-one appointment with Southeast Asia's Sleeping Giant!

After reading a bit about the country, I arranged an itinerary that would maximize my sightseeing and included the highlights of Java, the region of my fascination.  The plan was to fly early from Jakarta to see the magnificent sights of Borobudur & Prambanan then experience Yogyakarta's rich culture and finally get back to Jakarta in the morning via overnight train, all within 24 hours.  And if everything goes right (or wrong), my first solo backpacking experience will be something I'd never forget!

Highlights of Java