The other big event in my life in the past two months was a trip to Indonesia to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and my three nieces and nephew. I headed over there on March 18th and came back on April 1st, an awesome trip to say the least! Here is a fairly extensive recap of the first half of the trip (see the end for a link to photos):
I left Columbia at 2pm on Wednesday and took a bus to St Louis where I met my parents at the airport. They brought two suitcases packed with stuff for my sister’s family and we spent about an hour in the airport emptying stuff from my larger suitcase and repacking everything into the two smaller ones and then weighing them to make sure they were both under the 50 lb weight limit. They both were just under 50 lbs, plus I had a backpack for a carryon in which I had most my stuff for the trip.
The flights over were un-eventful. On all three flights, I had nobody sitting next to me, the first two flights I had two empty seats next to me! On the longest of the three flights, 13 hours from LA to Taiwan, we were served two meals and I watched three movies, Max Payne, Twilight, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. I spent three hours in Taiwan, most of it wandering the airport getting a little exercise. There were a lot of “duty free shops” there, but nothing selling basic snacks and I ended up buying lunch with my credit card for $240 which I’m pretty sure was around $7 USD but I’m not sure… The final 6 hour flight from Taiwan to Jakarta, I watched Changeling and got served one more meal.
Getting into Jakarta went fine. I was off the plane quickly and would have been one of the front few in the visa line, but it wasn’t clear I had to get my visa prior to picking up baggage so I passed the visa line to head to get my bags right away. When I realized I had to do the visa first, the line had more than doubled in length so I ended up having to wait a bit to get my visa. When I finally made it to baggage claim, my smaller suitcase had been taken off the track and my larger suitcase wasn’t anywhere on the track. That had me worried for a little but my second suitcase finally did show up.
I met up with my sister once I had made it through the final baggage checkpoint. She was standing behind a roped off area, I was trying to decide what to do about changing money and was facing a long row of money changers all trying to get me to come to their little booth when I saw her waving at me and was quite happy to leave the money changing for later when I was with her who could actually speak Indonesian! After hugs and talking for a little, we headed over to grab a quick bite to eat at McDonalds…
We spent one night in Jakarta after taking a taxi from the airport to the train station to buy tickets for the following day. That evening we went to a mall across the street from the motel and visited a money changer that had better rates than they did at the airport. We had excellent dinner at an Indian restaurant that my sister enjoys and then split a margarita at Chilli’s. The dinner was very reasonable, the margarita wasn’t, it was as much or more than margarita’s are in the US, around $7 I think!
The following day I got up while my sister was still asleep and wandered around a little. I went into a Circle K and looked at stuff but couldn’t quite figure out prices. They had drinks priced at 5,000 to 7,000 rupie and I couldn’t remember if that was good or super expensive! Eventually I found a McDonalds and went in and saw that the meals were around 35,000 rupie and realized that 10,000 rupie is about equivalent to $1 USD. I eventually ended up back at Circle K and bought a drink and a brownie… When my sister eventually got up we went to a Starbucks and had breakfast. We then walked about a mile to the train station and boarded the train at 10:00 am for a six hour trip to Semarang. Some really beautiful scenery from the train, but mostly a lot of squalor…
Once in Semarang, Anna and I met up with John, Katie, Grace, and Kurt (Paula had basketball practice). We went to the mall in downtown Semarang which was quite amazing to see after seeing all the squalor from the train window to then see this mall with very nice stuff inside. Included in the amazing things was the first time I’ve seen an escalator that was actually a ramp! Not like the moving sidewalks in airports, but actually to go from one floor to the next, not with steps, but a ramp. Turns out they had grocery carts to use in the mall and you could go up the ramp with the grocery carts… Visited an amazing DVD shop in the center of the mall, DVD’s for $10,000 ($1 usd)… We ate dinner at a beautiful restaurant John and Anna knew about, it was in a random neighborhood and would have been impossible to find if you didn’t know it was there. I had a stone baked pizza, not very Indonesian, but I did have an Indonesian beer!
Saturday morning John and I got up at six and headed out on bikes at 6:30am. John was riding his bike, a mtn bike with semi slick cyclo-cross tires on it and I was riding my sisters bike, a mtn bike with regular mtn bike tires. Anna’s bike is a little too small but with the seat post a little further out then the recommended distance it works ok for me, though it is still just a little short. I had said a hilly ride would be fun so we headed uphill. We ended up doing a 50 mile ride. Unfortunately I forgot to wear my GPS so I wasn’t able to map the route, but it involved heading uphill for about 6 miles on a fairly busy road and then finally heading onto some more rural roads through some really pretty mountainous scenery. The route we went took us past this famous coffee plantation:
The whole route was filled with steep uphills or downhills and lots of curves and switchbacks. For the most part, while a little never wracking, they weren’t too bad as traffic on the rural sections was really light. However, we eventually ended up on a really busy section for about 4 miles. On the first section which was uphill we were getting passed by a lot of traffic which you quickly learn to ignore. A busy two lane road in Indonesia is actually at least a three lane road. If someone in front is going slower, they get passed. If someone is coming towards you in your lane passing other oncoming traffic, you move over as far as you can if they’re bigger than you, if you’re bigger than them they’ll squeeze back into their lane. So the uphill stretch wasn’t too bad, we just hugged the shoulder and got passed, they’re quite adapt at passing. But when we got to a downhill stretch, we started overtaking lots of overburdened trucks and buses. John who has lived and biked here for a while, started swinging into the oncoming lane and passing, squeezing between the oncoming traffic and the slower vehicles. As he disappeared ahead, I eventually began to do the same and eventually was passing vehicles left and right. Finally we got off that busy stretch and took some smaller roads the rest of the way back to their house. Once back home, my sister had a great breakfast with eggs, chicken sausage, hashbrowns, and almond puff waiting for us!
That’s the trip summary through Saturday. It is actually Wednesday morning here now. I’ll write another one of these soon but I’ve been on the computer a little too long already! John and I are planning on biking tomorrow to Pacitan which is about a 100 mile ride. Will spend several days there with the whole family who are driving up, its on the beach so we’ll spend time on the beach relaxing and then John and I will bike back on Sunday. We were able to find a helmet that fits me, Saturdays ride I didn’t have one and I wasn’t willing to go back out again without one. Should be a fun though tough ride, I’ll see lots of scenery and this Time I’ll be sure to have my gps with me. Here’s a ride we did on Monday morning:
Pictures so far:
Indonesia Pictures Link