Monday, February 25, 2013

Jalan Jalan ke Indonesia


February 20

Dupong Ravelo, my bestfriend in Surigao, wished to celebrate his birthday somewhere outside the Philippines. And that wish came true in year 2013, his 37th birthday celebration. An advanced preparation happened in June 2012 where he purchased our plane ticket Manila-Jakarta taking advantage of the promo fare Cebu Pacific Air offered. It only cost us more or less Php3,000 each; a roundtrip airfare. Later in August, AirAsia offered a promo fare Jakarta-Yogyagarta at around Php1,500 roundtrip each. So early on, we already have booked our flights.

Today, I wrapped my office stuffs up so early because I need to be at the NAIA Terminal 3 before 6pm. Dupong who was here very early was accompanied and entertained by our college classmate and friend Ruth Arienza-Go. I left the office at 3pm so I have ample time to travel from Quezon City to Paranaque City. I commuted to NAIA terminal 3 the usual way; took the FX cab to MRT, then rode the train to Taft-Pasay, and boarded the public bus to the airport. It was then that I discovered that passenger buses once again are not allowed to enter the airport gate. It dropped its passengers at the rotonda beside the main gate, and I had a long walk, being one of the carless passengers, towards the airport passengers' entrances.

My cellphone ran lowbat, actually battery empty already, so I hurried upstairs and plugged the phone to the nearest outlet, worrying that Dupong and/or Ruth have been calling me. When I approached the travel tax counter, I found Dupong with Ruth sitting on the floor waiting for me. I grabbed Dupong's passport and paid travel tax before checking in.

with Jeafrey upon entering the room at Ibis Hotel Slipi
After bidding goodbye to Ruth, Dupong and I queued at the Immigration. We were interrogated at the immigration counter by a lady agent for quite a while. She asked our exact address in Jakarta, declaring that she knew the city very well. She inquired more on which Pullman Hotel we will be staying because she knew two of such hotel in the city. Dupong told her about Jeafrey Murillon, our kababayan and friend and my distant cousin, who sponsored our stay and made the reservation for us. With that, she further asked about Jeafrey's work and directed us to provide her hi residence and work addresses. Dupong surfed the net using his apple phone and browsed the addresses; using the back page of the departure card, I wrote all the required addresses, the hotel's and Jeafrey's. All I remembered from that address was the word barat. And then we're good. Good also that we did not mention to the lady-agent the other hotel that we will be staying for the first night.

view of Jakarta city from our room at Ibis Hotel Slipi
The flight was delayed by about an hour and so we arrived at Soeharto's International Airport at past midnight. Jeafrey was so kind to wait for us at the arrival gate; he still have to work that day. Led by him, we rode the Blue Birds taxicab, the most trusted transport service in Jakarta as confirmed by Jeafrey, to reach Hotel Ibis Slipi. The hotel for the night that Jeaf booked for the three of us.

view of Jakarta highway and expressway from our floor at Ibis Hotel Slipi

February 21

I called this an "English, Please!" day. All residents we encountered talked to us in Bahasa. So we courteously plead for English translation.

We woke up early to send Jeafrey off to work. It is known that the International School he is currently connected is located at the outskirts of Jakarta, to think that Jakarta is a huge city. Then Dupong and I ate our breakfast at the poolside. We indulged in the buffet less hurry because we did not have tour plan for the day than just wait for the check out time and then transfer to Pullman Hotel Jakarta at Central Park at lunchtime.

We were very grateful and proud for Jeafrey to have accommodated us in this one of the expensive hotels in the city; the one connected directly to the Central Park Mall and Tribeca Park. But we were waited a long time before the hotel checked us in. There was a security measure that the management applied since the hotel voucher we showed them was named after Jeafrey. The receptionist was questioning who among us is him and whether Jeafrey is checking in with us. Since Jeafrey is not Dupong or me and now miles away and will never come back until tomorrow (Friday) night, the receptionist asked us to produce document from Jeafrey endorsing us, with our complete names contained in it or a personal call confirming us, as the right persons to check in the room he'd reserved.

the luxurious accommodation, a very inviting comfort

The phone call and the email were good and we were ushered in at half past 1pm. Finding the place to be gorgeous and expensive, we familiarized ourselves by taking pictures of the room, the bed, the interiors, the surroundings, including the bird's eye view of the Tribeca Park and Central Park Mall.

We took our late lunch at BonChon and dinner at the Rice Bowl in the mall's basement and have dessert at J.Co, where J.Co in the Philippines all began. We survived the night observing people, taking pictures and watching the musical fountain show in the Tribeca Park fronting the Central Park Mall.

posing at the life-sized zodiac animals

Jakarta Company

Central at day

Central Park and Tribeca Park at night

February 22

I called it a "we look like Indonesians but can't speak Bahasa!" day. Dupong definitely look Malay and I may  look Indian, but our looks will pass for an Indonesian features. And so most people we encountered talked to us in Bahasa. And for the second day, we plead for English versions.

We went down to the Collage Resto for our breakfast. There I felt proudly and gorgeously rich! A buffet of sumptuous international cuisine surrounded me. We savored a lot that our stomach can fill before preparing ourselves for a city tour.

The taxi driver Jeafrey has arranged to pick us up from the hotel was caught in the heavy traffic. It was around noon but the streets and highways in Jakarta were still jammed with thousands of motorists. That Blue Bird taxi driver sent somebody else to drive us to the Indonesian Miniature Park (Taman Mini Indah). It was reasonably far from the hotel, passing through their express ways. Take note, the passengers shall pay the toll fees; and they will pass through it without your knowledge. But it definitely was an express drive, worth the toll charge.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by men each riding a motorbike. They offered a ride to roam around the park. Of course, we declined thinking they were scumbags. So I approached the nearest tourist information center to inquire and get a map while Dupong took pictures of the welcoming a-not-really mini Indonesian Museum. I later gathered that there are various ways of getting around the 150-hectare park, can be via an open bus, a monorail train, or motorbikes, there are also 2 lines of cable car and a turnaround land train. Every transport is available that day except for the monorail which only operates at weekend. The bus ride they said cost 3,000IDR, while motorbikers charge at least 25,000IDR. We decided to take the cable car which one turnaround ride cost each of us 20,000IDR. There are two separate points or course of the cable car ride, which charge separately, and note that there is no interchange. You have to pay again for the other line. Fortunately we took Line C, the ride that passed through better attractions.

inside the cable car

As soon as we're back to the ground, we noticed a cruising land train. We embarked into it and was glad to have the opportunity to scan the whole park. With the revving of the train as the background noise, we sated at everything miniature in the park, from the mosques, temples, churches, to museums and intricately designed houses.

imagine the distance; it's the nearest we can go close to the real MONAS
After the unpalatable lunch at their CFC, which packaging looked like the world-known KFC, except for the recipes and servings, we headed back to central Jakarta to check on their MONAS (Monumen Nasional) or national monument. It was the most expensive tour I have had in my 5 years of travelling around the Southeast Asia and in Jakarta, paying more than a 100,000IDR just to take peek and pictures at a distance. Dupong suggested not to come close and instead took a pose at about 250 meters away from the monument. Well, museums and monuments are not really my thing, so I did not feel bad. Threatened more by the rain showers, Dupong and I agreed to rather go back to the hotel.

We rested for a while in our hotel room to recharge our energies, in preparation for the night's out with Jeafrey. He arrived at half past 6pm and brought us to D'Cost fastfood chain in Ciputra Mall which he said served Indonesian cuisine. We shared the dinner of Indo-Chinese foods. Then later, we slid into the taxi and made our way to Kembang, one of the hangout streets in Jakarta. Unfamiliar of the place, even Jeafrey, the cab driver drove us around in circles until we disembarked in the wrong section of the place. We hailed another taxicab to drive us back to La Codefin Mall. There, I sipped 2 cans of Haineken beer while listening to the acoustic songs performed by local boy band.

February 23

Today I was learning more Bahasa under the tutorial of my cousin Jeafrey. I learned to count satu (one), dua (two), tiga (three), empat (four), lima (five), enam (six), tujuh (seven), delapan (eight), sembilan (nine), sepuluh (ten). Most terms resemble our Bisayan counting, such as duha (two), upat (four), lima (five; and exactly the same), unom (six), napulo (ten). It is where I realized what barat means, it refers to direction west; where our hotel is exactly located.

We shared the buffet breakfast with Jeafrey this time at Collage Resto and later packed up to check out the Pullman Hotel and head to Yogyagarta. It's Saturday, no work for Jeafrey. So he accompanied us to see and step unto this other Indonesian city for the first time, at the Borobudor temple most particularly. By the way, the other name for Yogyagarta is Jogjakarta; I don't know if this is its old name or just a household name.

A little later, we find ourselves  at Airport Terminal 3. Jakarta has 3 airport terminals with adequate transfer logistics; they have aircon buses cruising from one airport to another for free. We immediately queued at AirAsia counters when check in opened. We noticed passengers fell in line with boarding passes ready. That made us realized that in that terminal, passengers may either web check in or self check-in. And you only approach the counters just to drop your bags when you have baggage allowance. An Indonesian woman was too kind to assist us in manipulating the check in machines around the corners.

Since we've checked in very early, we took time checking the souvenir shops, cafes and coffee shops, and other food lounges. We enjoyed the airport facility best since it is equipped with free wi-fi access; so unlike NAIA terminals.

At last I have ridden the AirAsia plane. This may be a budget airline, but the comfy seats plus the in-flight snacks servings was way incomparable to Cebu Pacific Air in-flight service. I remained awake for an hour journey to fully experience it. Upon descent, coupled with excitement, I observed the straight and white coastlines towards the Yogyagarta city from my window.

the background music, performed by natives, during breakfast time at Jentra Dagen Hotel

Immediately after we landed, we approached the kiosk outside the airport and booked a chartered taxi. Be careful though, just like in the Philippines, people will approached you to contract a  taxi ride. At 50,000IDR, the driver brought us to our hotel in the city, the Jentra Dagen Hotel. The taxi route passed through the infamous Malioboro Avenue where we noticed plenty of people crowding and piling up the street. We also observed at the other end of the avenue people dressed in colorful clothes bearing neon-colored props who looked like performing. It was later that we learned that the city was celebrating its annual festival called PAWAI, which the city usually hold at the weekend following the Chinese New Year.

Right after checking in, Dupong, Jeafrey and I lined up at the Malioboro street to catch the parade. While waiting for the parade to pass by our point, we befriended a group of youngsters among the crowd. They were the one's who informed us about this festival and many other things about the city. We knew them as Melissa, Frendy, Tito and Theo; they knew each other in one of the known universities in Jogjakarta. Finally, the parade commenced and passed us. The very lengthy parade exhausted my camera's battery, so I only got few shots of them.

When the last part of the parade receded from our point, I felt my stomach growling. It was past 8pm, I realized. Now, our new friends suggested a walk at Chinatown and find from there a place to eat. So Jeafrey and I went with them while Dupong who will definitely find the walk too long and tiring, squeezing your way among the crowds decided to go back to the hotel instead. Competing a seat in one kiosk we found interesting, the six of us finally settled. With natives in Jogjakarta among us, we were able to meet more of their friends. I wonder if this city is that small that everyone knows everyone. Melissa brought in and introduced to us another friend; Frendy cornered two more and introduced them also to us. We added more warm bodies to the crowds in that Chinatown. They also introduced us to more Indo-Chinese foods which names and tastes I can no longer remember.

We ended the night with hellos and goodbyes plus hopes of seeing each other more in the Facebook.

February 24

This was definitely the Temples Day.

Up and down the Borobudor temple I climbed

Jeafrey and I took the shots stealthily; the temple guards will reprimand you since climbing is not allowed

Dupong prebooked a transport last night. Then a Toyota Avanza came to pick and drive us around the top tourist destination in the Jogjakarta city. Jeffrey, the driver, took the liberty of prebooking our entrance tickets to two prime temples, the Borobudor and Prambanan.

Our first stop was at Borobudor temple. We arrived precisely at opening time. Before we were ushered in, a batik cloth was wrapped around our waist; they said it's a custom that one who will climb the temple must wear it. Dupong wanted to take the horse-driven calash or kalesa in Intramuros, Manila to get around the temple. We took a landscape view of the temple at reasonable distance.

Later, Jeaf and I climbed that stone temples, finding the perfect shots since the spot is already perfect. I even find my fingers running the stone, checking the intricacy of each and every carvings, and wondering at the grandiosity of masonry. The 190,000IDR entry fee is not bad for a perfect experience of climbing up and down this ancient temple. We even have the opportunity to observe their cultural dance.

I looked like a archeologist...

I noticed these school kids walking around ambushing foreign tourists
and  they interviewed Jeafrey.
What comprised the crowd up the Borobudor temple were the students, bringing along with them a notepad. I noticed them cornering white people for interview. I overheard one question that went like, "what embarrassed you when you arrive in Jogjakarta?" I wished they got me interviewed because I felt like talking about the city and this ancient temple. And I was jealous that they caught Jeafrey instead. He has white complexion while I'm not. I believed just like what these kids thought that having a brown (I am not so dark though) complexion means local and Indonesian. Excuse me!

This was the answer to Dupong's wish, to be able to catch a cultural performance.

The Plaosan Temple ruins
Having soaked in sweat, we opted to buy and change into batik made shirts. Batik is what the city is known for; the whole of Indonesia in fact. We felt the need to dry up since we still have 2 more temples to go see and possibly climb.

Our driver, Jeffrey, brought us to this BS Resto to have lunch. I ordered a fish (probably a freshwater fish) but it didn't taste like one; it was called in the menu the laughing fish. We paid more than half a million rupiah for a full stomach; not bad.

The rain threatened to pour down; it has indeed showered in the direction of the Mt. Merapi, thus cancelling our trip to reach this infamous volcano. We proceeded directly to Plaosan and Prambanan Temples. There we took several poses and pictures, and have little climbs in some of the reachable steps.

The Prambanan Temples
On our way back, we dropped Jeafrey at the airport. It was Sunday and he needed to go back to work the following days.

Along the way to the hotel, Dupong realized he was sort of robbed at the souvenir shop where he bought 2 ref magnets that cost 75,000IDR each. Then later at the hotel, I also realized I have lost my batik shirt in the car.

February 25

This was a whole day of staying at and transferring from airport to airport. We stayed the whole morning at Yogyagarta airport, and the rest of the day at Jakarta airport, before flying back to the Philippines.

Dupong and I opted to buy our time walking around the airport, transferring from one store to another. It took us 2 hours of waiting at Yogyagarta International Airport from 9am. We arrived at Soeharto Airport Terminal 3 an hour later via AirAsia. We hopped on the airport shuttle which carried us to Terminal 2. It was a gigantic airport terminals with entrances and check in counters beyond my count. And yet the people still crowd inside and out. I believed there was some kind of big event or convention in or out of the country because we noticed thousands of people wearing an ID and almost the same clothing. They actually filled the lobbies of the airport terminal.

We first occupied seats in the A&W Food outlet, and later in one Japanese Fastfood outlet. We wanted to find seats in the KFC outlet or at Starbucks kiosks but found it filled or find the room temperature hot and intolerable, so we ended up walking here and there pulling at our heels our trolleys and baggage. Until finally the check in for Cebu Pacific Air flight to Manila opened, and that was past 10pm.

Then our concentration was tested, as I was reading a novel and Dupong's browsing his iphone, by these 3 young Filipinos talking in English loudly. They sounded very irritating since they inserted Tagalog words in between their sentences. It felt annoying to observe fellow Filipinos chitchatting in a non-conversational English. Shame! We were very unfortunate to queue right next to them. I lost concentration and appetite at reading, so I shut the novel I was holding. I really cannot help but rolled my eyes every now and then from left to right and vice versa. We caught a breath of relief when the checking in was through.

We waited at the gate 4E for the boarding call, after we scanned the duty free shops we passed by. The shops of all kinds of souvenirs, from RTWs and apparels, wines and perfumes to batik, key chains and ref magnets, were strategically positioned in the predeparture area wherein all passengers have to pass through them all on their way to their assigned departure gates. But at little past midnight, an announcement came that our assigned gate was transferred to gate 5F, in exchange for the Philippines Airlines flight. We traced back our way to duty free shops, taking a long walk , as we find our way to gate 5F. Along the way, we crossed our paths with PAL passengers who waited their boarding call initially at gate 5F. Despite the inconvenience, we embarked the plane and arrived in Manila at 5am.

February 26

Thank God, we arrived in Manila safe and sound. Today is Dupong's 37th Birthday! And he got his wish of spending it in foreign land; only not on this very day.

We initially planned to celebrate his birthday with other classmates and friends in Manila. But I excused myself because I was ordered to fly to Butuan City that 7am to do fieldwork in Caraga region. We bade goodbyes at the arrival area. Dupong exited the airport terminal and I climbed upstairs to check in.