Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Big Durian

That is the moniker by which Jakarta is affectionately known.  First, how did I get here?

I took a flight from Toronto direct to Hong Kong, which is about 14:30 hours.  As expected, I was subject to the "random" body search by security at Pearson.  The irony was, the guard was Pakistani, and asked where I was from.  When I said Canadian/Persian dad, he started speaking some Farsi to me.  It was almost like he himself felt a touch guilty about what he was doing.  Then, I stayed a night in HK (I'm an idiot and I booked it that way) and from HK to Jakarta, another 4 hours.  So, a total of 18:30 hours to get here.  In HK I stayed in a place that was literally a roach motel.  Every time I picked up my back pack to get something out or put something back, several roaches would scatter from under my bag.  I was really worried that I would carry some stowaways into my residence in Jakarta, but luckily, there only seem to be ants there (more on that below).  It was hilarious, the room had a bathroom and shower, which were both in the same area, about 4ft x 4ft.  A sink, a toilet, and above both of them, a shower head.  On the plus side, it was nostalgic to go back to HK, good memories from my study abroad experience.  I was in a part of downtown which is pretty exciting called Tsim Sha Tsui,  a stone's throw from the notorious Chung King Mansion.  This is a huge apartment/business building that is home to the marginalized members of HK society, such as Africans, "South Asians", and some fairly rough looking South East Asians.  To those from TO, buildings (10 stories+) in HK don't house just offices, but if go upstairs, you'll find any number of establishments such as guest houses, massage parlours (the suspicious and legit kind) restaurants, electronics stores... basically anything that is relegated to street level only in Toronto.  So, I was on the 10th floor, which had not only at least 4 other guest houses, but also apartments, a web cafe and some other unidentifiable places.  Anyway, street level TST is pretty fancy, so I just strolled around there several times, looking for some food and some other familiar sights.     Arrival in Jakarta was panic inducing.  Now, if you hadn't had the experiences I've had, you wouldn't be phased by anything other than the rather quaint appearance of the airport.  But, having read a few (in hindsight) fear mongering guides on Indonesia, I was expecting to get the 3rd degree.  The airport is nice, and has some simple yet earnest Indonesian motifs and statues spread around.  But after the impressive monoliths to the future that are the HK international airport and Pearson International, the low ceilings and narrow hallways at Soekarno Hatta IA inspired more of an "awwww, that's so cute" rather than a "WOW..."  But, I had no need to worry, the incredible bored looking immigration officials simply stamp and fill in the appropriate forms as fast as they can.  I was picked up at the airport by Grace, one of the WSI employees who also booked me a hotel.  The hotel was pretty nice, and a welcome respite after the squalor of my HK place.  It was a bargain at around $47 a night for two twin beds, free breakfast buffet (which was my first taste of Indonesian food and it was terrific) pool and good service.  Finding an apartment was a bit of a challenge and I think I fared poorly.  Oh well, I still ended up with a pretty decent unit, and with a bit of personal flare, I'm sure it will look great.


  1. Ohh cockroaches... dirt. I'll have to find out later why you think your apartment isn't that great cause it looks nice to me... although a sink-toilet-shower all-in-one is probably not ideal... Now I see how natural it was for those witty Asians put a scanner-copier-printer all-in-one.

  2. sink-toilet-shower's not so bad, you'll get used to it.... and oh chungking mansions, we had some good times. i'd like to hear your chungking mansions stories from your study abroad year...