January 4th 2016, Jakarta
There’s something about this year. Maybe the upcoming Mercury Retrograde. Misunderstanding, delay, out of ordinary small things. I’m agitated and impatient, almost like last year or worse. Maybe I need to start yoga and meditation, but I’m like a lion in a cage. Finally off to Jakarta. Seated for turbulence and handwriting this. Dissipated thoughts.
When the schedule for January was issued, right before Christmas, I knew it’s going to be a great start of the year – Jakarta, 8 day holiday, Dhaka, Milan again, Phuket and Beijing right at the end of January.
After a more agitated flight than I used to remember it – it’s my third time in Jakarta – we are finally here, in the 30 degrees barely breathable air. I would lie if I said I don’t like it, but in the uniform it feels like a sauna.
It makes me remember my first experience with this kind of weather in my first month of flying in Thailand when I almost though that’s something wrong with me. It even makes me laugh how attentive to all the details and the vegetation, the scenery of each city I would go to. Now it’s (almost!) routine.
The bar by the pool is not opened yet, it’s just around 8 AM. I order a Long Island in the lounge overlooking the pool and the nearby lake. Then I decide not to bother the waitress twice so I ask for two. She asks me if I had breakfast and I inicently say no. I thought it’s for the bill, then I lay my eyes on the drinks. Oh…don’t worry, for me it’s night already. Oh…you’re from airline. Yes, we just arrived.
I read about the Middle East Iran-Saudi tensions in the local newspapers. It’s just an ordinary morning/night in a random city of the world in my own world, with a drink – well two in my hand and a plan for exploring new places and feelings.
Jakarta is a traffic champion and I heard in busy days you can spend three hours in the car from the airport to the city center, so I spared around 6 hours – I was thinking for the way.
After all, it’s my third time in Jakarta and I haven’t seen the city, so I said I will see it at all costs. To my surprise we were there in about 45 minutes. The city is impressive, huge and the buildings are massive. It is said to be world‘s second largest city at 10.2 million people.
On my sightseeing list:
The Istiqlal Mosque/ Masjid Istiqlal Mosque
I’m visiting with I., who converted to Islam. Istiqlal means independence and indeed, the mosque was built to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence from The Netherlands. As our guide tells us, there are many symbols of the independence struggle in the building of the mosque. The cupola above the main prayer room has a diameter of 45 meters, as the independence was obtained in 1945, then there are 12 columns, which is connected to the birth of The Prophet, there are 5 floors to represent the 5 pillars of Islam, another dome has the diameter of 8 meters to symbolize the date of the independence – August 8th.
The Mosque is a good prayer shelter and feels a little more cool than the hot and humid outside. What is interesting about the Mosque is that it was designed by a Christian architect to symbolize the harmony between religions in a country that holds the biggest Muslim community.
On the other side of the road is The Jakarta Cathedral, built in 1901 in neo-gothic style, with a very interesting and modern appearance.
We walk towards the Merdeka Square – said to be the biggest in the world. In the middle it’s The National Monument (Monas), built to symbolize the struggle for independence. Speaking of which. Indonesia was ruled by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British and occupied by the Japanese.
A walk in the square is pleasant, but the distances are quite large. However, the vegetation is protecting us from the sun and is enchanting. We pass by ministries and legal bodies. Bicycle merchants pass by us selling some weird food which I bought and only tried – it was too spicy and honestly I didn’t know what it was, but the process of serving it was catchy and also caught on camera – cigarettes, small food packages, mainly everything. The people are relaxed and helpful. There are not many people in the wide streets/highways of Jakarta, most of them are security agents of the high glass buildings, smoking in front of their doors.
We’re at the National Museum, which is worth a look.
By now it’s pouring, but the hundreds of people moving on motorbikes and wearing plastic covers seem to be used to it.
It’s raining so bad that we might expect the water to pour in the taxi we are, heading to The Skye Bar in the BCA Tower, the tallest bar in the city at 56th floor. Jakarta has vibrant nightlife and I am not leaving without taking a sip of it. From this place high in the sky – I just cannot get enough of the skies – you can see the new buildings of Jakarta and also the construction sites of what will be an even more impressive skyline of the city.
At the Sky Bar they also have a restaurant serving gourmet food and fine wine at acceptable prices and with a very pleasant atmosphere and design. Good service, but the ladies at the door are very strict about the dress code, so access to the bar and the opened area is not permitted you are elegant. As a matter of fact it’s a quite posh place and the people in the bar were either wearing suits for men and dresses and high heels for women.
January 6th, 2016
As I’m leaving I see one of the most beautiful airplanes I’ve seen, from Batik Air Jakarta based airline, reminding me of traditional Romanian motifs. Aviation is thrilling!
Flashback to August in the same place…
…one week later there are bomb attacks right in the Starbucks in Thamrin Street where we were drinking coffee not long before. Quite shocking to see videos with the table where you were enjoying Jakarta skyline in a news about bombing.
“Starbucks is really not my favorite place. The truth is that I don’t know what to order because I only drink espresso.
I wrote today about my trip to Jakarta this morning and posted some pictures. I did not know about the bomb.
This is the card I got from the Starbucks in Thamrin Street, Jakarta, right where the attack happened. We were drinking coffee and watching exactly the site of the attacks, just a week before the bombing. Quite shocking to see videos with the table where you were enjoying Jakarta skyline in a news about bombing.”