The airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where we spent an 8 hour layover on the way to Indonesia was another world compared to Nepal. It was enormous and luxurious, with all kinds of places to eat and shop and I couldn’t get over how sparkling clean everything was. Likewise, our arrival in Jakarta, Indonesia was in complete contrast with our arrival in Nepal almost two months ago, as the process of getting a visa and retrieving our bags had a semblance of organization and took little time. Before leaving the airport we made a bee-line for a franchise called “J. Co Coffee” for frappuccinos Sean has raved about since I first met him. In his impressive Indonesian learned while living in Borneo for 7 months, Sean negotiated like a pro for a fair cab price to get us to a hostel in Jakarta. As my first impression of Asia were the small and crowded streets of Kathmandu, I couldn’t believe we were speeding along a highway with divided lanes, which people actually used signal lights to cross. Groups of skyscrapers filled our windows throughout the hour long drive.
On Jalan Jaksa, the closest thing to a tourist block in the capital city of Jakarta, we quickly found a hostel Sean was familiar with. We walked to the train station to arrange tickets to Yogyakarta for the next day, and on our way back all the main streets were blocked with the beginnings of a protest. After we passed them we could hear the crowds becoming rowdier, and we later learned it was one of several demonstrations by labour unions to increase wages. At a restaurant during supper we met an Indonesian named Rivanno who works for an electric company and is married to an Australian woman. He was full of crazy tales of corruption in Indonesia and all the problems it causes. We ended up spending the next few hours having beers with him, and I spent much of the time playing with his 5 year old son Jemi who was also fluent in English. He was shy for about 5 minutes, but before long he was cuddled on my lap or teasing me so I’d chase him around. On the way back to our hostel we stopped at a warung, a street side restaurant with plates of food displayed in the window which you pick and choose from. We both had squid and fish for less than two dollars.