“Macet” is the Indonesian word I learned during this trip, and it is an important word which you’ll likely hear much when you are on holiday in Indonesia. It means traffic jam. Yes, expect to be stuck in traffic jams for a significant portion of your travel. A very significant portion.
In my case, and I suspect for most people too, the worst jam would be the one enroute to the airport for your flight out. Departing at 230pm from the SCBD in Jakarta, we were caught in a one hour jam just to travel 5km to get onto the toll road. For the rest of our itinerary as well, we were also caught in jams to get past most little towns.
As much as “macet” is a part of Indonesian daily routine, “Sabar” (patience) is the common virtue among Indonesians. Forebearing, understanding. The Indonesian way of life is proof that you don’t need to keep raising productivity to make life work. As long as you have the patience to work at some thing, life works out, somehow.
Of course, you need more than just perseverance for survival. You need resources. And Indonesia has no lack of resources. Gifted with fertile soil, plenty of streams and river, the land yields enough for everyone to get by, so long as you’re willing to do some work, however menial it may be.
Two things attract me to Indonesia. Actually three. Firstly, the natural resources, in the form of the landscape, and produce (food). Secondly, the amazing artistry of Indonesians, manifested in works of art such as Batik, music and gardening. Lastly, the price and currency advantage I’m able to enjoy when spending in Indonesia.
So let me start reporting about my just-happened trip proper. It went really well despite having to trim the itinerary due to “macet”. Our flight arrived around 3pm, and the taxi driver whisked us to our hotel and happily exclaimed that we missed the “macet”. I decided it was not worthwhile going to Fatahillah Square as planned, given the peak hour traffic and the tired state we were in. We went, instead, to Central Park Mall, the next item on my itinerary. By the way, I deliberately chose to stay in hotels that were within walking distance to the malls I wanted to visit, and I would suggest that as the strategy you should adopt for Jakarta. You wouldn’t want to be wasting time on taxi rides.
Central Park Mall is a nice mall. It is one of the more upscale malls in Jakarta, and so, unfortunately, the eateries are more international than local. Our preference always is to go for local food, and Sate Khas Senayan was one of the few options available.
After dinner, we proceeded to Carrefour which was also located at the basement level. One of the agendas I had for the trip was to bring home Indonesian coffee beans, and I was very happy to find an entire shelf stocked with various kinds of coffee bean. The most premium type of coffee bean as indicated by the price seem to be “Kalosi Toraja” which I have not heard of before. They do have Mandheling as well, plus other blends. They were pretty cheap, ranging from IDR 33000 to 43000 (S$3.40 to S$4.30) per 200g, which compares very favorably to the the pricing in Singapore, which is typically double the amount.
After the supermarket visit, we headed straight to the Telkomsel shop at level 3 to pick up a prepaid data SIM card. Here’s an important tip for you: the official Telkomsel shop is probably the best place to pick up a prepaid data SIM card, because they sell these at the official pricing without any additional commission, and there’s absolutely no risk of you being quoted a “tourist price” which you may encounter elsewhere. They will also likely be able to converse with you in English, which was the case at the outlet in Central Park mall. The card they had on offer was priced at IDR 70000 (S$7.20) for 4GB and IDR 100000 (S$10.30) for 6GB. You will have to do a top up if you need airtime or SMS, starting from a nominal IDR 10000. I did the top up for ease of communicating with my rental car driver.
And we’re not done with our agendas at Central Park yet. I acquired my usual holiday souvenir here as well – a haircut. The entry level haircut at Double R salon was IDR 200000 (S$20.60), and it was very carefully executed.
Finally, we did some shopping, and my better half was able to pick up some Batik clothing from Batik Keris and Alleira, two Batik boutiques we were well familiar with. A fruitful night, we had.
The next morning, our rental car picked us up from the hotel and we headed to our lunch place, Cimory Riverside, two hours away. This was a place that handles large crowds, so the food was understandably not going to be fantastic, though it was still quite okay.
The main program for the day was a visit to Taman Safari. It was not cheap by Indonesian standard, costing IDR 300000 (S$31) per adult, but it probably is still one of the cheapest Safari in the region. Me thinks the novelty was worth the money. (Warning: spoilers ahead)
In order to visit Situ Gunung the next day, we travelled more than 2 hours to get to Sukabumi from the Safari park. Night time sets in by 6pm and I must say it felt rather depressing, especially when you’re still a long distance from your destination. I chose to have dinner at Bubur Ayam Bunut Siliwangi, and the chicken porridge was certainly comforting after a long ride.
Situ Gunung was meant to be the highlight of our trip, and indeed it was. It was made more exciting by the Ojek we engaged to ferry us to the waterfall as well as the lake. I had originally intended to get to these attractions on foot, but the terrain was more challenging than I had imagined. The path to the lake was covered with large pebbles and involved a steep slope, which would have taken a long time to climb on the way back. In the interest of saving time, I made the decision to pillion ride the motorcycle, with our kids sandwiched between adult riders. It was a very rough ride through muddy and bumpy tracks, but it was totally worth it. Otherwise, we would never make it to see the attractions.
After the waterfall, we headed to the lake. I knew beforehand that at this hour (around 11am), i will not be able to witness the pretty sight of the sun ray shining through the shrubs, like i’ve seen while doing research for the itinerary, but still, the lake was not to be missed. And i soon found out that, true enough, there was something magical about this place. It was truly worthwhile visiting this place.
Situ Gunung is quite out of the way from Jakarta, and it took almost three hours to reach our lunch place, Ah Poong. Nevertheless, the sights along the way were still captivating enough for repeat visitors like us.
Ah Poong is a food court offering various Indonesian food, and, uhm, Singapore chicken rice, of all things. In fact, it occupies the largest stall that takes centre stage. My guess is it’s due to investment capital from Singapore. Otherwise, there was a good variety of Indonesian food here.
Ah Poong was just outside Bogor, which was included in my itinerary for factory outlet shopping. Sad to say, the Factory outlets were a little disappointing, and the only one worth visiting, in my opinion, was Blossom, which we were already familiar with because we have visited them in Bandung. Well, i didn’t visit all the factory outlets in Bogor, so don’t take my word as being conclusive, but the reason i like Blossom was because they stock real rejected branded items.
Back in Jakarta, we went to Skye Bar and Restaurant for dinner. I had originally wanted to only have some drinks at the open air area, but they don’t accept customers wearing Bermudas. Anyway, the restaurant food was rather pretentious, though it was still okay, and quite reasonably priced for the overall experience. Half the customers were there for birthday celebration.
The final half day of the trip was to be spent at Pacific Place, where Kidzania is located. The entrance fee was IDR 150000 (S$15.50) per kid, which is a small fraction of what Kidzania Singapore charges (S$55). The staff do try to speak in English when they know you’re not local. In any case, the activities are quite fun.
We had our final meal at Kafe Betawi. Like Sate Khas Senayan, they operate like a fast food restaurant, but the food was similarly decent. We had the usual favourite items.
It’s unfortunate that the majority of foreign visitors leave Jakarta with the final impression of the horrendous traffic jam to get to the airport. The consolation is that the taxi fare doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.