Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jet Lag

My circadian rhythm is way off. I am wide awake early in the morning.
I have 48 hours to get back to San Francisco time.

Been out all day. I'm on auto-pilot. Hopefully I can stay awake for at least another 8 hours.
Then once I do sleep, I should be back on schedule.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Indonesia 2007

On the afternoon I was scheduled to take off for Taipei, the UPS man showed up with a package for me. Perfect timing, it was the replacements for the Shure earbuds I returned. They sent me a brand new pair. They sound great, completely drowning the sounds of the jet engines

SFO-TPE 070314

I checked in to China Airlines with no problem.
Right before getting on the aircraft, a ground staff stopped me and asked that I surrender one of my carry-ons to be stowed underneath. She gave me a claim ticket for the luggage.

I fell asleep and woke up with exceptionally dry eyes. So dry, my contacts, both of them dislodged. My strategy was to stumble to the lavatory or pop them in my mouth to rehydrate them, but my mouth was way to dry. I got up, got a cup of water and tried to get both contacts into the cup. In the end, I found only found one.
That's the only one I am using.

The contact lens incident made me think of my reserve lenses in my former carry on now stowed in the cargo hold of the plane suitcase.
This worried me, I decided when I so upon landing in Taipei I followed up on the claim ticket number and found out that the ticket was never scanned... for now my lenses and other crap in the ge is in limbo...Maybe it will be in Jakarta, maybe in San Francisco, maybe in Taipei.

The flight itself was pretty smooth, except for the turbulence that happened right during the breakfast service, This actually caused the crew to stop the service, retreat the cart to the galley and buckle up.

The landing was very very smooth.


TPE-CGK

Welcome to Taipei.
This airport like many in Asia feels like a mall. Their prices are actually pretty good. I guess it depends on what you are buying. You have to know your prices.

This aircraft an A330 is very modern, each seat having a personal video entertainment system and 803.wifi! OK, just kidding about the wifi, but as I'm writing notes on my 12" Powebook, I can't help but notice its the perfect size for an aircraft's service tray.

The best part of this set up? The live camera POV from front and bottom of the aircraft.
There is also a Berlitz video game to help you brush up on your Bahasa Indonesia vocabulary.

I'm checking the armrest and I notice this little sliding door.
What's behind it? A network port.
Too bad I don't have a network cable with me. Could you imagine?
Plugging that baby in and watching your network settings come alive with an IP?!?.

Things are prefect. The only thing I am worried about now is my luggage.

The pilot announced that we were beginning to make our descent, so I decided to watch from the front POV camera. Nothing but clouds, but eventually I saw CGK's runway, a pretty distinct slab of blacktop at. 10,000 feet.

I was on of the first people out of the aircraft, and rushed toward the VOA, Visa on Arrival booth. A small queue there and US$25.00 and some documentation later, i was rushing towards the queue for Imigrasi, Immigration... couple of stamps and visual check of my outbound ticket, and I was rushing for a queue for Bagasi, baggage claim.

There it was! My luggage made it to Jakarta! I picked it out, showed proof of ownership to some officials and was off to another queue, the last one, the one that x-rays your baggage...thankfully that was avoided, I was just gestured to by pass and just leave.

I immediately saw Sinta, and now one last queue, negotiating for our voucher hotel.

She called Febi, our driver and he came by in the upper level to pick us up.

In about 1.5 hours we were sitting enjoying our lunch at Samara Pasar Sate dan Anggur, a restaurant specializing in various styles of sate.

We rushed to Park Lane, our hotel, but first had to pass a checkpoint.
Jakarta is serious about security, each hotel has a checkpoint, manned by at least 6 men.
One will check the perimeter of your vehicle with a mirror. Others will peek inside and inside the trunk. After they are satisfied you are gestured to proceed.

Before you can enter the lobby, another check point, just like at the airport.
Luggage scan and a walk through a detector. There are hand held wands if your don't pass, and even pat downs.

After checking in we stole a blissful power nap.

After a quick afternoon shower and nap. We headed out to the Mandarin Oriental Cigar Bar. We were greeted by a group of local girls dressed in traditional Mandarin dresses, tight, with the slits up very high. I had my first "Cuban" a Hoyo de Monterrey. US$20.00 for this rare experience. Two drinks, martini and Johnny Walker Red on rocks, cumi goreng, fried squid for US$42.00. For the cigar experience, worth it.

General observations on Indonesian food culture.
There is no lack of food, At times food can come to you.
This food, sold my roving vendors vary by time of day and geographic location.
Street food is what makes Indonesian food a great experience.
Frequently, the evolution. of a restaurant starts from a roving vendor, to kakhi lima, which is a cart with tables, to rumah makan then a full service restaurant.

Jakarta 070316
This time we hired a taxi and let the meter run.
Pretty much out the entire day, the fare came to about $20.00.
There are many taxi companies in Jakarta. Take only Blue Bird.
They are the safest and most reliable. They have 3 levels of luxury; Blue, Silver and Golden.
For travel within Jakarta, Blue is more than enough.
Request a taxi/taksi, not a cab.


Lunch at Dapoer in Mahakam, a wonderful restaurant housed in an elegant home.
Dapoer features traditional Indonesian food.

We went to a supermarket to get some Duku Palembang, known as lanzones in the Philippines, This is a really sweet version. 1.25 Kilo at IDR 10710, about one dollar for for a huge amount. Manggis or Mangosteen and Durian Monthong, imported from Thailand. The Durian, was about $2.00 for a kilo, already peeled and ready to eat. I am in fruit heaven.

Our room, airconditioned cool, sheltered us from Jakarta's hot and humid weather,

We for dinner, we headed out to Kemang's Pawon. Our favorite restaurant in Kemang.
Sate Kambing for me. Sinta, Ikan Layur and the perfect side, deep fried chicken skin.
Deep fried chicken skin?!? Most Americans actually remove the stuff before even cooking their chicken. We're missing out, I forgot how good this rare treat is. There is live gamelan playing!

Later in the evening we met up with Olive, Sinta's high school friend who was partying at Sticks, Park Lane's bar. Sinta had a Shandy which I learned is beer and 7-Up.
I googled Shandy and it's not popular in the States... well here we know of one, Zima.

Jakarta-Puncak 070317
At 10:00 a.m. we met up with Danar & Ici, their kids Kinar and Gendis, also Sinta and Danar's Dad, Franz. We're headed out of heat Jakarta to get the Puncak Highlands, to a resort called Kota Bunga/Flower City.

Jakarta traffic gets pretty bad. It gets even worst near Puncak.

A motorcycle cop slowly passes by and Danar and another motorists decides to folllow. Instantly we are now part of a two car motorcade passing by the other motorist. We take the side streets and eventually get out very near our destination.

The cop takes the modest service fee, exchanges phone numbers, incase the service is needed again and everyone is on their way happy. A motorcycle police escort to by-pass traffic. Sweet.
It shaved at least 3 hours off of our journey.

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Puncak-Bandung 070319

Bandung-Yogyakarta 07032o
We took a train from Bandung to Yogya. The cities are rivals, similar to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The train's crew's conversation revolved around the evening's sepak bola, football match.
I was constantly in the dining car with the crew. There we relaxed and there were no roles that were fronted. I enjoyed probably the best coffee I've ever had. Simple preparation. Coffee, grounds and sugar in a pint glass, boiling water and a stir. Th in they all asked me questions, "What do you think of the war? Do you like your President? Do you like Barak Obama?" Barak is very popular in Indonesia since he spent his childhood in Jakarta. Barak and Sinta attended the same Catholic grade school.
Yogya is famous for salak and gudeg. Salak is a delicious fruit, with skin that is similar to snakeskin. Gudeg is also famous, a dish made from jackfruit. It can be prepared as vegetarian, but also commonly served with eggs and chicken.
Lehesan, the style of eating in Central Java. It features low tables and no chairs.

I suspect this where I got sick, eating sate babi at a warung.
Thankfully I packed some Imodium.
This however did not help my low grade fever and sore throat.

Yogya-Kerobokan, Bali 070321
Leaving Yogya in the morning.
We needed to fly from Yogya to Surabaya then to Denpasar.
Because of Indonesia's domestic airlines history, I am completely stressed during the take off and landing. Knowing this, my friends take advantage and constantly remind me.

We arrived in Bali, late in the afternoon.
Grand Balisani Suites, great deal at US$40.00.
We were picked up at the airport and carted off to this quiet resort with a private beach.
We are about to head out looking for a travel agent. I to pay for the balance of the 3 days here.
We had Babi Guling for for dinner
It wasn't Ibu Oka's but it was delicious. The skin was golden and crispy, but a bit too fatty. The satay babi was very similar to too the Filipino style.
Sinta convinced me to go to Singapore, it's a good deal. She said she plans not to go shopping, though when I ask everyone what the things to do in Singapore, the say, "Shopping".
Basically it's a cute joke that our intention is to go to Singapore's famous museums.

We couldn't purchase our tickets without our passports, so will buy them tomorrow.
Driving through through the narrows streets of Seminyak, we passed by the explosive sounds of Balinese Gamelan, this was just a rehearsal, but sounded really good.
We also stopped by a Pasar Malam, Night Market. We found my three favorites, Manggis, Salak and Rambutan. The fruits, delicious and sweet, were really sweet.
The manggis or mangosteen was specially good since you can eat the whole portion of fruit without worrying about biting into the bitter seed. All three fruits were about US$ .50.

I wake in the middle of night and hear Bali famous frogs, inspiration for the famous kecak.
The sound is beautiful.

Kerobokan, Bali 070322
Breakfast while watching the waves break. A group of cows also pass along the beach. The scene is so peaceful, it is surreal. Coffee here is served with a cinnamon stick, to be used a stirrer. Spoiled by my coffee experience on the train, I decide the coffee here is not as good.
There are Kambodia trees the surround the dining area, the scent of the flowers waft everywhere.

Meeting with Ibu Made in the lobby, we decided to first go to Bayu Buana, a travel agent. We settled on a flight to Singapore, the are still looking for a hotel for us.
We then headed to Ubud, to have lunch at Ibu Oka, a pretty famous place for Babi Guling. Bu Oka's place started as a kaki lima, but now is a full blown restaurant.
The place is lehesan style, you sit on the floor and eat from low tables.
I'm pretty sure many homes in Japan and Korea also have this style of table.
If you are not used to this, your legs like mine will tighten.
The food delicious, plates of manggis also all over, be mindful of how much you eat, the will be counted for your bill.
3 Babi Guling Special
2 Teh Botol
1 Lime Juice
1 Mineral Water
5 Manggis
$8.90

A little on the pricey side, but worth it.

Driving through Kuta, to Denpassar is a beautiful experience.

Ibu Made, pronounced Ma-deh. Was our tour guide.
Ibu Made is a very popular name in Bali for both men and women.
Made indicates the second child of the family.
She's a Bali native and she's a very good guide.
Handphone, 08123615775

An afternoon walk on the beach, produces a painting of Balinese Judgement Day.
The artist offered me the painting with an opening for US$150.00.
Sinta being Indonesian is a great bargainer, she knows all the rules and was able to get the painting down to US$30.00

Kerobokan, Bali 070323
Storming rain. Many people would be despondent if it rained while visiting this paradise.
I'm okay with it.

We had a wonderful lunch at Blue Marlin Cafe, Kedongaganan Beach St. Bali.
Grilled seafood topped with your choice of sauces or simply plain.
We had some fried squid, some grilled shrimp and a giant crab... ice teas and bottled water, everything came to about $30.00, which is a much better deal than places in Jimbaran.

We are planning to go visit the famous temple Tanan Lot.
This temple is featured in many Balinese paintings and postcards.

It is a downpour. The women who rent umbrellas are all on us. The wind gusts turn Sinta's umbrella inside out.

It was really pouring, even motorcyclists have stopped to seek shelter at a gas station.
Our SUV is safe from the floods.


Singapore/Singapura 070324

Sinta's aunt, Mbak Tatik and her cousin Tika picked up us up at the airport.
The drive to hotel was really pleasant. Singapore is incredibly clean. With roads like that of San Diego's 163 South of 8, basically a garden with a highway going through it.
There is traffic, but nothing like the macet's of Jakarta.
There is order and lanes that motorists actually use. Motorcycles are not even a factor.
I probably will see less motorcycles the entire time I am here, than in 5 minutes standing in a roadside in Jakarta.

Singapore is basically a giant mall. Well, atleast Orchard Road is. Not just any ordinary mall but the ├╝ber haute kind with brands like Hermes, Cartier, Tiffany & Co. & Chanel. You know the brands that make some people weak in knees.

Singapore/Singapura 070325

Today, we went to Little India.

Singapore 2007
There I found Teh Tarik and Roti Paratha. It was good, but I expected better.

Singapore 2007
The scene at the market though was wonderful, alive and full of people from all cultures in their traditional garb.


Singapore/Singapura-Jakarta 070325
Flight was good. Food boring.
Used a Kompressor to ride to the Park Lane.
Requested a non-smoking room, received on a standard/smoking room with a non-working A/C. With the assistance of Pak Aman, we were moved to a new room, non-smoking and one with a working A/C.

We will head out for some gado-gado. Sinta said Boplo Gado Gado is the best in Jakarta and we are near, we're going.

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Jakarta 070327
Lunch meeting with Ira at Plaza Semangi's SoHo Cafe.
Shopping for some Ole-Ole.
Dinner at a nice Sundanese place.

We rushed back to the hotel for a quick dip in the hot tub, but the water was cold.
What a disappointment.

Jakarta/SFO 070328

My last day in Jakarta. It's always a really sad time for Sinta and me.
Tears are always shed.
I always request her not to go to the airport. Normally I request that she takes the first taxi, I take the second one. Well, this time I took the first.

My flight to Taipei was good. Had the usual in-seat entertainment.
Also had the emergency row, aisle.
At the airport in Taipei, I walked by an area that had a big sign that read, "Free Internet Access". Sweet! Since it was a cafe I decided to purchase some items. Kiwi juice, US$4.00 & Danish US$2.00.

Finally the last leg of the journey Taipei to SFO.
The landing SFO was hard, but I'm glad to be safely on the ground after 13 hours in the air.
Going through customs was easy too. Didn't have to go through secondary.

Gordon picks me up and soon we are on the way to my place, drop off the baggage and off to Bliss for a drink and some food. The food this time, like the first dinner Gordon had after his vacation in India was at Barney's for really good hamburgers.