Thursday, October 20, 2011

A week in Jakarta

I went to Jakarta to quickly sort out my multiple re-entry permit, but ended up extending and spending almost a week there. It was a dramatic change of pace from the daily routine in Padang.

 Armed with an address for a vegetarian restaurant, I headed towards Central Park without knowing exactly what I was looking for. I ended up in a huge mall. This is not a comfy mall where you might expect a Walmart or a Target and you can loaf around in your pajamas. This is the type of mall where I wander around terrified I’m going to knock something over and break it because my lifetime salary would not pay for it. There were French brands that I previously thought only had one store in New York and one store in Paris. Apparently they also have one in Jakarta?!?

This got me thinking. Development doesn’t exactly stand out when you are wandering around in Padang -I have caught myself wondering who exactly classified this is a rapidly emerging economy! My shock at seeing Central Park caused me to go on a grand tour of Jakarta’s mall scene and I have to say that it blew me away. Suddenly I could understand all the talk about Asia rising. There isn’t just one large mall. There are 10s (or maybe 100s) of huge shopping malls that each seem to have more land area and a bigger economy than the state of Delaware. I had to take notes to find my way around!

But in between these great malls I saw something else.  I saw open sewage and overcrowded transportation systems.  I saw homeless people sleeping under the freeways.  I saw a man who needed mental help and woman who clearly was living a life of abuse.

I’m not writing this because I came up with some grand solution or I have some great philosophy to espouse.  I don’t know all the answers.  I just spent a week bouncing between excitement at seeing development in this country and sadness at seeing how many people seem to be left behind.  It is obviously hard to photograph the richest and poorest people in the city so these photos should give you an idea of the types of things I was seeing.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bung Hatta Nature Reserve

Saturday was a pretty crazy day. I finally made it to Bung Hatta nature reserve. I've been trying to get there for ages, but every time I went to what I thought was it, it was locked. So I connived some couchsurfers to go with me. It turns out I was right about the location, but the place is just always locked. However, they managed to get us in anyway.

They had been rather disappointed with my eagerness to see plants. "Boring...." Well when we got in, we discovered the place was full of little paths to go wander around and everyone started to think this might be fun. We found one in particular that just seemed to disappear down. Of course, we have to find out where that one goes, right?

So we start down the path. Slowly the way got more and more difficult. First the neat path got a little broken, then it got a lot broken. Then we reached a few points where trees have grown up and thrown the path off a cliff. We started to wonder how long it had been since someone else took this path.

Eventually the stones disappeared and we were on a trail. But the trail itself got less and less obvious and eventually we were just bushwhacking through the jungle headed down. There were definitely some parts that qualified more as "sliding" or "mountain climbing" than "hiking." We all agreed that we were not going to make it back up so we needed to find a better way to come back.

At the bottom we found an adorable little river. Unfortunately we also discovered a lot of leaches -or rather they discovered us. So we went from excitement at finding the bottom of the park (who knows if we were still in the park?) to paranoia as we started jumping at every little itch, staring intently at ants walking past and so on.

Unfortunately we also realized that there was no other way out of this little area other than down the river (and the leaches put paid to that idea) or back where we came from. So we started back up, terrified we were going to be lost in the jungle after dark and/or never find the "path" again.

It turned out to be easy to find the path. The minute we started back up, it started to rain.
Not a little drizzle, but a real rainforest downpour. And it became clear than the path we were using was not a path for people, but a tributary of the river. So all we had to do was hike up a few miles through a waterfall (while checking each tingle to see if it was a leach).

We fortunately made it up before dark, exhausted and drenched, but alive. The couchsurfers seem to have decided that Susan's suggestions are never boring -no matter how boring they initially sound.