Tag Archives: Jakarta

Electronics Shopping in Jakarta

2789Today my Indonesian hosts took me to the Mangga Dua Mall for some electronics shopping. At first we got to the new one – which was very nice and clean but also still about half empty. A security guard told us that most shops simply hadn’t moved in yet – and recommended that we go to the other mall.

Although the other mall was said to be “just on the other side of the street block”, my hosts insisted we take a taxi. I was a little perplexed; it didn’t sound like such a long way. And the fact that most taxi drivers didn’t want to go there seemed to confirm my suspicion. I had to agree, of course, that the Indonesians knew their city better than I did, and we finally found a taxi driver willing to take us on that short jaunt.

I’m glad I deferred to the experts.

It wasn’t actually too far. In Frankfurt you could have easily walked the distance… But with the crazy traffic, the people, and the horrible air it would not have been a lot of fun.

2792The mall itself turned out to consist of six floor crammed full of little shops. We had to hurry a little, as we had arrived somewhat late, but we still took in most of the shopping mall. The Apple specialist shop had already closed, but I still got a Mac Book into my fingers. Nice keyboard. There were lots of pretty nifty notebooks, but only a few were really interesting to me. They had some Sony Vaios and a really nice Fujitsu Lifebook P1510. The Lifebook was about 1kg heavy, had a 9″ screen, and the whole thing was in a tablet PC format. This means a touch screen and you can use a pen instead of a mouse. I think this would actually be a good thing to have. Prices were prohibitive, however; as it turns out they charge about as much as any shop in the US would. And I wouldn’t even want to think about warranties.

The mall had also dozens of shops which sold cheap (bootleg) CDs and DVDs. I didn’t bother with these, of course. I don’t buy from copyright infringers. If I had to live on a local salary, I’d probably not think twice about it.

Before we left we wanted to buy some drinks from the supermarket, but the only supermarket in the place smelled like someone had died on their doorstep. I mean, really, like decomposing garbage. My hosts and I could hardly stand it; instead we went to look at the few shops that offered clothes so the women also had their fun shops to look at (although I must say that the Lifebook and the Vaios tempted both genders).

Departing was again a bit of a problem. There was a huge crowd, and it took us a little while to find one the reliable Blue Bird taxis. Still I really enjoyed this day. It all felt a lot like you’d imagine a cyberpunk future. Bad air, way too many people, and tiny “back alley” shops that sell the latest in high tech. Pretty nifty.

Golden Boutique Hotel, Jakarta

After our return from [Bali](/2006/07/22/first-impressions-of-bali/) we had a problem. When we departed we had made a – verbal – agreement with the [Ancol Raddin](/2006/07/04/hotel-ancol-raddin/) that we would get a room for the same conditions as we had originally booked. We called ahead, from the airport in Bali, and they didn’t want to honor this anymore. (No big surprise.) We ended up booking in another hotel.

The Golden Boutique Hotel surely makes an impression when you arrive. Huge lobby. Classical European statues (made to look greek and roman) everywhere. And gold everywhere, too. The staff has neat unifroms, the front desk is dark marble. The whole building is huge. The rooms also make a good first impression. Except for the cockroach that waited for us in the bathroom.

Continue reading Golden Boutique Hotel, Jakarta

Hotel Ancol Raddin

218I’d like to write a few words about the hotel I’m staying in, so that future travelers (geek or ordinary) might know what awaits them.

The hotel is part of the Accor chain (it is operated under the Mercure label, which seems to be their “brand” for medium-class hotels that do not fit into any chain). It’s part of the Ancol complex, which seems to be a resort/amusement part on the coast in the northwestern section of Jakarta.

224The hotel itself is pleasant enough – clean and orderly, for the most part; I’ve seen much worse. There are some defects in some of the rooms I’ve seen and the elevator system is somehow messed up (bad programming). The staff is helpful, so far, and I am sure we’re their “favorite” customers. First they didn’t have the room we had ordered and we got a “tower suite” (pretty nice). After that we got moved to a normal “Deluxe king” room. It’s much smaller, but comes with a balcony. Unlike our first room’s bathroom this one didn’t have an individual shower; you have to use the bathtub for that. It was also broken (warm water tap didn’t work properly) and the bathroom was a bit dirty. The balcony’s floor was oily and covered with a film of soot. We discovered in an evening that diesel exhausts were making the balcony unusable – hence the soot.

221We finally got moved to yet another room (same category, no balcony) because the second room didn’t have any Internet access, and that is, somehow quite a necessity. (The WLAN of the theme park is open and unsecured, but you can’t connect; probably has a MAC address filter – I did not experiment much as the reception was very bad.) “Broadband Internet” here is handled by Ethernet over the power line. So far, it sounds pretty cool and geeky, right? Well – yes and no. The “broadband” part is a joke. Either someone is using up all the bandwidth (not an unreasonable thought) or the hotel is connected via ISDN (also not an unreasonable thought; that was considered broadband once upon a time). Second, you can’t login manually to use it – you have to call the hotel staff to unlock the line.


168There are people who say that Global Warming is an erroneous theory at best and a conspiracy at worst, and that there’s really nothing wrong with burning fuel and wasting energy. Pollution, they say, is really not the cause for the warming of the Earth and all the consequences that come with it.

I have always argued that whatever the reason behind global warming, there is really one very good reason why we should stop polluting our planet. Coming to Jakarta, I can attest to this like never before: Clean air is a big part of the quality of life in any given location.

When I was younger, we sometimes had smog in Hamburg. Cars would be banned from the roads; key streets were blocked by the police. An eerie silence lay over the city, as public life grind to a halt. The situation is similar here, except that there’s no smog; pollution of the air is a fact of daily life. Driving downtown you will see that the distant high-rises are all obscured by a haze. This isn’t fog; it’s pollution. After seeing the traffic for a few days, it doesn’t surprise either. You can see the soot coming out of these cars.

Unlike Germany, Indonesia never implemented harsh laws governing the exhausts of cars. It probably can’t afford to, yet, either, and if there were such laws it seems unlikely that they’d be enforced. Some of the contraptions I’ve seen on the roads would doubtless not pass the regular technical checks every car in Germany has to pass.

165And so the pollution covers the high-rises, and ruins the lungs of the locals. Nobody who is working along the roads does so without at least a cloth before their faces. People cutting the grass, construction workers, policemen – everybody knows the problem, and it’s not being fixed.

I hope for the citizens of Jakarta that they’ll come up with a working solution to this problem (and other environmental nightmares, like the open-air sewers). I guess when life is a daily struggle for people you can’t expect them to care much for their environment. It’s really sad, though. And at least from the pollution standpoint I can’t wait to get back to Frankfurt – back to the clean air of a German metropolis with thousands of daily flights overhead. It still beats Jakarta – by a mile and a half.

Security in Indonesia

### Home Security ###

When you arrive in Indonesia, Security is not something you notice immediately. The airport is just like any other, except maybe a little more old-fashioned and less orderly than I am used to. My hosts immediately warned me to guard my bags, as it was dark – and crowded. I am always a little paranoid about my things, but of course I heeded their advice.

171However, once I got to drive through the city (again courtesy of my hosts) I saw what they meant. A picture speaks more than a thousand words, after all. I already mentioned that some of the housing we passed by was little more than shacks patched together from bits of discarded materials. With poverty that rampart, one would also expect crime to be rather high. And what I saw of the more permanent houses seems to confirm this.

Many buildings have high fences, often with pointy ends on top, most of the time also topped with lines of barbed wire. Balconies are usually guarded against people climbing over from neighboring balconies – which is also not too uncommon in some neighborhoods in Germany. What is uncommon in Germany are fences on the roof, or balconies which are completely covered by an iron fence.

### Hotel and Mall Security ###

Hotels and shopping malls have their own additional security policies. This was implemented after the bombing attacks, and is supposed to stop any would-be terrorist in its track. As a car arrives, it is stopped by security guards. The trunk is opened, and guards look under the vehicle by means of a mirror. Sometimes the guards also hold what looks like a portable metal detector against any suspiciously-looking pieces of luggage. Drivers are also handed a slip of paper that must be returned when leaving; this seems to be happening also when you don’t have to pay for the privilege of parking.

Entering my hotel, I also have to let a guard check my luggage. Of course sometimes the security guard wasn’t around and people just walked in. And when his metal detector sensed something he simply felt my beg without opening it. I may not be an expert at preventing bob attacks, but I seriously doubt a bomb could be “felt”.

The car-checks similarly seem rather ineffective. If I really wanted to smuggle a bomb in, I could easily do so, simply by stowing it under a seat. I realize of course that – especially with the car-checks – a compromise has to be made between security and inconvenience to the passengers and drivers. And it does have the advantage of having security right on site. However it does feel very silly. It doesn’t really raise the bar for attacks, however – and it may provide a false sense of security to the people on location.

First Impressions of Indonesia

212Sunday was my first real day in Indonesia. We went around town in a car for a while, until we got to a central landmark: The National Monument; a huge pillar with a stylized flame on top. I am informed it serves no purpose whatsoever, except to serve as a landmark. In the basement, however, they do have an exhibition about the history of the country. Set up – oddly enough – with what looks like (mostly male) Barbie dolls. Events such as the first flight of a domestically produced 70-seat aircraft were shown in the dioramas.

215The place was really crowded, too. A line zick-zacked across the squarein front of it. The whole ground around the monument was literally covered with people who were out having picnic, and there was a parade of fire brigade and police and other paramilitary organizations (motto: “Drugs are not the way”). For a moment I considered sneaking in there and pretend to be the German guest of honor, but I didn’t wear a suit, and might have had a hard time convincing them.

My Indonesian hosts warned me to be extra-careful of my bag and wallet – pickpockets. as far as I can tell nobody tried to steal from me; I am naturally cautious and I’m a big guy, so maybe I just look like it’s not worth the hassle to steal from me. Or maybe I do look so poor. The salespeople were quite aggressive, however – especially one guy selling water (half a liter for 2000 IDR, which is about 20 cents). First, and so far only, Indonesian I got annoyed with.

We also drove a little around the city; from the hotel to the monument and on the way looked at museums, president’s homes and other such places. Pretty nice, by and far. However, that’s not what you’ll remember as a European who’s here for the first time. What you will remember is the darker side.

209At various locations, people set up “illegal” housing. Slums, in other words. Some of them looked surprisingly durable, but others were really pieced together from discarded wood, metal, and other bits of junk. Most were set up near little canals, which looked positively unhealthy. Black, brackish water bubbled in there, with garbage everywhere. These canals seem to be a combination of landfill and open-air sewe. I immediately decided not to get near one.

203The poverty of at least a part of the population is also evident in other ways. You’ll see many peoplejust sitting around at the streets. Some of them have set up little vendor booths, others sit and play chess or just stare into empty space. In Germany, such people would be an exception; here it seems to be a sizeable portion of the population – at least in the suburbs we had to cross. Made me feel grateful for my apartement, which has a roof that doesn’tleak, glass in the windows, and other basic amneties of life.

Arrival in Jakarta – via Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur

174I’m happy to report I arrived safe and sound in Indonesia. Not comfortably so, unfortunately – I flew KLM again. And again, the flight from Frankfurt was somewhat delayed. At least I got to talk to a nice American dude on the KLM Cityhopper to Amsterdam.

I did meet up with my buddy Arjan in Amsterdam. That’s always fun, although we had less time this time.


177When I went for the flight to Malaysia, KLM again didn’t manage to improve my impression of them. When the passengers wanted to board KL0809 to Kuala Lumpur, they had to delay the boarding for about 40 minutes because the inside of the plane was simply too hot. Shouldn’t they know beforehand that they’ll be using this plane? I figure they might have had a change in aircraft, of course, but still.

183I was a little more lucky with the people around me than [last time](/2006/01/22/arrival-in-malaysia/), with a nice lady with a strange name right next to me. A word of advice though: Don’t eat KLM’s pasta in flight. The chicken was pretty good, however.

The flight to Kuala Lumpur was very rough and when I got out of the plane I was aching all over. There was definitely a storm on the horizon of KUL, but it didn’t delay our flight to Jakarta.

186Overall the flight to Jakarta was uneventful, except that I must mention that this Geek crossed the equator for the first time in his life on Saturday, June 24th 2006 at 11:00 CEST. I didn’t fall off the Earh, and people really don’t walk upside down here.

161We arrived in Jakarta at about 17:00 local, and I had to wait for about half an hour at the “Visa on Arrival” counter. Most of it in darkness, until someone finally invented electricity after a while. While I was waiting, my Indonesian host had already found someone who told her to call him next time she had to arrange a visa for someone. I’m pretty sure he didn’t offer this out of altruism.

The visa guys had considerable problems with my passport. The machine readable part didn’t scan right. Instead of simply typing in the information they tried for at least five minutes (much to the joy of everybody queued up behind me). I already had this problem when I went to [Detroit](/category/travelogue/detroit-2006/); I’ll have to look into it.

The actual immigration counter was another source of joy. They checked my passport and everything and then the girl asked: “Do you have your ticket?”

Well, I am a source of honesty. I could have given her my confirmation printout from KLM, which is in German. But that isn’t an actual ticket. So, truthfully, I replied “Not really, because it’s an electronic ticket.”

She looked at me with a stern face. “Well, it’s okay. But next time, make sure you have all your papers.” I rolled my eyes a little. I guess she doesn’t understand the concept of electronic tickets. She stamped my passport and let me in. I guess not many Germans try to illegally immigrate to Indonesia anyway.

189When we finally got out at about close to 18:00 it was really dark outside – almost like late fall in Europe. At first I was surprised; you associate the tropics with heat and heat with the summer and in the summer it’s bright for a long time in the evening. But I guess it makes sense; we’re about 1h from the Equator and it is summer in the northern part of Earth. With a 12h day under “optimum” conditions, we end up with a 10h day now. I now also understand Sara’s amazement some years ago when she first learned from me that we have daylight until 22:00 in the summer.

It still takes getting used to.

We were picked up at the airport and brought to the hotel; I’ll be speaking about the Hotel Ancol Raddin in a separate post. We didn’t do much more the first night, except order some food – and then fall asleep.

_Update, July 11th 2006:_ I’ve elaborated the posting a little.

Going to Indonesia

The Geek Traveller is on the move again. This time I’ll fly to Jakarta in Indonesia for two weeks. I’ll try to update this website with stories and photos as I get the chance to access the Net.

Here’s my schedule:

* Departure from Frankfurt: 23rd June, 3:45pm local
* Arrival in Amsterdam: 23rd June, 5:00pm local
* Dinner with Arjan
* Departure from Amsterdam: 23rd June, 9:00pm local
* Arrival in Jakarta: 24th June, 5pm local

Return trip:

* Departure from Jakarta: 7th July
* Arrival in Frankfurt: 8th July

I’ll see you all on the other side.

_Update, July 24th 2006: Hey, this post was still marked “Private”. Doh!_