Friday, August 28, 2009

A brief overview of the hell that is Jakarta, Indonesia

I left Kuta, Bali, Indonesia and I had a one night layover in Jakarta, Indonesia. It seems that since I went thru a travel agent in Saigon, they got me the crappiest route back to Saigon from Bali. I shouldn't say that Jakarta is bad. It really isn't. I don't care where you are in Indonesia, the people are so nice and so helpful, even if the situation is grave and shitty, the people around you are so laid back and want to give you a hand. That is, unless you work at the ticket counter at Lion Air in the Jakarta Airport. I had a 4 hour flight from Bali and since I had no idea where I was or what to do when I got off of the plane in Jakarta, i just walked outside the terminal and struck up a conversation with the first person I saw. It happened to be an old Indonesian guy who worked at the airport and having been in the Indonesian Navy, had been to the U.S. ports and wanted to discuss each port in detail. I was fine with that. He was really excited to talk about his time in the Navy and speak english so we sat down for a bit and had a chat. It turns out that you go outside of the terminal and hop on an hour long bus to a tourist area called Jalan. It's three streets connected together and full of bars, restaurants, used book shops and hostels. Lots of backpackers hanging out. (How's that salon sign? I won't be getting a haircut there.) I arrived to the bus station and as I stepped off of the bus, I was overwhelmed by all of the taxi and motorbike drivers wanting to give me a lift, all yelling prices and destinations at the tops of their lungs. I made it thru the throng and started walking beside the row of busses, trying to get a driver alone so I could get a fair price. I got to talking to one guy and he told me that the minimum price to get from the bus station to the tourist hotel area was 2.50 u.s. due to the fact that it is pretty far away. I tried to talk him down on the price but he was pretty adamant about the cost and started walking away. I figured 'eh, he must be telling the truth', so I started making small talk as he walked away. I followed him into the terminal food area: a big tent loaded with rolling carts full of nasi goreng and nasi champur, all of the ingredients in bowls in display but unfortunately with flies all over it. That's the way it is here so the driver and I sat down and we each had nasi champur. It was 22,000 rupiah, which is a special tourist rip-off price but I hadn't eaten since the plane so I found a cold rhino can drink (grape this time and the best yet) and chowed down. We finished and I hopped into the cab. I needed a bank so he stopped at a couple banks but I'll be damned if all of the banks in Jakarta close at 3pm and since it was 3:10, I was shit out of luck. I had enough rupiah to pay the cab driver (on a side note, the bus station was in fact directly across the street from this tourist area but he took a long route and gave me the tourist burn) so I said later to the cab and walked hotel to hotel till I found one that took a credit card (there was only one) and I had a room and a hot shower. I got sorted out in the room and made it out to the street at about 7pm. I put down a couple beers with the last of my rupiah with the hope that I had enough for the tax to leave this place in the a.m. My flight was at 7:50 a.m. so I was going to have to get up at 5 a.m. to get a motorbike ride to the bus station ($1.00), the hour bus ride to the airport ($2.00) and I figured a $10.00 tax to leave Indonesia. So I walk around for a bit and hit the sack. Up at 5 a.m. and make it to the bus station and into the terminal and up to the lion air counter. The guy at the counter smiles and tells me that I cannot get on the flight since my visa to Saigon is expired. I explain that I can purchase an emergency visa at the terminal when I land in Saigon. He has a powwow with a few other employees, walks around the terminal, comes back and tells me too bad, I am will not make my flight AND my ticket is no longer valid if I don't make the flight, meaning I will need to buy another ticket. And he also tells me that I only have one more day left on my Indonesian Visa so I am screwed. Each day you overstay a visa, it is $20.00 u.s. He tells me that the only way to fix this is to take the hour bus back to Jakarta and beg the Vietnamese Embassy to grant a temporary visa so I can get a flight the next day. No guarantees, though. I asked for a later flight that day. No later flights. Also, no credit cards. I needed cash. I was out of that almost so I left the terminal and my flight left without me. There were no banks in the terminal so I hired a motorbike to take me and my heavy assed backpack and box of hand carved picture frames about 15 minutes from the airport to a building that housed a few travel agents and luckily, a bank branch. I was able to get money from the bank and that was a relief. I walked next door and sat down with a travel agent. How much to LAX today? Right now. Direct. $900.00 u.s. How much to Saigon tomorrow. One way. Remember, I still have a return ticket from Saigon for September 1st to LAX. So thru the travel agent, another ticket for the next morning is $400.00 u.s. Shit. Thru the Lion counter it's $139.00 u.s. but I had so much trouble with them that I was afraid that they would, thru their incompetence, not sell me a ticket or bump me at the last minute. The whole time they bumped me from my first flight, they were laughing, not really understanding or caring that 1. I could get a temp visa in Saigon airport and 2. missing my flight would cause me to have to buy a whole new ticket to Saigon. Fcuked. Well, it's 9:30 a.m so I catch a motorbike back to the airport, catch the hour bus back to Jakarta, catch a tuk tuk (see photos- it's the three wheeled, enclosed vespa) back to the tourist area and into an internet cafe for the address to the Vietnamese Embassy. I got that written down and caught another tuk tuk from the tourist area to the Embassy. I walked in, sat down at the window and pled my case to the man in charge, a Vietnamese guy who laughed the whole time at my predicament. Needed all kinds of paperwork that I didn't have like the address and room number I was staying at before I left Saigon, the address and room number I would be staying at when I arrived, a copy of my ticket for September 1st, a passport photo (which I had, I couldn't believe it) and 40.00 cash. Well, I happened to have the reciept for the room I stayed in in Saigon before I left but the guy accused me forging it. I didn't have a copy of my U.S. return flight and I wasn't going to be able to get that for him. He shook his head and said "too bad, next!"
"WAIT!", I yelled. "What if I write a statement with all of the facts so you can show the man in charge?" He stood there for a moment and thought about it. He looked around the empty office. Said something in Vietnamese to the security guard. The security guard shrugged his shoulders. He looked back at me and said "ok." He gave me a blank piece of paper and a pen and I went to work. Two long paragraphs later I slid it back thru the window to him. He took some time to read it and slid it back. In his broken english, he got it thru to me that it hadn't expressed how sorry I was that I put myself into this situation on paper. Man, I didn't know what to say to that. I was so beyond being shocked that I asked for another piece of paper and in a nutshell, wrote that I was a total idiot and should not travel, would check myself into an insane asylum when I return to America and I hoped that they would feel sorry for my disasterous vacation and grant me a visa, good for six days so I could exit Indonesia, enter Vietnam, exit Vietnam and enter the U.S. I passed this revised statement thru the slot, he took it, said "Lunch. Two hours. You come back then. No guarantee.", pulled down the shade and that was that. I just stood there and stared at the glass. I was dumbfounded. I had some lemon cookies from the night before so I went outside the embassy to the street and the tuk tuk driver, who was waiting, and I sat there for the two hours and shot the shit as best as we could, eating lemon cookies and hot water out of his bottle. Two hours goes by and the shade goes up.
"Bad news" he says. "Denied." "Just kidding!" Big laugh from the security guard. I just had to laugh. It was all so retarded, I couldn't do anything else. He took my $40.00, gave me my passport back with the new visa inside and told me to have a good day. I was very relieved but knew I had to take that hour bus ride back to the airport to deal with Lion Air again. I wasn't looking forward to that. Well, get it done. I had the tuk tuk guy take me back to the bus station, on the bus for an hour and into the airport terminal and up to the Lion Air window. Oh shit. These guys were something else. I stood there at the window for two hours arguing with them as they ate food, smoked, laughed and had a great time, all the while telling me that the visa was no good, the dates were wrong, I needed a different visa from the embassy and whatever else they could think up. I was starting to think I was going crazy. These bastards sent me to the Vietnamese Embassy to get the new visa, which I could have gotten in Saigon had they just let me on the plane, and then when I get it they tell me it's no good. I finally noticed that one of the employees was not participating in this game and when she came out I cornered her and asked her to help me out. She went inside the terminal and spoke to someone who came out and stepped into the office where all the employees were having a good old time on my account. They saw this guy and they all straightened right up. This guy was screaming at the top of his lungs, out of the 5 of them, a girl and a guy started crying. It was great. I guess they were just fcuking with me and wanted to see if I would give up and leave. The supervisor gave me my passport, ran my card, gave me my ticket, apologized and I there I was, owner of another valid ticket for the next morning's flight. I flipped the 5 employees the bird and walked back to the bus, got on for the hour ride back to the tourist area, found a cheap hostel room and hit the sack. Up again at 5 a.m. for the motorbike ride to the bus station, the hour bus ride to the airport and into the terminal and up to the Lion Air counter to check in. I couldn't believe it. They started telling me that my Vietnamese visa wasn't valid and my Indonesian visa was now expired so I couldn't fly. I just sat down and shook my head. I took a few minutes to calm down, went back to the counter and pulled one person aside, showed them the dates closely on the Vietnamese Visa, explained that the date on the Indonesian Visa was valid for the day I was flying and somehow talked them into letting me thru to the terminal. But it wasn't over yet. Oh no. So before I could go thru to the boarding area I had one more checkpoint for the Indonesians to knock me. They look at your visa and I'll be damned if this guy didn't tell me I owed him $20.00 because I was flying on the last day of my visa. I tried to explain that I was permitted to fly and he looked at me square in the face and said "You want me to cancel your ticket? Give me the money." Screw it. Here's $30.00. You win. Let me the hell out of here. He took it. I walked. I made it on the flight and wouldn't you know it, the freaking pilots invited me into the cockpit halfway thru the flight to hang out. I couldn't believe it. I grabbed my digital camera and shot video of my shocked ass as I went in and LANDED WITH THEM!!!! Are you serious? I couldn't be more stoked. Ok. So that was Jakarta. In a nutshell. The photos are as follows. The top two are of some shaft drive bmw's that I thought Rodney would like. They were just sitting in front of some closed business a street over from the tourist area. The third is of two three wheeled motorbikes. Cool chassis. There was an aftermarket chassis like that you could weld on to your harley in the 40's. A modern version here. The car here was the only V8 that I saw in Indonesia but the two I saw were well taken care of. They sounded tough and the body style was very cool, slightly lowered and both black. The chicken photo I thought was funny 'cause it's on a banner in front of a restaurant but the chicken photo does not make me hungry for chicken. It is plump. I will say that. The next is of a common toilet in Indonesia. That's what you get. Do your business squatting over that bowl, for gods sake don't slip and fall or touch anything and when you are done, there is no toilet paper, you just grab that scooper in that filthy water and splash up on yourself...explaining it is grossing me out. I had to show you the level of disgusting using the toilet is here. 12 on a scale of 1 to 10. The next photo is of naturally green eggs. I had never seen a green egg so I took a photo. I shot a photo of the 'green sands' cans for Roland. They named a drink for you here. It should be in one of those stubby cans, though. I guess you look taller in photos. Then there is a photo of the tuk tuk and a frame by frame when it broke down on the way to the tourist area. A little side of the road clutch cable repair. Those tuk tuk's are Vespa powered and too cool. I loved it. As we were reparing the cable, the locals ran up to have their photos taken. The one guy insisted that I shoot a pic of him posed down on the chair. I loved it. The locals are just great. So friendly. Not one frown in the whole month I have been here. Nobody angry. It's so different from home. People are just so cool to each other here. Lastly, a model of minivan not offered in the U.S. which I thought had a cool looking body style, some green eggs, the side of the van is for Jason Ryder. The power of underwear! And the last video is cruising in the tuk tuk. I had to. It is just too cool. It's coming up to the end of my trip here. Let's see what happens next. I'll be as surprised as you.

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