16th, 17th, 18th of October

We arrive in the bus station of Jakarta at 5h30 am. After mounting the bikes, we head towards the house of our next couchsurfer, Citra. Before arriving to Jakarta, we heard everyone warning us of the traffic here! so we were prepared to affront hell. In fact, it is not as bad as expected. With respect to other cities, like Denpasar, the traffic here is a little denser. The main difference is that there are much more cars, and slightly less scooters. And also, the people are driving faster than in the rest of Indonesia. Well, it’s really not pleasant to ride the bike here, but not as bad as we feared.

We arrive at Citra’s place one hour later. She leaves in an apartment in one of the 18 towers of Taman Rasuna, with her two flatmates Ale and Tina.

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We enjoy the morning and the quiet ambiance of the house to write the postcards. In the afternoon, we go to the shopping mall (a very posh one, to find the bike shop), to find some things for the bikes: Mick needs to buy a new saddle, because he cannot get used to the Brookes saddle mounted on our bikes. And he needs to have repaired his Vaude paniers, because two of them show signs of damage after only a few hundred kilometres! what a deception !

We make the mistake of eating lunch in the shopping mall: we pay 5 times more expensive that what we used to pay for a little lunch. For moving inside Jakarta, we used the taxi and then the Trans-Jakarta buses. These buses have a dedicated lane on the road, in the middle, and so avoid most of the traffic. They are surprisingly fast, and with a high frequency: with no doubt the best way to move in the city. We were surprised to discover that in the buses, there is a small frontal part reserved for women: following several cases of sexual harassment in the public transports, they have decided in Jakarta to reserve a small part of the bus for the women who do not want to be bothered by men. It’s a protective measure; the women can still be in the rest of the bus if they want to.

We have dinner in the inner patio between the towers, in a small restaurant just next to the swimming pool reserved for the residents. So after dinner, we can have a bath: the swimming pool scenery is magical. We are directly under the stars, with some dim lightings, and some rocks and trees to decorate the swimming pool. There is even a small waterfall.

Today, we go to the Ragunan zoo. Most of the people inside the zoo are little children in school visit of the zoo. The zoo is really big, and shows many animals from Indonesia and elsewhere. We see several dragons of Komodo. They look more like big lizards than iguanas. And they seem quite clumsy.

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We stay a long time observing a mother Orang-utan with her child. They look so human in their faces, expressions, behaviour. We also enjoy the special area for primates to see gorillas and many other species of monkeys.

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We have to leave the zoo quicker than desired to meet Anto, a friend of Mickael from the Erasmus Mundus in Nantes. We go to Kota, the old city of Jakarta. There are a few buildings that bear the Dutch colonial style, like the former city hall.

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Then we go to take a coffee. Finally we can try the famous civet coffee, Kopi Luwak in Indonesian. The coffee seeds have been eaten and digested by a civet. For the very novice palate of both Julien and Mickael, this coffee tastes as normal good coffee, quite soft.

Then, we go to meet Citra, in the south of Jakarta. This time we go to a much more popular shopping mall. It’s full of small stands selling clothes, bags, ! well a little of everything like a giant covered market. There is even a hairdresser’s. Julien has his annual haircut. It’s a very good experience, with the hairdresser also making a small massage at the end.

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We go to eat dinner nearby, to eat Padang food: the waiter brings to the table the rice and a lot of small dishes with all the kind of food he has available today. And we can eat what we want of these dishes, at the end he counts what we ate. We try squid, a kind of potato leaf, liver of cow, intestine of chicken, !

After dinner, we go to meet some friends of Citra in an Irish pub. Apparently quite a lot of Westerners arrive in Jakarta, get “caught” by the country, and end up working here and enjoying Indonesian life.

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After the Western bar, we go to a more exotic destination: eat durian. There are many stands with thousands of this fruit! first it smells like rotten vegetable in the trash. It’s a pity I don’t have a cold today. The fruit presents a hard skin with spikes, and inside has three chambers, with 4 or 5 big seeds in each chamber, covered by a flesh. The flesh is what we eat, it has a butter-like texture. And the taste! well, did you ever taste rotten onion? When it becomes sweet and has strong taste! the durian is quite similar to this. Quite disgusting for us! and afterwards, the whole evening you burp this taste. I’m not sure we’ll try it again in Singapore or Thailand.

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After a very short night, we get up at 6am. We have to go to the port of Tanjung Priok to take the ferry for Singapore today. It’s 20km away, in the North. We do not encounter much traffic while going there, but it’s not fun to cross such a big city. There is no complication to take the ferry with the bicycle: we buy an extra for the bikes, and then we can take them on board. We lock them in some place it does not disturb near the stairs.

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To be precise, we take the ferry not to Singapore, but to Pulau Batam, the last Indonesian island just in front of Singapore. From there, we’ll pass the international controls, and take a 1-hour-long ferry to go to Singapore. There is a ferry from Tanjung Priok to Pulau Batam only once a week, from the national ferry company Pelni. Most of the people we met in Indonesia did not know about this ferry and advised us to take plane directly to Singapore.

On the boat, we booked two beds in 4th class (Kelas II-B). We are in a cabin of 8 bed, but only one other person is with us. The boat looks really empty today. As we booked a bed in cabin, we have meals prepared in the restaurant. Apparently there are only 20 people in cabin out of the hundreds (or one thousand) of available beds.

Once we leave the port and its high concentration of boats, the ferry gets a cruise speed of 32km/h, but we have the impression to be at a much higher speed. The boat is the K.M. Kelud. It is 200m long for 35m wide and also 35m high. It’s very stable so that we nearly don’t feel the waves.

The rest of the day passes smoothly. After the dinner, there is a concert in the restaurant. When we arrive, they are singing “Corazón espinado” from Maná! who would have thought of listening to Maná live on a boat full of Indonesians near Sumatra? Unfortunately, the rest of concert is in Indonesian.