Trip Start Jul 08, 2011
11Trip End Aug 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
After a 13 hour flight to Tokyo, a 17 hour layover, and then an 8 hour flight to Jakarta, I have finally arrived in Indonesia!! Indonesia is the land of 17,000+ islands, the 4th most populated country in the world, and has the largest Muslim population in the world. As I walked out of the airport the smell of clove cigarettes slapped me in the face. I hopped on a bus that took me close to the "backpacker" area of Jakarta. Jakarta is Indonesia's capital and has a population of over 9 million people. Along the way we passed upscale neighborhoods with large shopping malls and American fast food restaurants. We also passed some ghettos with children begging on the streets and shacks with people living under the elevated expressway. This is all reminiscent of my time in India, minus the cows wandering the streets, public urination and defecation, as well as, I'm sure, many other things as time will tell.
I walked around looking for a room ad settled on Hostel 35 where I got a single room with private bath and a fan for 150,000 rupiah (about $15). While taking a refreshing cold shower I was serenaded by the early evening call to prayer. This, also, brought back memories of Egypt and Mombasa, Kenya, but they seem to last longer here, especially the 4:30 AM prayer that lasted an hour this morning. Last night after I arrived I just walked around the area awhile, had my first meal, an Indonesian staple, nasi goreng, which is fried rice. Then I was asleep by 8:30.
After being woken up by the morning prayer call and a rain storm falling on the metal roof I was up and running. I've been here for 24 hours now and I feel like I've just run a marathon in 90 degree heat. I need to slow down.
First thing on the agenda today was a visit to Barack Obama's elementary school that he attended while he lived here from 1967-1971 with his mother and step-father, Lolo Soetoro. The school is about 2 miles south of where I'm staying. Out front is a statue dedicated to "Barry". On one side of the statue it says "The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams". School had just let out for a break so the kids were hanging around the courtyard and some were playing basketball. I was allowed inside to walk around and two students showed me Obama's classroom. My guidebook says what street he lived on but the street was nowhere to be found on my map. It says that it's somewhat close to the school so I walked around the neighborhood and asked various people but I was being sent in different directions each time. Finally I asked a driver who was sitting next to a bajaj (tuk-tuk or auto-rickshaw) and he knew exactly where it was and offered to take me there and back for about $5. I accepted but then was shocked when he walked up to his motorcycle taxi. I swore I was going to do everything in my power to avoid these since they scare the shit out of me especially on these busy streets, but I had already accepted his offer. The house was about 10 minutes away and, yes, I checked the street name as we turned onto the street so I knew he wasn't taking me to some random house. The house is a simple terracotta roofed home.
Next I walked to the National Monument, called Monas, which is close to where I'm staying. It's 132 meters high, was built between 1961 and 1975, and is made of Italian marble with a sculpted flame atop gilded with 35 kg of gold leaf. You can take a lift up to the top for a view of the city but there was a 2 hour wait in line. As I was walking around the monument about 10 different groups or families wanted to take pictures with me. One family was overly excited and did a whole photo shoot with me and different family members. With the picture I included here the woman to my right had her hand on my ass.
Next I went to Mesjid Istiqlal, Indonesia's largest mosque and supposedly the 4th largest mosque in the world. It was completed in 1978 and designed by a Catholic architect. The mosque has 5 levels, representing the 5 pillars of Islam, and the dimensions of the dome and minaret represent Indonesia's independence. During Ramadan, which starts August 1st this year, over 200,000 people will pray here at one time.
Last on my agenda for the day was to go to the train station to purchase a ticket for tomorrow. I'm heading to Yogyakarta, in Central Java (Java is this island's name), which is about 7 hours from here. Hope all is well and I look forward to hearing from you!!