Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.
I slept very soundly amidst the soft cotton and deep layers of bedding on my hotel bed. Unlike the Grand Prix Inn, there had been no roar of traffic, noisy neighbours or early morning call to prayer to disturb me. The Javanese tranquillity of the Puri Artha remained silently intact; that is until the insistent, chiming, alarm, rang repetitively from my phone to tell me it was 7am. Morning had come too soon.
With my head enveloped in the plump, padding of pillows and quilt, nothing was more appealing than staying right there in that bed and not moving, so I snoozed my alarm and postponed my awakening for “just ten more minutes”. But it was off again in what seemed like a few seconds, only this time I was ready.
An intense beam of sunshine forced it’s way under a gap in the blackout curtains to sell me another glorious, sunny, South East Asian day, but there was no pitch required. After filling myself up at the breakfast buffet, I would be spending the day being driven through the hills and valleys of Central Java and seeing some sights. With this type of motivation, getting out of bed isn’t the chore it usually is for me. So I sprung out of my quilted pit and into the shower before heading to the al fresco restaurant to see what the breakfast buffet had to offer.
I was expecting a message from reception at around eight to tell me when my driver arrived so I didn’t have a huge amount of time to eat breakfast, which was a shame because there was plenty of it. Fresh fruit and juices, yoghurts, cereals, croissants, cakes, pastries, teas and coffee; there was a chef at the hotplate throwing together freshly made omelettes-to-order and there were also a host of Indonesian style spicy dishes, noodles and rice.
I was one of only a handful of guests who were eating at the time, so there was no waiting or crowding or noisy chatter and clinking of plates and cutlery. I chose a table and had a glass of juice and some fresh fruit to start before the waiter came over to offer me a hot coffee. As he poured I went to the buffet and gathered a collection of the little cakes and pastries and brought them back to the table. I then went to see the hotplate man about an omelette. Whilst the omelette was being put together I got myself some spicy vegetable noodles and some chicken wings; I had a long day ahead of me and I wanted to start it on a full stomach.
I fully enjoyed my four-course breakfast under the roof of the pagodalike restaurant. As I looked out into the sunny little hotel garden, the delicate sound of trickling water features gently filling the empty silent space, I felt the most at ease and relaxed than I had been since arriving in Indonesia. Although I had only been in the country a couple of weeks, between the preparation for leaving and the initial settling in period, I needed this holiday break.
As I washed down the last of the mini Danish pastries with a mouthful of warm coffee it was almost eight o’clock.I returned to my room and got together everything I would need for the day: phone, camera, sunglasses and wallet. I didn’t want to be encumbered by any unnecessary incidentals. But as eight came and went there was still no call from reception about my driver, so I decided to go and find him.
I walked into the reception area and saw a little Indonesian man sat on the sofa reading a newspaper. He looked up as I approached, seemingly knowing I was his passenger.
“Are you my driver?” I asked.
“Mr Green?” He replied.
“Yes” I said, “Sorry I’m late, I thought someone was going to call to tell me you were here”. He just smiled, stood up and took the hand I offered. He shook my hand weakly, still smiling in the friendly and subservient manner that Indonesian workers do. I suspected straight away that he couldn’t speak English, so I asked; “Do you speak English?”
“No speak English.”
“No English at all?” I asked in frustration – constantly not getting what you’re told your going to get is very, very frustrating.
“No English sir, only speak Indonesia” he replied, his big smile still holding.
I smiled back at him and shook my head with a big, wry, sigh; it’s all you can do when you’re faced with the Groundhog Day of Indonesian ineptitude you faced in this country. I had all day with this driver and he didn’t speak any English, but what was I going to do?
“Ok”, I said, “I was told that you could speak English… err… Ok, well, erm… Ok, well… let’s go then.”
The driver’s name was Nana and he drove an air-conditioned Toyota SUV with tinted windows, so at least we would be comfortable. Although he said he didn’t speak any English, he knew the odd word here and there. Not enough for a conversation, but I had Google translate on my phone so we had the means for the most basic of communication. I told myself it might be a fun experience and an opportunity to learn a bit of Bahasa spending the day with a non-English speaking Indonesian. I had to tell myself something rather than be pissed off about being out all day with a driver who didn’t understand me. Also, since the Puri Artha also advertised a spa and its own in-house ‘beauty therapists’, I decided that after twelve hours of driving and walking around the sights of Central Java, a massage would be the perfect tonic for when I returned.
Before we took to the road, I had to make a stop in town so that I could change some more money, so I loaded up some useful words and phrases on my phone to elicit simple conversation as we set off to the nearest money changer. Nana selected one of only one CD he had to play so that the silence was filled with music; soundtrack 1 – How Much is That Doggie in the Window by Doris Day. This was going to be an interesting trip if nothing else. And even if it was nothing else, coming back to a Javanese massage would be some consolation.