77: A Change of Plan

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.


Now I did feel like a fool. It turned out that Simon was right and that Evi had just “done what my husband ask me”.

I ended up telling Evi that her husband was a real arsehole and that I didn’t want him to contact me anymore. I doubt she passed all of my message on.

I sincerely apologised to Simon and made some of that jovial small talk that I had avoided earlier. I felt so bad that I tried to deflect some of my guilt with a lame attempt at eliciting sympathy; I told him how much I hated Jakarta and how it was stressing me out. I told him about all the issues I had been trying to sort out back home and how that was adding to my frustrations. He was very understanding and reassured me that it would get easier.

Maybe I was wrong about Simon. Maybe I needed to lighten up on the guy and give him a chance. One thing was for sure, this was not the night I had wanted to have before going away.

I eventually finished packing just after 11pm and didn’t get to sleep until around midnight. It was a typically broken sleep, as expected, and when my alarm sounded at 6.30 I was already awake.

I got up, had a shower, ate my fruit salad, took the lift down to the reception and ordered a taxi.

As I sat in my taxi en route to Soekarna-Hatta International Airport to catch my flight to Kalimantan, there were no thoughts in my head of Simon or Jeff, nor of sleepless nights with that noisy fan in my bedroom, or the cacophonous call to prayer every morning. No work, no students, just two days and two nights on a boat on the Kapuas River floating through the Borneo jungle looking at monkeys. You don’t get to do that at the weekend when you live in Manchester.

The taxi took a different route to the airport this time, passing through a toll on the way. The new route cost an extra 30,000 or so, but didn’t get me there any quicker.

I arrived at the airport in about half an hour with well over two hours to spare, but I was still hungry. I messaged Claire to see if she and her friends had eaten. They had; so before I checked in, I went into the KFC outside the airport for some coffee and pancakes and a piece of fried chicken. It was damn good and I was ready for my second Indonesian getaway.

Simon once told me that 80% of flights in Indonesia were delayed. He may have been joking, but so far two of the four flights I had booked here had been delayed, which makes 50%. When I consider the years of travelling I’ve done, including the year I spent working as a rep for a holiday company when I took over a dozen flights in a year, I had experienced maybe three or four flight delays. By the time I met up with Claire and her group, Indonesia was getting closer to Simon’s percentage rate of failure.

When I got to the waiting area to go to the gate for our flight, I saw Claire sat with her friends and was a little surprised. I had assumed that they would all be thirtysomethings like Claire, but she was probably the youngest out of the lot of us. Not that this was a problem, it just changed my expected dynamic of the holiday.

As I walked up to introduce myself, I could tell by the body language that there was a problem. Claire got up to greet me and introduce me to her group of friends before giving me the news that our flight to Kalimantan was delayed by two hours. Two hours isn’t the worst amount of time for a flight to be delayed, but this was only a short break and the delay meant that our early morning boat trip was screwed (by this time I had still not heard anything from the useless agent at Dwidaya Travel). The plan had been to arrive in the morning, meet with the guides and then head straight up the river to an orang-utan feeding station in the early afternoon. The delay meant that we would miss the orang-utans and only really have one day on the river before an early morning start the following morning.

Out of Claire’s party of six, four were teachers at the international school where she worked, but it was a half term so they were in no rush to get back. The other two in the party were expat wives of well-paid businessmen. That meant that it was only me who had any work commitments. They were also all on pretty good money, so it wasn’t too much of a big deal for them to stay an extra day to get the most out of the trip. I of course had a dilemma because I was expected to be in class at 1pm on the Wednesday. Plus, I hadn’t budgeted for the extra million or so IDR that this was going to cost. However, I didn’t really have much of a choice. I could have left on the morning of the third day, but getting taxied from the river to the port in a speedboat would have cost me more or less the same as staying on. So it was agreed that we would reschedule our flights and Claire would lend me the extra money. Her work colleagues agreed to cover any story I told my bosses at EF.


76: Noitacinummoc Doog

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.


I was hungry, which doesn’t help a man’s mood, but I don’t think that was the reason I lost my temper. No, I think it was a culmination of frustrations that had built up over the previous couple of months; a general dissatisfaction with the fruits of the labour I had put into my big Asian adventure and an ever-increasing irascibility that had come with it. There were a number of niggly things I had pushed down into my septic tank of tolerance, but the most recent things were directly attributable to Simon. His living habits had been pissing me off. The fan in my room had been pissing me off. His veiled hints at moving out of the flat were pissing me off. Being in the middle of the shit he had with Jeff was pissing me off. Yet despite all of this, I was still prepared to help out with his situation with the Belgian buffoon, but just not today. And I had told him this.

He was resting on his bed with Kay when I burst into his bedroom.

“What did you fucking tell Evi?”, I barked at him.

He didn’t want his girlfriend to know anything about the prostitute-theft-Jeff situation so I had been avoiding the subject whilst she had been around. Now, I didn’t care. I had made it absolutely clear that I was doing nothing but packing and sleeping that night, but this toffy nosed little twat had gone ahead and made arrangements for me to meet Evi anyway! He was taking the piss!

“What…! What are you talking about?!”, he stuttered back in shock.

“I just got a call from Evi telling me that you had arranged for me to meet her tonight”, I said.

“Evi!? I haven’t spoken to Evi!” he replied.

“She said you just sent her an email”

“I haven’t sent her any emails… today… I sent an email to Jeff earlier today before I sent you that message”, he said, totally bewildered – or was he? Was he just putting on an act? The tricky little fucker – I just didn’t trust him.

“Show me your emails”, I demanded.

Kay didn’t have a clue what was happening. She just remained quietly sat on the bed, and it dawned on me that I probably looked like a nutter at that point. Meanwhile, Simon, a little groggy and somewhat shaken, picked up his phone and trundled out of his room, his hairy gut overhanging his sweaty boxer shorts. He pulled the door behind him so that Kay couldn’t hear and fumbled nervously with his phone to open up his emails. He then showed me the trail of email correspondence he had sent to Jeff’s email address that day.

It was true, he hadn’t contacted her since earlier that afternoon and he hadn’t said anything about meeting me. But I still didn’t trust him. What was it? Was he really so untrustworthy or was I just a paranoid loon with suppressed anger management issues? Maybe it was both.

I felt a little bit stupid and a little bit guilty as I apologised. I explained to him what Evi had told me and why I was so angry. He said that Evi may have just gotten the information confused and suggested that I “should be more relaxed about these things”… this for some reason really wound me up again. I found myself getting a sudden rush of blood and an urge to punch him in the mouth. I didn’t want him to be intimidated by me, but at the same time I did; this was a guy who I felt would take a yard for every inch given if allowed to. I should be more relaxed! – he was taking the piss… Then my phone started ringing. It was Evi.

Evi and Jeff still didn’t know for sure that Simon and I were sharing an apartment so I told her that I had just spoken to him. I told her that he said he hadn’t sent her an email to arrange a meeting. She was at her apartment with Jeff so she went off to speak to him for minute before coming back on the phone; “I think there’s some confusion from message from my husband.”

75: A Reluctant Errand Boy

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.


“It’s all about the holidays”, Claire had told me. “The best thing about living in Jakarta is that you’re always only an hour or two away from somewhere beautiful”, she’d said. Despite having a nice ring to it, I can’t see the Jakarta tourist board using that line anytime soon.

It was a Sunday, the day before my little holiday break in Kalimantan with Claire and her friends.

Sunday is a short working day at the EF school so I was out by around six o’clock. However, I still had to have dinner, pack my bag and get in touch with Claire to clarify some changes with the return flights.

The return flight from Kalimantan was with a company called Kalstar Airways and the flight for Claire and her group had been moved forward. Although I had booked my flight separately, I assumed I had booked the same flight as they had so I needed to know if my flight was also affected. Claire’s travel agent had informed her, but neither the airline nor my travel agent at Dwidaya had told me anything. I thought that this perhaps meant that the flights were different. I mean if they were the same flights then surely I would have been notified about the changes too. This being Indonesia, I didn’t want to take anything for granted so I decided to go to the travel agent after work to ask them directly. The outgoing flight was scheduled for 9.15 in the morning and I wanted to have a relaxing day to organise myself before having an early night.

Simon was having a nice day out with his girlfriend at Dreamland, the theme park in Ancol, in the north of Jakarta. Yet despite being busy, he managed to find some time in the afternoon to send me a text message with explicit instructions to contact Jeff’s wife Evi and arrange to meet her to hand over another instalment of his debt. Knowing Simon as I now know him, I knew he didn’t mean to come across as his message implied – as a boss giving his subordinate orders – so I bit my figurative tongue and replied, in plain tones, reminding him that I was going away the following day and I wouldn’t have time to do his money drop. He was fine with this, which was very understanding of him.

I didn’t have many details about the Kalimantan trip. I would be spending a couple of days on a boat floating up a river through the Borneo jungle with a bunch of people I had never met before, food and drink included; that was it. Claire had paid my deposit for the trip and I had paid for my flights. She had told me that we were being met by the tour guides at the airport in Kalimantan to start the tour so I wanted to be well rested, fresh and prepared to hit the floor running when I arrived. With the flight leaving at 9.15 I would have to arrive around two hours before. The journey time to the airport was an expected but not assured half-hour. I figured a 6.30 alarm would give me enough time for a shower and a fruit salad breakfast before leaving. But I needed an early night.

Simon and his girlfriend had returned from their day out and were in the apartment when I got in, but I wasn’t in the mood for making small talk. I was still a little bit annoyed at the cheek of this guy in assuming that he could give me instructions via SMS for delivering his debts whilst he was having a nice day out. Checking my flight details with the travel agent gave me a polite excuse for getting away from him for half an hour.

Dwidaya Travel wasn’t open when I got there and when I tried the phone numbers on the travel paperwork nobody was answering. I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime so I decided to go to Java Kitchen to get some dinner to take back to the apartment. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything left that I wanted to eat.

As I walked through the mall back toward my apartment, I was trying not to acknowledge that I was hungry and a little bit pissed off at having wasted the last half hour accomplishing nothing but getting a sweat. I then noticed my phone was vibrating in my pocket; it was Jeff’s wife, Evi. I answered.

“Hello Sir… Mr Jeff… I just got email from Simon… he say you can meet me in the lobby…”

I couldn’t fully hear what she was saying between the noise of the mall and the bad reception, but I heard enough. After a brief but fractured communique with Evi, I established that what she was telling me was that Simon had just sent her an email to say that I was going to meet her between nine and ten in the lobby of Mediterania Gardens 2 that night to give her some money.