Posts tagged indonesia
After getting my interim scuba license, I had to try out diving at Bunaken National Marine Park which is a full day out in the ocean. The day’s schedule: 1st dive @ Mandolin, 2nd Dive at Lenkuan 1, and the final dive at Critter Circus 3. The Tasik Divers crew are a great bunch and my group consisted of my instructor, Nadine, and another instructor Francisco. Read more about my single day Bunaken dive experience after the jump.
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Ok maybe not so much. I’m not a very strong swimmer, I suck at swimming with fins, and the thought of being IN the large, open ocean filled with all kinds of flora and fauna scares me. But dammit I’m going to get my scuba certification! Tasik’s dive outfit is PADI certified so I decided to just do it. The OWD (Open Water Diver) course is spread out over 3 days, all of which are quite physically exhausting and involves a lot of reading. I was paired with my instructor, Nadine, who just arrived at Manado one day prior to me. Although she’s new to the area, she’s done countless dives and she seems to know what she’s talking about. Great. I got the ball rolling…
Upon landing at Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado, you instantly notice one thing: how f’in green this place is. Like really, the 6-7 million cones in my Macula are probably saying “Guys, we only care about GREEN from now on. You cones who are in favor or red and blue go ahead and GTFO!”. I mentioned the whole luggage incident in my previous post but today (3 days later) I just received word that the airline had found my luggage. We’ll see whether or not they got the right luggage and if everything inside is stolen.
OMA & Family
I visited the little “desa” (village) that my father was from. This is also where my grandmother lives along with a few of my cousins/nieces. Very laid back feel and very village-like. The local Manadonese are very friendly people and they love to just hang out with friends and family, this is often accompanied by a feast that have at least 3 fish dishes. My grandma is doing well at almost 90 years old. She walks with a walker but still relatively healthy! I also found out that the house she lives in (built by my grandfather) was one of the first houses in that desa that uses bamboo inside the cement walls to protect against earthquakes. It did not protect against flooding though as a few years ago parts of the house were washed out due to a flash flood (this village is at the foot of a rather tall hill and when it rains here it REALLY FRIGGIN’ RAINS). The locals (which includes my family here and my parents) are very superstitious. They tell stories of ghosts and demons bla bla bla, they think that I’m insane for staying at the hotel by myself (which is located right next to another abandoned hotel which is supposed to be haunted). Whatever, I can sit there to test my patience and listen to it for so long as I’m allergic to BS. Nevertheless, it was nice to see the family
Tripadvisor rated Tasik Ria as the #3 hotel/resort in Manado but I kept hearing from people such as the taxi driver, my cousin, etc. that this resort is old and dirty. I beg to differ against these locals. The resort is quite nice. It’s large with lots of trees, has a private beach, a nice pool, and a top notch diving crew/instructor. The food is also quite good! The package that I signed up with includes a 7 night stay, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in the sea view room (large, air-conned, comfy) for Rp. 4,875,000, roughly $550. Not bad for a whole week + food. I wanted to take the PADI Open Water Diver (OWD) course and that is an additional ~$230 to get the OWD Certificate.
PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors and is the world’s leading scuba training organization. Tasik Ria’s in-house dive crew is PADI certified and I was lucky enough to get an english speaking instructor from Germany. I can probably make do in Indonesian but with a considerably greater effort. My instructor’s name is Nadine and she is also new to the area and resort, arriving in Manado just one day prior of my arrival. Nevertheless, she’s very experienced and helpful, the Tasik Divers crew as a whole are a great bunch. I’ll write more about the course in the next post.
3 days into Manado and the airline still hasn’t found my luggage. Luckily, photography and the OWD course is keeping me very occupied and I’m getting quite used to washing my clothes while showering. In fact, managing my limited dry clothes has become an interesting challenge (I had gone to the mall and purchased 2 synthetic exercise shirts and 1 pair of synthetic shorts that I can use for diving) as I have to time things correctly so I can have something dry that is appropriate for the current activity. The air here is very humid so drying takes a while. The OWD course training involves 5 confined water dives in the Tasik Ria pool, all of which teaches a certain skill or problem management technique that the diver might encounter underwater. I did not pee in the pool.
Here are some pictures:
That’s it for now, more coming soon about the PADI course and Scheist I Learned.
Bandung is another large’ish city 2 hours away from Jakarta. Both of my parents went to college here so there are many places, foods, and stores that they find nostalgic. Driving about 20 minutes out of the actual city of Bandung is where we stayed, it was my grandfather’s old house which was given to my uncle. I recall this place surrounded by fields and plantations but now it’s mostly small houses and shops.
We visited the school that my mom and dad went to:
Additionally, we ran a bunch of errands. This was tiring and probably not worth talking about. I went to and sat at a bra store for old women for almost an hour.
Despite that, there are highlights such as seeing my cousins and, of course, the food:
On Thursday (Nov 4) we took a trip to Tangkuban Perahu, an active volcano less than hour away from where we’re staying. I think this deserves it’s own post so I’ll write about it later.
More Scheist I learned:
- When travelling in Indonesia, be sure to look down while walking. Be it shit on the ground, dirty puddles, or uneven surfaces you will regret NOT looking down. In the US, most walking surfaces are even! If they are not even then there will be signs to inform the public “Hey, you may trip here”. No so in Indonesia, you may be walking on a sidewalk and all of the sudden there’s a 3 foot open sewer on one side, a construction crew digging a hole on the other side, and a 3 foot “stair” that you must hop up to in order to enter an establishment. Look down and pay attention.
- Cars here are of the following colors: private – black, silver, white. Taxis – blue (sometimes white/yellow). Taxis and other public transportation vehicles have a yellow license plate.
- You can’t return purchases. Once you bought it, it’s yours… don’t try to give it back.
- Don’t use your credit card in a hotel, the one I stayed in charged a 21% tax & service fee, a 6% foreign transaction fee, and a currency exchange rate that is about 3% lower than the average money changes. Then, of course, your credit card company will change an additional 3% foreign transaction rate. I find other places outside the hotel are much more sensible with foreign credit cards.
- Mosques broadcast the muslim prayer at 4 AM, this is loud because it was intended to be loud.
- Do not take the busway in Jakarta.
(I’ve been having connections issues so these are lagging behind, I think it’s best to not attach a day number from now on)
I lived in Indonesia for the first 10 years of my life and I was really looking forward to finally being able to see the house that I grew up in. It’s been 17 years since I had seen the place, heck I don’t even really know where it is nor how to get there. My uncle was kind enough to drive us over there so we made the trip from the hotel in Jakarta to ye olde neighborhood of Taman Manggu Indah.
In terms of miles the place is not very far from our hotel (10-15 miles) but if you know anything about driving in Indonesia you’ll understand why it took us about 2 hours to get there. To make things worse, my dad wanted to take the older route instead of the freeway because he wanted to see if the road was still there. Apparently asking the neighbors upon our arrival was not an option.
So really, this road is *BARELY* wide enough to fit 2 cars going in opposite directions and it is also packed with motorcyclists trying to jockey for passing positions alongside the cars. Furthermore, the road is currently being “improved” because it kept getting washed away by floods. This improvement involves building a new road on top of the old road but a foot higher. I’m not done yet. This is done in lane s-e-g-m-e-n-t-s so imagine a 2 lane road where all of the sudden 200 feet of the right lane is suddenly 1 foot higher than the entire road. There are no ramps at the ends of these segments, perhaps some rocks placed here or a broken plank there, so cars have to sloooowly drive up and over a fargin foot vertical and down a foot vertical on the other end! While this is all happening in 1 lane, the other lane is free to move about avoiding motorcyclists, carts, pedestrians, and children playing on the road. But sometimes, the raised segments are just too high to drive over (consistency is for sissies, this is Indonesia!) so they have to block one lane and divert the other lane through the drivable area for a period of time. Gosh, this is so hard to explain so I think I’m just going to stop. Long story short, the people managing all this flow of traffic through a single lane does so by yelling. No radios, no lights, no flags. Chaos ensued and we were stuck there with like 20 motorcycles surrounding is, no cars were able to move for a good 20 minutes.
I think I spent too much time writing the paragraph above, forget it. It was just chaos.
When we finally got to our destination I could hardly recognize the house. Though there are people living there, it was pretty much dilapidated. You can see the effects of all the flooding that’s happened over the past 17 years (When I lived there, ankle high dirty flood water IN THE WHOLE HOUSE is pretty much an annual disaster). Additionally, the house had been poorly maintained by the people living there. We can’t blame them, we don’t pay them and they’re there so the house is not abandoned. It was somewhat heartbreaking.
I spent some time walking around inside the house to take pictures and I remember it being much bigger. I guess everything feels bigger when you were younger. I was a bit sad because the current place is nowhere like the picture I’ve had in my head for the past 17 years, it’s akin to finding out santa claus is not real.
We had also met with old neighbors and friends from the area, everyone commented on how tall I am (I’m not very tall, 5’10) and it was nice to see them. As we were leaving, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards my parents who took the risk 17 years ago to move the entire family to the US. Leaving a country that they’ve spent their entire lives and built their house in, leaving their jobs, good friends, and family, that took a lot of courage. They’ve always said that we moved so my sister and I can receive a better education and, though I’ve believed them, I guess I was never exposed to the reality of ‘had they not’ until now. I feel so fortunate and I really thank my parents for that.
The 3g connection I got for the phone is practically the best thing I’ve paid for since I got here. The connection speed isn’t blazing fast but more than adequate for normal browsing and keeping in touch. Calls to the US via skype works great and barely costs anything. Google Voice allows me to send sms messages stateside for free, and tethering the laptop to the phone covers everything else. I know… I know… this is a vacation and I should avoid staying connected but it’s pretty frickin’ cool.
Scheist I Learned on My Trip:
- Jakarta is much more westernized now that it was 17 years ago. There’s a burger king right next to the hotel, a starbucks right next to it, and a Chili’s across the street. The hotel’s tv now has more than 3 channels! CNN, HBO, Showtime, etc all get beamed down here albeit through some censorship (not 100% sure).
- It is hard to find fake plants. One of my lamer hobbies in the US include pinching indoor plant leaves to check if they’re fake or real. Face it, most indoor plants in public establishments in the US are made of nylon or other plastic products. Not so here ladies and gentlemen, everything I’ve seen so far is real.
- The effects of cheap labor is quite evident. The hotel I’m currently staying in has such a high staff density that I’m starting to question their efficiency. Fortunately everyone is so nice to you, like super nice that I’m leaning towards the “F it, let them be inefficient as long as they’re this nice and happy”. Along the same note, you can see a LOT of security here. There’s cops everywhere and security guards stand by in front of shopping centers. Visitors to malls and shopping centers must pass through a metal detector (though not as annoying as TSA’s). At first I thought this was going to be a major annoyance but again, everyone is so damn nice that I’m starting to like metal detectors! I guess I feel a lot more secure walking around when I know that there’s a lot of people working security.
- On Sundays, the main street of Jakarta is closed down to automobiles and motorcycles and is open only to “exercisers”. So basically starting from 7 AM a variety of joggers, bikers, and walkers go down the street. There’s a LOT of people, all exercising while I stare at them curiously from room through the binoculars. Creepy.
- Cars here have no use of their turning signals. Changing lanes merely involve the driver turning the wheel towards the direction of the new lane, very simple. No one uses turning signals, it is only for show and/or to encourage impromptu dance parties. Yes, that was a joke.
- The shopping malls in Jakarta (Plaza Indonesia) are insanely modern and luxurious. There’s even a car store in the mall selling Porsche’s, BMW’s, and other luxurious cars. The Westfields back home is really no competition – these malls are so much nicer. I have yet to visit the newer and bigger Grand Indonesia.
Some random pictures:
There’s a parade now alongside the exercisers on the street. It’s also time for a deuce!
Edit: I forgot to mention that although the main road is closed to cars and motorcycles, it is open for the city buses! So there’s all these people running/biking and there’s huge buses driving alongside them. I guess the basic rule is “Don’t suck at running or riding your bike because if you fall you’ll get hit by a bus”, natural selection at its finest.
LAX – TPE: 14 hours
Layover @ TPE: 3 hours
TPE-CGK: 5 hours (2300+ miles)
12 mile drive from airport to hotel: almost 2 hours
Jakarta has definitely changed since the last time I was here 17 years ago. I remembered dirty streets, traffic jams, and cars honking their horns non-stop but I was surprised to see modern architecture, 55+ mph driving on the toll roads, and it’s actually cleaner than I expected!
You hop on a car here to drive somewhere and you immediately notice one thing: there are motorcycles everywhere. In a city where the GDP is $92/capita (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_by_GDP) affordability is KING. You see whole families on a single motorcycle here and though it may sound challenging, they’re actually quite skilled in maneuvering through the inches between cars during a traffic jam.
Seeing this and finally getting some rest was nice:
Your iPhone in Indonesia
I had this all planned out. I jailbroke my iPhone and unlocked it so I can use the phone carriers other than the spawn of satan himself in corporate form. Furthermore, I purchased a tethering app for the iPhone called MyWi that essentially turns your iPhone into a wifi router riding on the 3g connection. I thought I’d be able to bring my phone to Indonesia (iPhones are quad-band and most of the world uses GSM), get a sim card here with a data plan, and use MyWi to share my connection to the laptop/iPad. By now you’re probably wondering what went wrong. Well, nothing. It worked perfectly. I was confused by how the cell phone service here works though so I figure I’ll explain it to help other travellers.
Basically everything works off of “pulsa” (translated: pulse) which are your calling/texting/data credit. To get a cell phone service you would need to physically go to a provider’s store (I went with Telkomsel, which I guess is the largest and most popular here) and register for a phone number (sim card). The number itself doesn’t come with any pulsa unless there’s some promotion going on and it cost me Rp. 20,000, which is about $2.00 to obtain. Once the sim card is in, simply making a call will activate your sim and phone number. To add pulsa to your phone number you purchase the pulsa recharge cards which contain a code that you have to SMS to a specific number, once sent the system will credit you however much the card is worth. SMS costs Rp. 150 for outgoing, incoming is free. Calling a number costs about Rp. 1000 / minute! This explains why everyone and their grandma uses SMS here.
Using your smartphone to browse the internet also uses up your pulsa at some Rp. / kilobyte. Instead of feeling like I’m losing pennies everytime I load a webpage I opted for the feeling of losing dollars up front by way of doing a 1 time payment for “unlimited” usage. I went with the “unlimited” data plan over 3g which is tiered by speed. You can pay Rp. 50,000 ($5.55) to get unlimited data usage at a rate of 384 Kbp/s for 14 days but there is a soft cap limit of a one hundred megabytes. This means that after you’ve transferred 100 Mb, they drop your bandwidth down to 64 Kbps… but you’re still allowed to use it. Other tiers are 384 Kbps, 30 days, 500 Mb cap for Rp. 100,000 ($11) and the one I got which gives 512 Kbps, 30 days, 1.5Gb cap for Rp. 200,000 (~$22). No brainer for me.
So basically I spent $2 for the number, and I put in about $30 worth of pulsa into the number ($22 of it is for the 1 time payment for the unlimited data package and the rest is for sms/voice calling). This is how it’s done here, no monthly bills, no contracts, and with the plethora of different plans you can really pick the one that fits your lifestyle. For travelling, I would recommend Telkomsel’s Simpati Freedom card with the added unlimited data plan, mostly because its the only one I’ve tried. Well, it works too!
Off to bed!!