OR, TIMING IS EVERYTHING, MINE WAS PANTS.
Top Tip: However well organised you are things can go awry. There was no way to know that they had stopped boats over the Straight of Malacca to go to Indonesia without having to retrace my steps to KL then fly to Jakarta. There was no way of knowing that a massive and contentious protest was on the very weekend that I was over in Jakarta so many things were closed. Shit happens and you just have to deal with it when you’re on the road solo travelling. This however did weaken me again after my healing time in Kuala Lumpur. This was a real bummer as stress always is a thing to avoid when you’re trying to rebuild your immune system as I explained in a previous blog “How My Troubles Began” When travelling, however much of an itinerary you have, you must take time out and rest up. I tried to squeeze in a lot making up for lost time which never works does it now hmmmm?
After my huge success in fabulous Kuala Lumpur, I got a bit cavalier and decided to go to Malacca which people said was lovely. I really should have learned by then that most tourists are idiots and headed straight onto my snorkelling target on the remote island of Bunaken. Stupid, stupid old bird.
Looking back, yes that great luxury, I can see that I was fried even at that stage. The respite in KL was great and the rest did help with my frayed nerve endings, but I was still very underweight and pushing too hard. The journey to Malacca, although not difficult was a terrible waste of time and resources.
Malacca is like a sort of mini Amsterdam with canals and lots of my least favourite history, begging up the greedy soulless Europeans that plundered all and sundry in that epoch. I’m not that keen on applauding this vile part of global expansion in the form of legalised rape and plunder of many parts of the world. So this little twee place made me feel nauseous from the get-go. Although only there for two days it might as well have been two years, I was unhappy and resentful of these long-dead bloody pirates and wasn’t keen on the crowd there either. It’s just not for us solo travellers, it’s more of a couples and families place. It was very noisy at night and my horrid little canal room on the top floor was terribly hot. It was like a nasty deja vu of Kuching with its Chinese influence and chequered history. There would be no romantic boat journey over to Indonesia as I had imagined and I’d have to go back to KL then onto bloody Jakarta, Then onwards to fucking Bunaken via some other place. This tortuous journey was really pivotal in ensuring that I would get sick, in fact it’s amazing that it wasn’t much earlier.
Its been taken by first the Portuguese (1511-1641), then the Dutch (1641-1824) then finally the Brits shoved their oar in (1641-1948). And it still feels like a little British colony with its antique shops and ‘Chinatown’. I was feeling after Kuching the strange Anglisising of all Chinatowns in these old British settlements.
Top Tip: Don’t go! There are many more worthy places of going and when you’re there you have to retrace your steps. I thought I could get a boat directly over to Java, or at the very least Sumatra which is spitting over the Malacca Strait, but to my horror, you couldn’t. I spent a day running back and forth with conflicting advice. It was a mini horror story as I wasted so much time and money. If you’re keen on seeing an old galleon then it’s your place.
When you mess up you just have to get over yourself and plough on to your next destination hoping you haven’t cocked it up again, but I had. I booked a terrible airport hotel at both venues and lost two days sleep. You have to be aware that we are quite princessy. It’s a hard fact. I saw people perfectly happy to stay in coffin-sized rooms with no windows. I was clearly a fucking hysterical old bitch to cry about it in both Kl and later for different reasons in Jakarta.
Nothing was destined to go well. I’d chosen my hotel to be near the museums. The atmosphere was very tense when I arrived as there was to be a massive demonstration over the weekend and I gathered by all the tanks and police around that I had a hotel spitting distance from the flash points at the main Central park where it was to be held. With already strict alcohol policies there, they were made worse by the tension all around. No beer for this old bird after my nightmarish flight and then taxi-ride to the hotel. You need to shut the fuck up and understand Jakarta is big, and not a good place to be a pedestrian. You need to go when there isn’t a tense huge political rally which will go over the whole weekend. You need not to be at Ibis budget Jakarta Tanah Abang. You need not to think that it will get better if all the above are in place.
The area I was in had practically no pavements, insane drivers and sinister men who would eye you at each corner as if you were prey. I walked around trying to find the fictitious shop that sold beer. I can’t really remember but I don’t think I ever did find it but I did find that I should have got a connection directly to Manado instead of saying in my usual gungho way ‘It would be a shame not to look around Jakarta while I’m there’
Museum National Indonesia
So I dragged my weary body to the Museum National Indonesia the next day. Past a huge number of people gathering at the central park, military and police vehicles and a very tense atmosphere. I remember not what it was about exactly but I know that the powers that be had a lot of armoured shit around the park and it was advised not to go in and have a walk on the only bit of green for miles around and to have a look at their national monument, which is a bit shit anyway and at night resembled my budget hotel.
Most of the museum was closed so I had to settle for whatever crumbs I could take, and the crumbs were very delicious but not very filling. The huge carved ancient stones were magnificent, this sort of stuff is right up my street, however when you got out from their ancient section then basically there was only the anthropology section open out of that vast place. Now don’t get me wrong but I wanted more than a lot of models of the history of the very diverse but at the same time very similar wooden buildings. I dragged my feet but could not spend more than just over an hour without looking like a person of suspicion.
Art:1 New Museum
So I perked myself up and braved getting a cab to the only place that looked my thing as close as possible to the hotel. This dreary cab ride to go to my modern art gallery took over half an hour instead of ten minutes. The cab driver was pissed off and so was I. This was not at all part of my plans of strolling across the park to visit other venues. The filthy horrible traffic all being detoured onto less suitable roads was causing my driver to burst a blood vessel and somehow it was all my fault.
Arriving at this lovely then new gallery lifted my spirits (despite the driver clearly cursing me angrily as he whizzed off) and upon entering I was transported to another world. It felt Tate Modern and had a lovely eclectic mix so I was a happy bunny for a couple of hours. I was the only person there and the girl there was almost apologetic, I however was in heaven. Escape from the rough places we had driven through had made me very anxious as had the day thus far.
Upon finishing there I was at a loss. The reception got me a cab to the South side of the park and I got out where it seemed a little more commercial and there was a nice avenue. It seemed very dodgy to be even walking around in the vicinity of the park and nobody would speak to me to say what was going on. The only thing to do was to find somewhere decent to eat. With eyes downcast and wary of taking photos I walked around the park until I got to a restaurant I saw by chance whilst trying to locate anything at that point. I could feel all the good energy from Kuala Lumpur leaching from my system and ghosts of other mistakes along the way were coming back to haunt me. I felt weight slipping back off me and a terrible torpor overtook me. Lovely Suzy Wong would save my life.
Suzy Wong turned out to be the highlight of this section of the trip. I loved the modern art gallery, Art:1 New Museum and the quirky National Museum section I had been allowed in , but I hated the vibe in my hood and the terrible tense atmosphere at the park.
I had seen the sign from the road and had limped gratefully inside what looked a posh but authentic place. I cared not about the prices and I gleefully noted at the menu outside that they served alcohol! Well I was wong about the name which is in fact Tugu Kunstkring Paleis. My name is better and only now when I check it do I find that it is in fact listed as “Grand art gallery, shop and cultural venue in a restored 1914 Dutch colonial building” It had a beautiful environment, great grub, beer and a funny fan dance at table entertainment, and that’s what I loved and all I cared about. My feet were agony and I wanted the careful loving attention of the expert staff, I wanted their yummy duck and icy lager, I wanted to forget what was outside and my vile long walk back home, and I wanted to book my one way ticket out of Jakarta in this plump luxurious atmosphere. I wanted to forget what was out there.
The food was delicious and I can remember that I actually whimpered at the first mouthful. Yes, yes spoiled Westerner I give not a shit what you think. I dragged out that lunch and laughed merrily at their fan dance (not sure if I was supposed to actually laugh) and gushed about the food. Used their lovely lovely loos then finally had to go. On the walk back I saw another couple of what looked like promising bars but they don’t open till six there so I trudged on to my dodgy neighbourhood with no proper pavements and lots of lurking men. I had booked my flight for the next day in lovely Suzy Wongs so I would escape this alien, and what would turn out rough place, and get on with my idyllic mission to Bunaken and snorkelling. Even that wouldn’t be plain sailing….