Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 1 (15/3/2008 evening) - 6 Degree

After a few futile attempts to nap (no, not because it was 6 Degree Celcius), I packed a few things into my smaller cheap-looking-backpack. Enough for a night stay. I went down to the lobby and handed my keys to the front desk. As if a sign from the Almighty, a Bluebird was already waiting at the hotel door.

Feeling a little like Asha Gill of Discovery Travel and Living Channel (minus the good looks and British accent), I hopped into the Taxi. As directed by Mutiara over the phone, I told the driver: Uki. The traffic was heavy. Very much like a working day in KL. In Jakarta, it is a chaos. Not to say that in KL it is not as chaotic, but in KL it is somewhat an organized chaos. While on the taxi, I chatted with the friendly driver. The driver asked, which part of Uki was I going, he mentioned something about university. I told him it was my first time in Jakarta and I need to catch a bus to Cibinong to meet my friend. As he drove the taxi, I trace our route on my Jakarta map. Some time later (note to self 1: need to buy and wear cheap watch) we arrived at busy bus stop. With the help of the taxi driver (who actually stop to ask a policeman where exactly the bus and then stop the taxi in front of the bus), I got on the right bus to Cibinong.

The bus has 5 seats in a row. The three-seater are the ones behind the driver and the two-seater are the ones on the left. I sat on one of the two-seater. In front of me was an old man. Across the isle was a man wearing a white skullcap. In front of him were a family of three - two women and a young girl. A man sat behind me, reading newspaper. There were other passengers, but I didn't take notes.

As confident as I could be, I asked the bus conductor (bc):
me: Cibinong Terminal berapa ya? (translation: How much to Cibinong Terminal?)
bc: Empat ribu (Four thousand)
me: [fumbling with money and managed to find IDR 20k]
bc: Ngak ada duit kecil? (no small change?)
me: Ngak (no)

Bc took the money and walked on. I was puzzled. Where's the ticket? Where's my change? Was I cheated? He went on collecting money from other passengers. Once he got enough small change, he returned my IDR 16k.

Then a man with a guitar stood up in the middle of the bus. He belted out 2 songs. I didn't catch all his words, but the two songs was somewhat about his pleas and frustrations towards the government. Then he took out a plastic bag and began collecting money. Seems that this method of busking is widely accepted in Jakarta. As much as I wanted to capture the whole scene in a photos, I refrained myself. My plain clothes had allowed my to blend in with the crowd. Taking out a camera might attract unnecessary attention. (note to self 2: need to learn sketching so that such scenes could be captured)

The bus took a highway heading towards Bogor. I had looked at the map earlier. Cibinong is halfway between Jakarta and Bogor. Though we were on a highway, the bus wasn't speeding. I didn't think it could. Other vehicles didn't seem to be speeding either. Then a few cars zoomed passed us via the emergency lane.

After awhile, the bus exited the highway. Unfortunately I couldn't remember the exit name. At a junction after the exit, the bus turn right. I spotted a signboard, yes, we were heading to Cibinong. One after another passengers began to alight from the bus. Passengers wishing to stop moved to the seats near the driver and asked the driver to stop. No bells or buzzer like those in Malaysian bus. When the family of three moved to the front, I moved to the seat near them.
me: Ibu, numpang nanya, Cibinong Terminal turun di mana? (Madam, excuse me, where do I get down to Cibinong Terminal?)
woman: Di depan sana nanti (Later, in front)
me: Makasih ya (thank you)

A few hundreds metre later, the woman told bus conductor:
woman: Mbak ini mahu turun di Terminal (This Miss wants to stop at Terminal)
woman: [turned to me] Mbak turun di sini
me: Makasih ya, bu.

The bus didn't exactly stopped. It was still at the main road. It was more like a halt. I wasn't sure if I was suppose to wait for the bus to actually stop, or just jump out.
me: Turun di sini? (Get off here?)
Bc & bus driver: Yes
me: Makasih ya (thank you) [looked for motorcycles and cars. Safe. Then jumped on to the tarmac]

I called Mutiara. She told me to wait at a department store - Ramayana. I looked around. All the other building were like small shops except for one. I headed to the biggest building. Yes, it was Ramayana. Next to it was what looked to me like a wet market. But the one thing that gave me a cultural shock was the river opposite the Ramayana entrance. Both sides of the river bank were filled by rubbish. So fulled that the rubbish practically covered the banks. There were three men scouring the rubbish for usable items. I thank the Almighty for sending a soft breeze. Otherwise the smell would be too much for me to bear.

Before long, I spotted a young lady wearing shorts, white shirt, and a denim jacket. She walked towards me and smiled. We identified ourselves and shook hands for the first time. I'd found my sole contact in Jakarta. And so began my 'six degree' of separation adventure.

p.s. Please bear with me as I collect my thoughts and put them into words.

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