Wednesday, 20 October 2010

One Night In Jakarta

Yesterday I had to pop over to Indonesia's capital city to meet with one of our clients to discuss the Saipem 10k. It was my first time in the city and I knew little about it, but the one thing I'd been warned about was the traffic and how it was necessary to allow yourself a few hours to travel a handful of kilometres. I scoffed at this notion, thinking it was just a newbie scare tactic and it was not possible for traffic to be as bad as everyone was telling me. So as my driver, Ahmad, hurtled from the airport towards downtown Jakarta at speeds in excess of 60kmph I knew it was all fibs.

Not ten minutes into the journey Ahmad bade me look forward to the "welcoming party" that Jakarta had laid on for me - a wall of cars, trucks and buses that stretched towards the skyscrapers at the heart of the city.

Thankfully it wasn't too bad and soon we reached breakneck speeds of nearly 30 kmph! It took us just over an hour to travel the 20 kms to the Geolog office, to pick up Adel and go for lunch at an upscale Thai-Indo fusion restaurant where I spotted an amusingly named dish.

The drive to the client's offices took 1.5 hours and I saw the worst of Jakarta's driving habits emerge when we were hit by a sudden downpour. One positive effect of the rain is that it forces the motorcyclists off the road and our progress was slightly faster at 5kmph. I likened the afternoon comgestion to London, at rush hour, during the 2012 Olympics - but the shocking fact was that there were still 3 hours to go before Jakarta's peak even began I couldn't begin to guess how far we travelled that afternoon because it was impossible to estimate in the stop/start nature of the traffic. At one point I asked Ahmad and he just laughed, saying "What does it matter how far it is when the journey is all about how long it takes?" A wise man that Ahmad.

One succesful meeting over, Adel and I went to Mall Ambassador (1.5 km/45 mims away) so I could do some shopping. Rather than stick to the congested main roads Ahmad took us through the marginally less choked side roads and alleys where cars, motorbikes and pedestrians brushed passed each other with the narrowest of margins. As glossy and sleek Jakarta presents itself as the true face of the city is in the parts only the locals know how to get to (and through). Our little detour probably didn't save us a huge amount of time but it was far more interesting and infinately more lively.

Mall Ambassador is a fantastic place for gadget geeks and I could have spent hours there. Wisely one of the girls from the office went and reccied the place a few days earlier and had located all the items on my shopping list so we just did a whistlestop tour. And within half and hour I had blown $300 on an A C Ryan HD digital media player, a 1Tbyte harddrive, an wireless access point for the player, bootleg copies of Mafia II and the new Call of Duty FPS, a VGA to TV converter and a nice leather case for my iPhone. All in all a good day.

And then it was back into the traffic for an hour long grind to get across the 6km of city that was between us and our hotel. And as luck would have it rush hour was at its peak. There's so point explaining how bad it was because I can't do it justice - suffice to say I know knew what a herd of elephants trying to squeeze down a mousehole looked like.

By the time we got to the hotel it was 8:30pm and our stomachs were doing their best to get our attention. All day I had been planning a raid on McDonalds or Burger King to fulfill my needs for greasy beef. Adel convinced me to try an Arabic restaurant instead, so I happily dined on hummus, lentil soup, pitta bread and (for the first time since leaving Saudi Arabia in 1989) a schwarma. Mmmmm.

So now my trip is over and I've spent an hour whittling down the flight back to Balikpapan by typing this up and taking (crappy) photographs out of the window. I can feel the flight crew getting the aircraft "ready for our initial descent" into Sepinggan Airport so I suspect I haven't got long before I have to switch this off.

I am going to use the remaining time to make a point about initial descents: I used to fly light aircraft and I understand the difference between descending from a cruising altitude to an approach altitude (this is the initial descent) but what is the point an announcing it as such when, to the passenger everything after the seat belt sign goes on for the last time, is one continuous decline in altitude? Is it to give us a falsified impression that the pilots do a little bit more that sit back while the autopilot software does all the flying? I think so, I think so!


  1. Welcome back, you missed two power cuts, a trip to the mall, a play date, lots of internet down time and a 'roach the size of the elephants you were talking about in your blog! xx

  2. lol!! Mate I'm going out for Shwarmas tomorrow night :P......

  3. Do you remember them from Yanbu? They were so good there - never had one like those since I left Saudi.