This year was the fifth time we travelled to Indonesia. Anne’s parents are born there but moved to The Netherlands in the early Fifties. And Anne’s mother was very determined in the upbringing, so only Dutch was spoken and education was to be focussed on Dutch society. However, and this is a bit complicated, Anne did learn to speak Javanese and when she was a teenager followed Bahassa Indonesia language lessons for a while. You must know that Indonesia has many native languages and Javanese is one of them. But the Indonesian government wants to push forward and Bahassa Indonesia is the official state language. So the youth on Java don’t speak Javanese any more but only Indonesian.
My father in law still masters what is called ‘deep Javanese’, a variety only spoken by the elderly and rapidly vanishing. Anyhow, after a quick Google I learned that the type of Indonesian spoken in the capital Jakarta is becoming a mix of Indonesian and Malay. Enough already
. Because of the events that I will explain later we both vowed to learn Indonesian, she has a head start of course.
Anne is a great trip planner so I call her the ‘travel guide’, I do all the peripheral arrangements like booking a taxi and things like travel insurance, arranging inoculation appointments and what not.
We only buy airfare tickets; all the rest is done ‘on the fly’ by booking hotels on-line as we travel. Depending on the month of year you buy the tickets, a return ticket Amsterdam – Jakarta is between 690 and 950 Euro, economy class. To emphasise why this is important for this story: this can be at least six months’ worth of salary to the average Indonesian citizen!
The trip to Jakarta was flawless, the taxi van was bang on time, the Boeing 777-800 only left with a 10 minutes’ delay so 13.5 hours later we landed at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. For some countries Indonesia abolished both visa and airport tax this so not only saved us $60 but also a lot of time! I hardly slept, I never do during flights and don’t want to use sleeping tablets. Now to find a taxi to our hotel. Anne’s friend (a born Indonesian who left when she was 22) went outside to negotiate but came back soon because they asked 400,000 Rupiah. So we went to a taxi desk and after some talk we settled for 250,000 Rupiah. There is always room for some negotiation.
The trip to our hotel across Museum Indonesia (Taman Mini Indah) took over an hour as we landed in a traffic jam. During the trip we had to pass three toll gates, between 7,500 and 9,000 Rupiah each which we gave to the driver on each crossing. We always use Blue Bird taxis, they run a meter, have a driver ID on the dashboard and show you how much the toll is. Some others try to drive without the meter and pretend that the toll fees are in very inexpensive way incorporated in the total taxi fee. First time travellers suspect nothing but pay triple the amount.
The traffic in Jakarta can be an incredible chaos. At first glance that is, to the seasoned driver the chaos is a controlled one and the result of decades of compromise and learning to drive 8 inches apart. Thus, two lanes become three and road markings invisible. Foreigners are very much discouraged to rent a car and drive themselves. Because of the chaos and because they drive left in Indonesia.