Tuesday, August 16, 2005


So that's what being clean feels like

In the past weeks, Carmell and I talked about this travel concept that you have to "say yes to everything." I had one of those good experiences yesterday: A man working in the post office -- who explains to people like me that Indonesians DO NOT lick their stamps but rather use the wet sponge -- proceeded to lead me outside onto the sidewalk and negotiated with a becak driver to take me somewhere he is very excited about. I said "yes!" and climed on the becak (a bicycle with a carriage on it) and figured I would hop off if things felt fishy. My 10-cent ride landed me down a little street and into a batik factory, yay! I got a tour of the batik process and bought myself a small piece to take home. This was the real deal, not the printed stuff that is sold in most of the batik shops. It's probably my first piece of actual art.

Got to Jakarta at 5 a.m. today. The train played Michael Jackson videos on the way. The train cars smelled like the old Gung Ho restaurant in Spokane, a special mix of fried rice and cigarette smoke. In the middle of the ride, at about 2 a.m., we stopped somewhere on the line to pick up more people. While stopped, these food sellers climb aboard and start hollering "nasi goreng!" (fried rice) and wake up absolutely everyone. Who the hell wants nasi goreng at 2 in the morning?

It would have been plain stupid to wander around the hostel neighborhood alone in the dark, so this was one of those times when I got to opt for a real hotel ($49). Don't think I was bummed about that! I spent 10 luxurious hours surrounded by clean sheets and the Style Network. Had a real bath with hot water and got reorganized to head back to backpacker's reality. The hotel's complimentary breakfast buffet would have impressed Martha Stewart. I ate enough so I wouldn't have to buy another meal today, helping to offset the cost of the room.

Next, found a passable hostel and bargained the owner down to $5 a night. I'm getting better at negotiating. My room for the week is the opposite of last night: I think it might actually have been a chicken coop at one time. But it's seemingly secure. It's interesting, when shopping for a backpacker's hotel room, how your instinct will tell you it's OK or that you should turn around and leave. The difference between what $3 and $8 can get you is huge.

Tomorrow is Indonesia's Independence Day, so I will get to see some parades and other good things at the festival.

Not many tourist in my neighborhood but I don't seem to be the afternoon's entertainment here. Seems like the concept of using deoderant has reached the people of Jakarta, a relief after the last three weeks. Not that I'm smelling like my Chanel lately.

I'm soooooooper lonely. Where are the other travelers?

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