After Krakatau, we realized we were just in Jakarta still because it was easy: we had a nice place to stay, had made a friend, and understood how the bus system worked (very well, btw). It was time to get going to Sulawesi and learn how to dive.
On our second to last day, we went to the old colonial center of town, Kota. We ate at the Cafe Batavia, a beautiful Dutch building right at the main square. It looked like something out of Casablanca or Empire of the Sun: tall, shuttered windows, walls, floors, and furniture made of a dark wood, even photos of movie stars from the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s on the walls. The menu was a bit odd and the food not-so-fantastic, but really you’re paying for the ambiance.
Afterward, we went to Sunda Kelapa, the old wharf. In it are docked the fleets of wooden boats still used for shipping. Again, this was entirely from a different era: the men loading the boats were either shirtless or with ripped, old rags for shirts, they loaded bags of concrete or boxes onto their backs and walked long gangplanks up to the boats like lines of ants. We were there at sunset, so when we have fast internet again, we’ll upload some of the beautiful photos.
While we could have watched them work all day, it was time to head back to our area for dinner and I was determined to have a foot massage (I’d been walking around in flip-flops for days and my feet were very sore). We hired a couple guys on bicycles to take us to the TransJakarta bus station. The bicycles are old Dutch bikes each modified to have a seat on the back to hire out. For a mere 50 cents, we held on for dear life as our drivers pedaled us through cars, around potholes, and down hills.
The next day, we booked tickets to Sulawesi for the following day ($60 each) and set out to do the last Jakarta sightseeing and errands. Jacob had to go to the post office and we wanted to go to the National Museum. Not surprisingly, doing those 2 things took all day. The post office was across town and very very slow at doing anything. The woman behind the counter told him one of his packages was 5 grams overweight and was going to cost him double the price, so she rewrapped and addressed it for him! While he was doing that, I sat and watched the rain with everyone else from the front steps of the post office. Lo and behold, not 10 minutes later, the complete downpour stopped and everyone got up and walked away.
Next on our list was to visit the Museum Nasional. Being that we were on our last day and wanted to make the most of it, we took a cab across town to the museum. Unfortunately, the cab driver thought we meant MONAS, the National Monument. We just got out and decided to walk – it didn’t look that far on the map…then the next rain started. A complete downpour again, this time with thunder and lightning. We sought shelter under a tree with a bunch of other people. As soon as it slowed we ventured out again…until it started pouring buckets again! This time we went under a tent with a family. Again…we venture out and it starts again. We duck under an easy-up shelter with some police officers. By this point it was lunchtime, so we took a break and had the best Gado Gado ever! We huddled under a tarp on the street next to a food cart and sat on a piece of wood held up by cinderblocks.
We finally made it to the museum around 1:00 and found that it was only 1500 RP total for both of us to get in (that’s 15 cents). We spent almost 3 hours walking around. It was beautifully laid out with some outdoor gardens, some wings open air and a brand new, air conditioned wing with no one in it!
Some of the best displays were:
- homes around Indonesia, a room of intricate wooden models, but with very poor (if any) explanations
- statues dating from the 11th century in an outdoor garden
- the Java Man skull and femur bone
- exhibits of jewelry, entertainment, and customs from the different islands of Indonesia
Enough of Jakarta! We got in a cab at 3:30 to get to the airport the recommended 1.5 – 2 hours early. Little did we know Jakarta traffic would be quite so bad. We ended up getting to the airport at 5:30 for a flight leaving at 6:30. Turns out Lion Air is well known for leaving late, so we were in fact, right on time. We ate dinner and relaxed for a good hour before boarding at 7:30. We got to Manado, Sulawesi at Midnight local time, took a cab to our hotel (Hotel Celebes, it was just okay) and crashed out.
The next morning, we sat in the hotel restaurant and looked up all the possible dive places in Manado, and after calling them all, settled on the one who sounded the nicest (they are almost all the same price) – Thalassa Dive Center.
Thalassa is based in the village of Tongkeina and they recommend several places to stay nearby: a fancy resort (where their office is), a hotel about 10 minutes away, and a guesthouse called “4 Fish Guesthouse”. We went with the Guesthouse (the cheapest) for a whopping $70 a night!
They are totally worth it, even though there’s no hot water or AC. There are only 4 guest rooms, a west-facing deck with lounge chairs and a big dining room table, a nice pool, and they serve breakfast and dinner every night. We had our first dinner with them – corn soup, rice, veggies, and tempeh, and banana smoothies for dessert. YUM!
Tomorrow we start learning how to dive!