I’m in Jakarta! It’s a big crazy city, but It’s pretty fun. I arrived yesterday and the Dutch girls flew in last night, so I still have some good company. We’re leaving tomorrow for Yogyakarta (some of the biggest ruins in Asia).
Archive for February, 2004
Lets see, I started out in LA and flew stand by to Japan. I got busness class! The plan was to go to Bangkok next. The flights were full for the next week though and Japan was cold (I didn’t pack for cold weather), so I decided to fly to Singapore. The flight was wide open and I got Business class again! Singapore was a good place to start. It’s a VERY clean city and it’s not such a smack in the face of a difference from home. I stayed in a dorm for 12 Singapore Dollers (the cheapest I could find) and met some cool people, we ended up drinking vodka and orange juice in the dorm till the wee hours of the morning. I checked out the city for a few days and found some really good food in the Arab and Indian sections. I also ended up talking politics with some Muslims, not a good idea for an American, but they were great and they even gave me free coffee and cigarettes!
From Singapore, I decided to head off to Sumatra, Indonesia. I took a ferry to Batam on Feb 1, I call it bottom cause it sucks! It used to be a visa free entry point. I thought I was all cool entering through the “loop hole”, but it turns out that Feb 1 was the first day that they issued visas from there and they also stopped giving 2 month visa’s. I was the very first person given a visa (30 day) from there and they said I was lucky, that’s a good way to look at things cause I felt ripped off. From there I flew to Medan, I couldn’t take a boat because a Muslim holiday had the whole port shut down, no worries.
Medan was a zoo and I took the first bus out of there. I headed straight for Bukit Lawang, the LP (Lonely Planet guide book) said it’s a nice place to relax and take an inner tube down the river. That sounded perfect! When I got there I found out something totally different. A few months ago it rained so much that a dam broke up river, in less than an hour about 300 people were dead and the town (of 1,200 people) was almost completely destroyed. Now there is just one guest house and a few homestays left. I still had a great time and my next door neighbors (Kim and Luc) would turn out to be great friends that would follow me all the way to Java.
To get to the guest house I stayed in I had to cross a river by standing on a shady bamboo raft thing. Once you’re on you have to hold on to a rope attached to a pullie that someone powers manually. Once you cross the river you’re on the boundrey of a National Park/Orang-Utan rehabilitation center. There is no electricity, which was fine with me, but besides Luc and Kim I was the only other person there. The staff 2-3 people all cross the river to sleep at night. So, when I was awoken around 2am from someone, or something, banging on my door (loud) I have to admit, I was scared! I figuered it was some bandits or theives that knew a tourist was staying there and that tourists have money, plus they probably out numbered me and possibly had guns! Still I couldn’t just lay down in bed and hide under the covers.
When I finally got the curage to get up I ran to a desk in the room and grabbed a wooden chair and then went to the window to see what I was up against! I had my flashlight in my pocket, but didn’t want to use it (then they would know exactly where I was), so clutching my only protection (a wooden chair) I peeked through the window curtain. What I saw was the last thing on earth I expected, it looked like a Monster!! Actually it was a huge Orang-Utan! It scared the shit out of me and I almost fell backwards, since I was still half asleep! After I took a deep breath I decided to turn on my flashlight (and shine it in his face) and start making as much noise as possible! It turns out he couldn’t have cared less. Instead of running away, he ripped the handle off of the door and charged into my room! He grabbed my backpack and threw my clothes everywhere! I dove back onto my bed paralyzed with fear! The mighty wooden chair I had was now laying at the foot of the bed and I had nothing but a tiny flash light in my hands! I tried to use it (the flashlight) like a light saber, but that didn’t work very well. Luckily he lost interest quickly and left! Once he was gone I baracaded the door shut and just couldn’t get back to sleep. I had an open air bathroom (back door) with a rock garden in it that he got into as well and I was just waiting for him to break that door down too! Long night.
The next day Kim and Luc were outta there. The O-U (Orang-Utan) tried to break down their door too! Later that day I took a trek in the National Park (my back yard) with a Dutch couple. to make a long story a little shorter, a different O-U ended up throwing the Dutch dude down, stealing his day pack, climbing a tree, then throwing the contents of the backpack down one by one! Luckily for the Dutch guy, he threw down his moneybelt and passport (they were in the day pack), but he stole his shirt and destroyed the backpack! After our guide figuered out that this wasn’t a “nice” O-U, he pulled out his toy sling shot and told us to RUN! What an idiot! The poor Dutch guy, I could see the fear in his eyes, but for some reason that (the fear in his eyes) just made me laugh!
I couldn’t even run I was laughing so hard! I would look back and see our “professional guide” shooting this huge animal with a sling shot and some tiny pebbles, just pissing it off even more, and that just added to my hysterical laughter! Every time I turned around, I would see this huge Orang-Utan trying to catch us (good thing they’re really slow runners) and then I’d see the Dutch guy loosing his mind even more! Madness! Before the day was done we all got (as a gift from the jungle) our first leeches too. In the end though, everyone was OK and we sat down and laughed about it when we got back to safety. So, this is how my travels began! Not even two weeks into my trip! I had now idea what expect from the rest of my trip….
*** The day after the O-U broke into my room, I was talking to one of the employee’s that was replacing my door handle. He told me that the O-U’s name is Abdullah and since the flood he’s been living in one of the empty rooms (he broke in and no one was gonna kick him out). Well, since I’ve been back home (Miami) I heard, by chance, a program on the radio (NPR). They were talking about Bukit Lawang, Indonesia and the Orang-Utans and they mentioned Abdullah. It turns out the Guest house that I stayed in is still his “territory”, so Abdullah is in good health and it turns out he’s an international celebrity.***