28 April 2011

Day 2

Quite accidentally, the timing of our departure from London worked very well. By arriving in Jakarta on a Thursday evening, Michael had one day of work and was then able to make up for jet lag over the weekend.

We restricted ourselves to the apartment and the mall, except for an excursion to the excellent Seribu Rasa (1000 Flavors) restaurant with Connie and Mark on Saturday evening.

While Kem Chicks, Metro department store, and most restaurants are affordable, the majority of the stores in Pacific Place are not. I don't think I'll be frequenting Tiffany, Bulgari, Herm├Ęs, Louis Vuitton, etc. any time soon. Of course, I could decide to buy a car one idle afternoon:

There's a Lamborghini accessory shop as well, where you can apparently also order a vehicle if you're so inclined. Ignoring this temptation, we admired the view as we ascended the escalator to Metro.

Michael was looking for a batik shirt. Although those he liked at Metro were too expensive, we did buy three wisps of silk batik. The green and peach one shown in two pictures below was our extravagance, but the colours will look good in either the roof room in London or the converted garage in France.

In Batik Keris, a chain we remember well from our previous stays here, Michael found his shirt (to be worn for the first time tomorrow: Kodak moment) and we continued the batik motif in purchases of wrapping paper and wooden containers to hold kitchen utensils.

We finished up—of course—at Kem Chicks, where among bagfuls of other groceries were the mangosteens shown on the shelf in yesterday's post.
True color

Scenic arrangement

At 6:30 we met Connie and Mark in the lobby. Their driver, Purwanto, soon appeared to take us in air-conditioned comfort to Seribu Rasa. Remaining photos devoted to this memorable meal, all dishes shared.

Crab lumpia; Mark's fork

Sate (pronounced as in the variant spelling, satay)

Beef rendang

Succulent fish dish

Jumbo shrimp

Apple pancake with caramel sauce
My choice for dessert, mango and kiwi with passion fruit shaved ice

27 April 2011

First full day in Jakarta

At 7:30 Michael heads for the office via the best "commute" he's ever had: down the elevator, through the lobby, past security (we're only checked on way in), to another elevator. Exit into Pacific Place Mall, make a left toward the pedestrian passage that leads to the Stock Exchange Building, through a security check, up an escalator, through another lobby, and then a final elevator to the Asia-Pacific Exploration Consolidated office on the 28th floor. About fifteen minutes door to door, including waits for the elevators.

View of Michael's office building from our balcony. Mark's office on the 28th floor is visible if I knew where it was.

Hilton (now Sultan) Hotel

Close-up for Kate & Iain plus other friends who spent some time here with Arco.

Tents at left of former Hilton Residence were for a celebration that went on—very audibly— into the early hours of the morning over the weekend.
Part of the view through one living room window. Into every life a few bird droppings must fall....

While Michael is laboring to put bread and the occasional bottle of wine on the table ("occasional" key word here—only relatively low-alcohol-content beer is affordable), I unpack suitcases and dial 0 to report to the concierge that one sink plug isn't connected and one toilet is running nonstop. Both problems are fixed within half an hour. I can get used to this way of life very fast.

Connie comes by for a chat around 10:30 and we then join Mark and Michael for a tasty chili beef and phat Thai lunch in one of the many inexpensive restaurants in the mall. We discover that ice tea is sometimes made with milk, a beverage I'll try to avoid in the future.

Next on the itinerary is a visit to Kem Chicks, on one of the lower mall levels. I've been looking forward to this. When we last lived in Jakarta, there was only one Kem Chicks, a mid-sized grocery store in Kemang that  entrepreneur Bob Sadino opened in the 1970s once he moved on from his original egg-selling business. Now he not only has this Pacific Place outpost, but the Kemang store has become the ground floor of a multi-story apartment building. Many thanks to Zakan on http://mostlyjakarta.com/kem-chicks-kemang-jakarta/http://mostlyjakarta.com/kem-chicks-kemang-jakarta/. His photograph is better than mine will be when I eventually make my pilgrimage.

Back to my hop-skip-and-a-jump-away branch:

Mangosteens, as delectable as ever.

Pumpkins and squash.
Don't remember these from the old days.

Potatoes, sweet and regular.
Connie says that the government is trying to introduce Indonesians to starch staples other than rice.

Anyone familiar with my breakfast habits will know how important this machine is to my sense of well-being. Fresh orange juice on tap.

A very patient Connie with the fruits(++) of my food shopping excursion. Receipt was about a yard long, only to be expected (as I explained to Michael) when the cupboards are virtually bare. Her more modest purchases are on the chair.

A simple steak (Indonesian, not Australian, much better than in the past), salad, and French fries dinner to begin with—and, to toast the fact that we're really and truly in Jakarta—the cheapest bottle of wine available, a Chilean red for a bit over $20.

26 April 2011

Article from Jakarta Globe

Jakarta has two English-language newspapers, the Jakarta Post and the Jakarta Globe. We have the latter and the International Herald Tribune delivered each morning, for free, we think, as yet another serviced apartment perk. Here's a wonderful interview with a Dutch photographer who has come up with a perfect charity project. I'll certainly be buying several of her game packs.

Bakso, by the way (see first paragraph below), is an Indonesian meatball dish, apparently Barack Obama's favorite from his childhood years here. For recipe and more details, see  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/17/earlyshow/living/recipes/main7062422.shtml 

My Jakarta: ‘I Love Doing This Kind of Thing Because It’s for Charity’

Sabrina Pallawarukka | April 25, 2011
Hanneke Mennens. (JG Photo/Sabrina Pallawarukka) Hanneke Mennens. (JG P
Most Jakartans don’t really know the city. Sure, they tell you exactly where their favorite bakso stand is, but they don’t know the difference between the National Museum and Museum Gajah (they’re actually one and the same), and they’ve certainly never visited the slums. Hanneke Mennens’s Jakarta Memory Game may be just what these people need. Better still, it’s all for a good cause.

First things first, what is Jakarta Memory Game?

It’s a fun game for everybody from 3 years old and up. The game consists of a pack of 80 cards bearing photographs of 40 different scenes around Jakarta. Each picture appears on two cards in the pack. You lay the cards face down and then turn over two. If the photos on the two cards match, voila! You win! The person who finds the most paired cards wins. Two to eight people can play the game.

So, basically I should be able to beat my nephew if we go head to head, right?

No, no, no … children very often win because they are so focused and excited. It’s a very well-known game all over the world and great for brain development in children as well. I love doing this kind of thing because it is for charity and all the proceeds go to help deprived children. I took the pictures and some ladies from Werkgroep ’72 helped me do the rest.

What is Werkgroep ’72?

It’s a Dutch charity foundation; it runs programs for people in need, whether they be street children or elderly people. It awards scholarships, provides food for the needy and so on. We do everything we can possibly do to help. There’s a Web site at www.werkgroep72.org.

What is your role within the group?

I act as a photographer for them on a voluntary basis and take pictures of all their very worthwhile projects.

These are beautiful pictures for a memory game, did you take them all yourself?

Yes, I did. To be honest with you I was a studio photographer, mostly for commercials, models. I did a lot of assignments in Singapore. What happened was I worked so much at the studio that the flash lights damaged my eyes.

Where are most of the pictures taken?

I went all around Jakarta. To Monas, Bantar Gebang [the landfill site where most of the city’s garbage ends up], Glodok, Pasar Ikan, Sunda Kelapa, basically all over the city, I love playing with colors and lines and I took all the little pieces of the city and put them in one box. Like the picture on one of the cards with the little boy brushing his teeth.

How did you get that one?

This was actually from a project for the kids at Bantar Gebang. You would not believe that these kids did not know how to brush their teeth. It’s difficult for them to make enough money to eat, let alone to buy a toothbrush. So we went there with a dentist and we gave them all little packages with a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap in it and we taught them how to brush their teeth. They were actually really happy about it, it was amazing. And it was great fun for me too because I could capture the moment.

So eye surgery didn’t stop you from taking pictures?

Everyone who knows me is aware that I am an addicted photographer and I really enjoy working on exciting projects. So the Jakarta Memory Game is like My Jakarta through the eyes of a photographer. I always see the glass as being half full rather than half empty and I believe that everything happens for a reason.

You have worked as a professional photographer and done a wide range of work. What is it about taking children’s photos that makes it so enjoyable?

Because it gives you so much back. Children are always happy with how a photo turns out, even though it’s not easy to shoot them. You can’t tell them what to do; you just have to be patient.

Who or what do you most enjoy taking pictures of?

Hmm … that would have to be when I take pictures of my niece Lynn and my nephews. Every summer when I return to Holland I take their pictures. It’s been 10 years and they love it. It has become a sort of ritual between us all. I can really see them growing through my pictures. The nice thing is they really love it as well.

What is the one thing that you would love to change about Jakarta?

I wish all the children in Jakarta or in Indonesia in general could get a proper education, to help them to support themselves.


Back to arrival day

Our arrival at Soekarno-Hatta airport was distinctly different from the first time we entered Jakarta in 1986. Despite security issues after the bombings in Bali (2002) and in Jakarta's Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels (2009), we weren't in any way as conscious of tense guards with semi-automatic weapons patrolling the terminal. A pleasant and efficient minder organized by APEC saw us through immigration and customs at high speed.

A company driver, Taufik, was waiting for us and our luggage. His larger vehicle was being repaired—a female driver had run into him (the stereotype is obviously international)—but he managed to cram everything into a mid-size SUV.

The dreaded Jakarta traffic wasn't bad at 8pm, so we arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Residences in about forty minutes. The highlight of the drive was passing a billboard that advertised FITNESS CLUB, SPA, KARAOKE. Launch into "House of the Rising Sun" while you exercise....

Connie and Mark were waiting for us in the marble lobby (must take photos) as we and our bags passed through security. The procedure is always the same. As we drive up, we first are stopped for a vehicle check: trunk opened, underbody scanned, windows lowered so guards can peer in. When we've alighted, airport-style security comes into effect. We put purses, shopping bags, briefcases on a conveyor belt for scanning and pass through a metal-detector, after which we spread our arms and are checked by a handheld device. This is always done with characteristic Indonesian graciousness, so you soon get used to it.

Then it was time to take the elevator (also worth several pictures in a later post) up to our 39th-floor apartment. Room key is required for operation. I knew what was waiting for me thanks to Michael's emailed photos. Most of you reading this have already seen these, but for the record:

 Living room, with Mark, Connie, and RC leasing agent

Kitchen viewed from living room

Close up

Master bedroom

Master bath
This photo caused some raised eyebrows, but it turns out there is a blind to block the view from the bedroom.

Bedroom 2, now home to our new computer

Bedroom 3

Guest bathroom

View from balcony

Our surroundings are certainly more elegant—and more immaculate—than what we're used to. They'll stay that way, too, except for whatever clutter we inevitably introduce, because this is a serviced apartment, beds made, floors swept, tub scrubbed, wastebaskets emptied, on a daily basis.

There we are then. Wellands installed and provisioned, thanks to Connie and Mark organizing the rental and stocking the fridge. Let the adventure begin!

Night views from balcony, photos not as good as the real thing

24 April 2011


I was planning on catching up with this blog today. Not to be, even though I start my day when Michael's alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m.

Let's see. How did it get to be 3:30 with so little to show for it, especially when I don't have to do any of the cleaning here? First thing in the morning I always answer emails that have come in the night before—or those still languishing in my inbox from busier times. Today I also needed to process the online VAT activation code that Kieron and Jo (a thousand blessings on their heads) forwarded when it finally arrived at our London flat. Mind focused once again on matters British, I also checked bank accounts and activity on the UK mastercard we're using here. Tick, tick, tick: so far, so good.

Quick breakfast—corn flakes with strawberries and one of Indonesia's fabulous lemon-flavored tiny bananas plus fresh-squeezed orange juice from Kem Chick's—then out the door to pick up a laptop cooler for our new Sony Vaio and various odds and ends at Lotte Mart, the Walmart clone we discovered in the basement of Ratu Plaza on Saturday. Home for lunch (Australian camembert, Scandinavian crackers, and Granny Smith apple) and encounters with two of the charming young boys who clean our apartment each day and the mechanic who arrived to replace our defective washer/dryer. Soon....

Interruption while another maintenance man appeared with a tube of silicone adhesive to replace a marble tile that fell off the skirting board as the new appliance was being installed.

Yes. Soon—as in ten minutes—I have to leave for Michael's office, where the SIM card in my Blackberry will be replaced by one that allows me to access the internet. I'll hang around studying my Indonesian phrasebook until suami saya (my husband) is ready to leave. The cleaners were very impressed by my language skills (anda belajar cepat—you learn fast) until I revealed that seventeen years ago I had lived in Jakarta for three years. Then they probably wondered why I wasn't better.

Tomorrow is another day. I hope to get some of our photos downloaded then.

20 April 2011

One week from d-day

That's a lower-case "d" for departure. Let's see. It's 2:30 in the afternoon here in Jakarta today, which means 8:30 a.m. in London. We would have finished breakfast by this time last Wednesday and have been getting ready to head for HSBC to pick up the new internet banking code devices that Michael had discovered on Tuesday were about to be issued. Lucky we were booked on an evening flight.

We then basically did nothing but clean until the taxi arrived to take us to Heathrow in the early afternoon. Michael lugged our four very heavy suitcases (£183 overweight surcharge -- and that was a relief, because the woman at check-in gave us an extra ten kilos apiece) down two flights of steps to be ready to be piled into the car. Here's a photo of our four pieces of hand luggage at Singapore airport: fortunately they weren't weighed.

Back to Heathrow. Thanks to business class tickets, we were able to enjoy the lounge, where we had a post-lunch sampling of some tasty Asian cuisine. Then, before we had a chance to be bored, we were experiencing the moment we'd been anticipating for a few months: sitting in our very comfortable seats, clinking our champagne glasses in a toast to the future (and to a friend in hospital).

The Singapore Air stewardesses were as gracious and lovely as I remembered from seventeen years ago. I'll find some images on the SA website to illustrate the experience.

We had two middle seats. As Michael pointed out, there was a screen we could pull up between them if one of us irritated the other.

This sleeping arrangement was extraordinary. I've never dozed comfortably on a plane before.

Here you're looking at a photo of first class seating. It's a bit roomier and the screen is probably bigger, but we also had the attentive service, linen napkins, and limitless supply of hot towels to mop our not-so-weary brows.

The food and wine weren't your ordinary long-haul fare either. The champagne I mentioned earlier was Bollinger; I had a 2008 Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc with my "Thai-style fried fish with spicy sauce served with seasonal vegetables and steamed rice," while Michael drank the same white with our satay "prelude" and "tian of crabmeat with 'Bloody Mary' dressing," then a 2008 South Australian St Hallett Faith Shiraz with his "Oriental roast duck and barbecued pork with rice." We were too full to taste more than a spoonful of the Bailey's white chocolate mousse.

When you enter Changi airport, it's a real case of "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." So unlike Stansted or Heathrow (though terminal 5 is pretty good) or Perpignan or Philadelphia airports.

Sent off an email at one of the free wireless stations behind the orchids.

Greenery and sculpture above, now with telephoto.

For you, Dad, a stainless steel escalator and elevator.

I thought the interior landscaping in terminal 3 was worth photographing. Then we took the skytrain to terminal 2.

Surely Changi must be one of the most stunningly designed and well-tended airports in the world.
As we looked out at the multistory parking (through polka dot glass), Michael spotted bougainvillea blossoming.

Children are catered for as well. This is a drawing area
My duty-free treat: a bottle of Un Jardin sur le Toit. Michael picked up the usual single malt, gin, and cigarettes.

Last, here's the Silver Kris lounge where we whiled away a few hours waiting for the flight that would see us in Jakarta about 24 hours after the taxi had picked us up on Southwark Bridge Road. Very strange sensation, this lost day.

You can take a shower in the ladies' loo. This spot is more memorable, though, as the place where I managed to leave my camera when washing my hands. Efficient as always, the steward on board the plane organized having it whisked from the bathroom to my seat within about fifteen minutes after the horrible but -- yes, Michael -- all too familiar discovery that something was missing from my purse.