It all started with an official tour, when I was required to collect some information from surveying many people from different places in Indonesia – one of my favourite job for past 10-15 years. And before I could actually plan anything I found myself landing at Sukarn International airport in Jakarta. The airport is named after its first Prime Minister who was named after the famous Mahabharata character, Sukarn. As soon as I came out of airport, I realised it was much like Delhi, the small colonies were not very clean and there was sewage water at many places. However, once I was inside the city, it was rather clean.
The names in Indonesia still resemble a lot like Indians, for example the one in the photo “Dr. Suryadharma Ali. I was told, this “Ali” is a new addition otherwise the names have usually been like “Megawati Sukarnoputri”!
For those who don’t know much about Indonesia – it is the country with largest Muslim population. Hindus, now mostly live in Bali where they took refuge after the wars between Hindus Muslim kingdoms. The Christians live on islands on the eastern part of Indonesia. The Ramayana and Mahabharata characters are displayed everywhere in Indonesia, especially at every roundabouts, you can see the famous characters from Indian history books depicting Rama or Krishna in very large statues all over Indonesia at roadsides!
After an hour of relaxing in the hotel, I headed directly to meet my first contact – the president of cement association in Indonesia. While coming back from the cement office, I stopped by at a restaurant to grab a burger at a local corner. After buying a burger I asked for the bill and I was shocked to see that the bill said 1,00,000 rupiah! Soon I realised that the Indonesian currency is rupiah and in Indian terms that one lakh rupiah was less than 500 Rs.!!
And then the whole week was very busy, full of meetings all over Jakarta and nearby places. The best part about roaming around in Indonesia is that it is full of islands. There are estimated 18,000-20,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, formerly known as the Indian archipelago! So for any visit to meet anyone beyond Jakarta, you have to take a ferry or a motor boat to reach to the next island! One day, after meeting an official of the Indonesian shipping ministry, when I came back to my hotel I realised that I had left my mobile inside the taxi! Fortunately I had the bill (I had to keep all the bills to reclaim them from my office) I called up the taxi service office only to be told that they can get hold of the taxi driver only at night and I can get the mobile back only if the driver has kept it to him and some other passenger had not taken it away!) At night, around 9, I got a call from the taxi company saying that the driver had handed over my mobile to the company but the company is a bit far from my office and they would charge an amount equivalent to Rs 3,000 which would have been more than the value of my mobile, but since all my addresses and contacts were in the mobile, I had no choice but to Pay Rs. 3,000! Anyhow, the business trip was very successful as I managed to get all information that I was looking for!!
I came back to Singapore, stayed there for a week and then came to India for 3 days, because I was required to go back to Singapore in 3 days. After a couple of weeks in Singapore, we (this time I and Tragedy Queen Punam) decided to go to Bali and on a Thursday evening we landed up at Ngurah Rai International Airport, Bali. The city is very beautiful, especially its coastlines. We were staying at Kuta Beach which is at the western side of the city and is rather more famous with the Australians. The villages nearby Kuta are still very rustic resembling the old fishing culture.
Next day we decided to rent a bike, we were told that we should not cross the district as there were police everywhere and since we did not have international driving license stamps, we were actually driving illegally in Indonesia! Nonetheless, we took a bike on rent and decided to go to another district! As soon as we were at the district border, we could see hundreds of bikes piled up on roads at a checking point with at least 50 policemen checking everyone’s license. We sensed that our decision was wrong! But the God had been very kind – as soon as our bike reached to the policemen, he just waived off and asked us to keep moving. We were pleasantly surprised that where everyone was being checked, we were let off without any check! We crossed two districts and went to Ubud, which is a traditional craft and culture centre. The route was full of rain forest and paddy fields, an out and out lush green landscape. The place had some crazy massage parlours and how could have we missed that!
We came back at night and went to eat at a sea-food counter where the guy, realising we were Indians, jokingly called me Shahrukh and then went on to call us Rahul and Anjali! And when I showed my id card saying that my name actually was Rahul, he was surprised and offered us some discount! We ate for three lakhs rupiahs and were happy to spend that much!!
The next evening – the sunset was beautiful – a typical la-Bali-esque signature! We had spent the day at the beach where Punam had a weird hair-do which apparently she liked! Are women always like that??
In the evening – while walking on the streets, we went past “Beachwalk” a modern mall, and Punam had a conversation with some Beachwalk-official where Punam declared that our own Select-city walk mall was far better than their Beachwalk, the officer did not get offended! We had good coffee at Starbucks! The dinner was again at the sea-food counter relishing awesome crabs and prawns! The next morning we went for Snorkelling and they took us deep into the sea with someone who neither spoke nor understood English! We tried to do that by our own but finally decided that it was not a good idea to be in the deep sea, on boat, with someone who did not understand english!
We came back to Singapore the next day. 2013-revisited!