The table shook a bit then stopped. I noticed all talk had ceased. Then the table shook again and one official caught my hand and took me out of the Conference room of the Tourism authority in Jakarta.
He explained in English: ‘Earthquake’.
Still holding my hand, we went down nine floors of the building. From every floor, people joined the mainstream exit program. There was no rush. Extremely orderly and polite. A light conversational sound floated across heads as I saw people smilingly going to the exit floor.
That man left my hand and that told me I was on the ground floor. The officials of the Tourism Department all stood together in the parking lot and we continued our discussion. Actually we finished quicker than had we been in the office.
This was my first exposure to the people here. The people had just conquered an earthquake by accepting it’s presence, accepting their mortality and not letting the two interfere with each other. It was a great lesson in humility and perseverance.
This was my welcome to Indonesia!
The flight from Los Angeles was long and comfortable. Like all continental flights it allowed you to do nothing but enjoy the money you have spent. I saw a bit of a few movies and slept soundly after the IST meal. I had just completed a two month break in USA, with my daughter and son, both who were in opposite coasts. My wife had joined us and we spent the holidays with family and friends. I had parked my bike with my wife’s childhood friend, Moha, in Los Angeles and at the end of USA-holidays, had cargoed it to Jakarta with Mapcargo an efficient cargo player.
The Tourism Authorities in Indonesia welcomed me as an opportunity to mingle public relations with my biking opportunities in Indonesia. This was well arranged by my friend: Pradip Gidwani, who flew down with his wife Nargis and my wife to Jakarta, from Mumbai, on the same day as I came in from Los Angeles.
Waiting for the bike to arrive we did a bit of Jakarta touring. That’s shopping, fine dining and general walk abouts. Jakarta is as glamorous as any capital. When I got to know that my bike was bumped off the aircraft, in Los Angeles, which I thought only happens to people, we took off for Bali and one week of sheer delight.
Touring Bali meant the Temple Besikah, Tanalot, the Village, the King’s palace, Blanco’s musuem, a Balinese dance and the Ulluwata temple. My wife did a Batik workshop. Not being so creative, all I did was to enjoy the world famous Balinese massage. And the food!
This Island is proudly steeped in Hindu culture. Hindu Gods are on every street corners and so are statues depicting characters from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The caricature is mighty rather than cute. The people are gentle and very handsome. Pure native thought.
An ‘ideal village’ is maintained by Tourism and here one can feel the artisan lifestyle of the Balinese. The Temple Besikah is right next to the Active Agung, a volcano that has been in the news. Agung didn’t disturb us at all.
The beauty lies in the the way the houses are built, with Hindu styling all over. Temples are accessible and all they request is that worshippers must respect the surrounding. So you need to look like a worshipper and respectful. It’s not a difficult demand.
The streets are clean and of good construction.
My wife and I stayed in a boutique B&B, The Gardenview at the edge of the Monkey Forest and celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary here. It was delightful. We met our Italian friend Pierre and his Indonesian wife-Enung, who were devotees of our Guru and had authentic Italian and Balinese food in his restaurant: Spaccanapoli.
Everyday was a sightsee day, only interrupted by great Balinese cooking, the spices and the pastes.
Getting news of my bike, my wife flew back to India, with my friends and I to Jakarta to fetch my bike from the cargo.
Getting a free service from GAS TRIUMPH Motors, my route was hand drawn by the head of the indonesian Automotive Authority.
I set off for my ride from Jakarta to Bali, south of the equator.
Getting out was difficult, as Jakarta is a busy city and the IST night halt at Cemiha was tiring. Also, I was out of shape and was riding, after my two month break in USA. It was only after Yogyakarta that I loosened up.
The roads were fair. The weather was hot. After Yogyakarta, the mountains start and so did the thunderstorm. Here the twists and turns are marked by sharp elevation and declines, both unsuitable for heavy traffic and a bikers haven! I was never good at this kind of riding and got a first hand workshop that I couldn’t run away from.
I stopped at small cafés for refreshments and ate local fare. The sambhal became my favourite paste, a dip.
Tulunganan and Jember took me near the coast and I had a super mountain view of the ocean. I was looking directly towards the South Pole!
My main nourishment came from the most delicious coconut water. Water in and water out!
The ferry took us to Bali and this was a beautiful sailing. Bali is extremely touristy and everything centers around respecting the Tourist. The Tourism Department welcomed me here and once again showed me Bali.
I packed my bike for Jakarta so that it could fly to Kuala Lumpur, from where I write this, in my extremely cute B&B: Rainforest, in the heart of Butik Batang.
I was originally planning a North Indonesia-Medan ferry to Port Klang-Malaysia, but decided against it, due to possible hassles of carnet acceptability overland-overferry, etc. So I wrapped it up in wood and am now waiting for customs clearance here so that I can start my final overland to India, via Thailand and Myanmar.