Heavy rained greeted us today as we closed in on our pier in Jakarta. The familiar cranes, intermodal containers, forklifts and longshoreman were numerous while the welcoming party was small, but enthusiastic.
The ship’s location team had successfully convinced most passengers that the traffic in Jakarta would be THE WORST ON PLANET EARTH. As it turned out, the traffic while busy, flowed in an orderly manner following expected traffic laws. Cars and mopeds stopped at traffic lights, yielded to pedestrians, and stayed in their lanes. I have driven in Rome and the traffic there is far more unruly and undisciplined. So a note to future cruisers: treat Jakarta traffic as you would treat Chicago traffic, Boston traffic or any other large city. Feel free to venture out independently, but give yourself a buffer as you would in any major city – traffic can gridlock anywhere – on a moment’s notice. I would use 20mph as a planning figure and then plan to arrive back at the ship 1 hour before all aboard.
Right outside the cruise terminal were 2 people wearing large costumes depicting somebody or something. They were dancing around to music while 4 women in costume were nearby welcoming guests as they entered the terminal. Once inside the terminal, we were greeted by a sniffing dog, although I don’t think he was looking for a turkey sandwich from the Lido, probably drugs, and there is more than one foreigner on death row here for violating Indonesian drug laws. After we passed thru metal detectors and our bags were sent thru this giant X-Ray, we were outside the terminal and being escorted to our HAL tour by our guide carrying a sign with a large numeral SIX.
We picked the HAL tour that would visit President Obama’s school, a local market, Phinisi Schooners and finally the Grand Mosque. It was scheduled for 5 ½ hours and cost $89.
After about 45 minutes of driving thru the city, we arrived at a small school completely integrated into the neighboring houses. The school was surrounded by a stone fence that opened into a small circular driveway. The area was bustling with people with many shops nearby. Our single 40 passenger bus parked on the street and would be blocking a lane of traffic while we were inside.
A basketball court was in the center of the school, surrounded by a hallway that had doors to classrooms across from the basketball court. In addition to the classrooms there was the Headmasters Office, a computer lab and a few other administrative rooms. Class was in session, but any novelty of seeing foreign visitors was long gone and the children, while polite, moved about paying us little attention. Right after we arrived, probably 10:15 or so, a group of children gathered on the basketball court and raised what appeared to be a school flag on the flagpole adjacent to the court. This wasn’t done for our benefit, it was part of their daily routine.
One of the teachers escorted our group into an empty classroom, which was the one where Barrack Obama spent most of his time when he was a student. They pointed out that actual desk that they claim was used by President Obama, so we all posed for pictures with some of the children who had returned to the room. We remain a little skeptical that this was the actual desk, but it made for a good story nevertheless. We were allowed free reign to wander about and chat with the students who were all quite friendly and spoke excellent English. I asked one if they learned very much about Barrack Obama and he responded – not really.
Before we left we enjoyed some tea and snacks that were set up on a table in the entryway. By now the rain had stopped and we filed out to our waiting bus to head to our next stop: A traditional Chinese Market.
We could have skipped the traditional Chinese market, which was in a basement below street level under a freeway. Even by the standards of Asian city markets, and I have been to more than one having lived in Japan, this one was dark, damp and pretty foul looking. We were the only customers present during the entire 30 minutes we wandered about. Maybe we caught them at a slow time, but it wasn’t a place that was selling anything that looked fresh. We were glad to be on our way.
Phinisi Schooners are sail powered cargo vessels that have been used for centuries to deliver goods to smaller outlying islands in Indonesia. We stopped by a pier that was filled with these ships with a handful being loaded with cargo using nets, ropes and cranes. The modern Phinisi Schooners have been augmented with small motors so they are able to work into the wind, improving their speed and reliability. We spent about 45 minutes wandering up and down the pier, watching the men work and imagining what type of “cruise” they will be starting soon.
Our final stop of the day was the Grand Mosque near the center of Jakarta. This is a massive structure that is bigger that it initially appears from the outside. We learned that this mosque can accommodate up to 200,000 worshipers when filled to capacity. The bus dropped us off outside the main entrance, leaving us to walk about 200 yards to the buildings entrance past the usual gauntlet of people selling everything from miniature elephants, jewelry and those interesting paper parachutes, among many other items large and small. They are politely persistent as you walk by, but quickly move on to others if you act disinterested.
We had to remove our shoes at the door and carry them about 100 yards to a guest room. Here we could store our shoes on shelves and those wearing shorts or with bare shoulders were given long robes to wear while we toured the rest of the mosque. The mosque has a large central area, maybe 100 yards square, surround by 3 levels of additional prayer areas. Outside this area was another huge area marked off with thousands of rectangular praying areas – one to a person, all facing Mecca. The Indonesian word for Mecca is KIBLAT and there were numerous signs hanging over head pointing toward Mecca.
As we were leaving, Judy saw a group of Muslim women with a selfie stick taking their picture in front of a sign. She struck up a conversation with them and they eagerly invited her into their next selfie! They didn’t speak English but became quick friends thru smiles and hand gestures.
We were back on the ship right at 3pm giving us a couple of hours to relax before the Sail Away. Today’s Sail Away was billed as our farewell to Indonesia complete with complimentary standard drinks and a wider selection of appetizers than is normally the case. This Sail Away was held under the dome of the Lido pool, which was open. By the time I arrived around 6:30 pm, the ship was underway and there was a pleasant breeze keeping things fairly comfortable.
Daniel Len, one of HAL’s cast singers, was the featured entertainer for the 7:30 PM spotlight show. As expected, he turned in a wonderful performance of pop songs that put a smile on everyone’s face. Marvin Gaye’s “Heard in Thru the Grapevine” was a crown favorite. Adagio, the classical pianist and violinist, joined in for the last 3 songs. Daniel concluded with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Table 52 was back at full strength today as we all recounted our tales of Jakarta. Several of our table took the tour to the Safari Park, Bogor Botanical Garden & Country side. They all wish they could have spent more time in the Safari Park, which was better that the San Diego Wild Animal park according to Rick who has been to both. Note to future cruisers: Look into a private tour that only goes to the Safari Park, while a little ways out of town, you could probably build in enough buffer by skipping the Botanical Garden.
The main entertainer tonight was Virtuoso Flautist Clare Langan from England. She dazzled the crowd with her amazing performance of popular hits including a medley of catchy American tunes. She wrapped up the show with “Memories” from Cats and received an enthusiastic standing ovation.
NOTE: The regular drummer took ill just before this evenings performances – Digital Workshop Host, Kristin’s husband, Graham, is a professional drummer and seamlessly filled in at the last minute. Well Done!
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