Monday, 25 October 2010

Java: Jakarta

Thursday 21 October: The Kelud docks at Tanjung Priok, Jakarta's port, eight-hours late - I'm now in the southern hemisphere, south of the equator. I've missed my onward train south, away from Indonesia's sprawling capital. At Tanjung Priok and in Jalan Jaska tourist strip, despite carrying a rucksack, I'm importuned constantly, and my hotel of choice is full. It's late and dark, so I stay in a nearby flop-house but save my evening with several cold beers in this lively hotel-bar back street.
Friday 22: It's the start of the weekend and fast trains inland are all full, so I reserve a seat on Saturday's night sleeper south from Gambir station. Central Jakarta is dominated by Monas column, started by outgoing president Suharto and completed in the mid-1970s, it's
known locally as Suharto's last erection. Clad in imported Italian marble and topped with gold leaf it's a 430-foot high public extravagance that towers over Jakarta's shorter, privately-funded skyscrapers.
While moving to the pleasant Hotel Tator for the night the skies open and
Jalan Jaska becomes a river - remarkably it's bone dry the next morning.
Saturday 23: The National Museum has more human sculls than you can wave a femur at. In the pretty colonial courtyard a Sumatran king's colossal statue tramples enemy sculls - the sculls of ancestors make unusual household ornaments, hello grandad what beady eyes you have! - a tiny 'Flores hobbit' scull and the scull and femur of Java man look very much like reproductions.
I can't leave Jakarta without taking the lift (75th mode of transport) to the top of Monas column with views over the large Catholic cathedral, the massive mosque that dwarfs it, and Cambir station where, at 8:45pm, I take the
Taksaka first-class sleeper train to Yogyakarta.
Photos of Jakarta.

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