We’ve flown several airlines over the last few years… Northwest, United, Continental, American, Air France, and China Airlines to name those I remember. I’d have to say that Continental is my favorite domestic airline thus far and that China Airlines was better than Air France. Al might not agree because the flight home was on an older plane so there were no in seat tv’s, but I think the flight attendants were VERY nice and the food was very good (and frequent). Air France provided earplugs, sleep masks whereas Air China did not, but since we brought our own for both trips, it didn’t matter.
Another note about international travel is that going there (when traveling west at least) seems to be harder than getting back. I’m not sure about going East. We haven’t done that yet.
Also, if you’re worrying about language barriers, don’t. It seems that everywhere you go SOMEBODY speaks English. You can get by.
All in all, we spent about 30+ hours in transit. It was a 6 hour drive to Chicago with a 4-1/2 hour flight to Seattle, a 3-3/4 hour layover, 13-1/4 hours to Taipae, another 3 hour layover and 5-1/4 hours to Jakarta. We got our Visa’s on arrival as promised and found Tony without a problem. We used the Silver Bird taxi service, one of the best in Indonesia (they also own Blue Bird and Gold Bird).
Driving was something else–it was organized chaos! Lines – mere suggestions. I saw a 3 lane road that was 5 cars thick. People drove on the shoulders and always used their horns. The horns could mean, “hey, I’m here” or “hey, I’m taking cuts” or “hey buddy, I’m not letting you in.” The motorcycles weaved in and out of the cars and tended to pile up at the stop lights because they went between the cars to get to the front. What a first impression! It was a tropical paradise with a healthy dose of chaos. If it was more industrialized, it’d look like Beverly Hills!
We got to our hotel in Jakarta and showered and rested after our long layover. The hotel was very nice–much like a Holiday Inn in the states but at mom & pop prices. I think it was about $30-50/night. Later, we went down to tea in the hotel lobby. They serve their tea a bit weak, very sweet and had an array of snack foods. An interesting sugar water soup with veggies and other weird things in it. Not bad, but not spectacular either. Some cake and deep fried goodies like bananas, chicken, rolls, etc. I realized something while I was at tea: I heard Boyz II Men on the radio. Not only was it American music, it was POP (i.e. not the best of American music).
We also saw the most amazing thing we saw on the whole trip and couldn’t get pictures of it. They were running lines on the poles. They would take their extension ladder and put it directly against the line that was currently there, climb up it. drap the line around the existing line, climb down, move the ladder, etc. At a certain point, they had to go across the street. In the middle of traffic, they went to lean the ladder on the power line and it didn’t reach. So 4-5 of his buddies held the ladder up while he climbed up, draped the line and continued along their merry way.
I later got a traditional massage in my room by the spa’s massuse. She was a darling little thing with the cutest, girliest giggle ever. The massage left bruises–everywhere. I must have had at least 6, but where I wasn’t bruised felt great the next day.
We rested a bit more and then went to dinner. We went down some street in Jakarta that is apparently very popular with the backpackers. It was a little freaky and the men stared at me (according to Al; I didn’t notice). It was dark by 7 (no long days like at home in the summer, which I still have yet to get used to) and this was a tiny little street. More like an alley by American standards. It had many traveling food booths and some bars.
We got Nasi Goreng (fried rice)–the first of many servings of nasi goreng adorned with an overcooked fried egg and some pineapple juice. The juice there is great. I’m pretty sure they buy it, throw it in the blender and then serve. We pretty much couldn’t stay awake through dinner and went to bed right after we found someone to give us the bill. The other interesting thing about eating out in Indonesia is that they bring the food out as it’s ready instead of bringing out everyone’s at once.
Day 2 – Little Indonesia, the Craft Fair and our driver.