Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our city from two sides

Jakarta is such an interesting city of contrasts. A predominately Muslim city, you will see women in hijab but also women in heels and a mini skirt often side by side and on occasion together.  Its also a city of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. A city where you can shop for amazing bargains but also shop for Ferraris in the mall.  

Today was an one of those days when I experienced both ends of the city. 

This morning I joined some of my new friends from work to explore Pasar Tanah Abang, the largest fabric market in South East Asia. It was an amazing experience diving in to the market but better yet with a guide who speaks the local language and knows where he is going. Heru knew just where to take us for great fabric finds and good prices. It was lots of fun to hang out with the group and decide what we were going to have made with our treasures. Now I just need to get together with one of the tailors that have been recommended to me and I will have some great new dresses and skirts.

The market wasn't only a great place for treasures it was a great way for people watching. There were swarms of people, not just shopping but selling all sorts of goods. Everything from street food to t-shirts to toys with flashing lights, bedding to ready made clothing.
I was told that people come from all over the country to shop here and ship thing back home to resell so you will see people from everywhere.

After a couple hours shopping I came home to meet Z for our Valentines "date". T is out of the country and she and I decided to be each others special date for the day. We planned weeks ago we would have afternoon tea at the Dharmawangsa Hotel. Its the best hotel in the city and is across the street from our old house and it is everything you would expect from a beautiful high end hotel. It has the feel of an old British hotel with an Asian twist. The place smells sweetly of jasmine, its wonderful and there is the sound of gamolan music floats through the air.

We had our seats in the tea room and explored the menu. We split the afternoon tea and I had the jasmine green tea and Z went for the white tea.  

They brought us a feast of little sandwiches, Indonesian treats and little sweets and chocolates. It was enak sekali (that's delicious) and quite a contrast from my morning. 
My date was lovely too.

It was an interesting day to enjoy our cities extremes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Guards must think we are Crazy!

We recently moved into our "permanent" house and have been very excited to explore our new neighborhood. The great news is that there are some interesting restaurants nearby and we found the shortcut to the local Grand Lucky supermarket. We can also walk to four different malls, including the one I will be hosting events at as part of my job!
In fact my friends who live in other major cities around the world would be positively jealous at how close we are to these things. 

Here's the thing tough. Indonesians don't believe in walking anywhere. I have been told that in their minds only poor people walk. This probably has a lot of influence on the traffic situation in Jakarta. 

It is however much easier to explore your surroundings on foot than from the back seat of the car. Since I am not driving myself I have trouble yelling out to our driver " Wait Stop! I want to explore that shop" 

And many of the places I listed above are actually quicker to get to on foot. (this would be a good time to go back to the archives and read about Jakarta traffic if you haven't already). Also many times due to one way streets the trip there or back really is farther than if you just hoof it.

Now if you are reading this and you don't work for the State Department you may not know this little fact. We have a guard at our house. We are completely gated in and actually have to knock to have him let us out, we can use our own keys but he usually looks affronted when we do that since we didn't let him do his job. So I give a big shout out to the U.S. State Department for keeping us safe but we do feel a bit like we live in a castle.

With all this in mind....we went out to explore this weekend. On Sunday, Z and I set out once the rain had stopped and headed over to one of the malls. I swear the guard was shaking his head a bit as we headed out on foot.  Also the guard down the street who looks after another State Department family. It all went pretty well. We got to mall, did our shopping then headed back for home. Once we left the building though we discovered it was pouring. So we donned our rain gear and headed home. I'll be damned if I was going to get a taxi to go 1.5 kilometers. 

This means we arrived at our gate looking a little damp. The guard smiled and let us in but I am sure he was shaking his head and had that "silly American" look in his eye.

I'm glad we can keep him entertained.