Spotcheck: Jakarta

Chinese New Year was approaching quickly and I still had no travel plans. I was waiting to get paid for the month because it was actually my first pay check with my Hong Kong work visa, and I would be paid differently than when I was working as a consultant from the US and I wanted to know how much money I would actually be making at my new job. By the time my check cleared, I only had a couple weeks to plan everything and travel prices sky rocketed on account of the upcoming holiday. After some research, I found that the cheapest flight out of Hong Kong was to Jakarta, Indonesia, so I decided to just go for it. 

After lots of confused reactions about my upcoming trip, I realized barely anybody goes to Jakarta for vacation. Most out of town folk en route to Indonesia opt for the sunny beaches of Bali over the crowded urban metropolis of Jakarta. Honestly, especially in hind sight, I was happy to go somewhere that most people would not want to go. I would prefer an interesting experience over going to some generic resort anyway.

I booked an AirBnB about a week in advance. They cancelled my reservation about two hours before my flight. I scrambled to book a new reservation before my plane took off and just picked the first one I found. My plane landed at about 4am and I got into the actual city via taxi at about 5am. I pulled up to where my AirBnB was supposed to be and tried to talk to the guy at the reception to see if I could drop my bag off because I knew check-in was later. After a really confusing interaction with the guy at the front desk, I just kind of decided to walk away and find WiFi somewhere and check the details of my reservation. After walking around aimlessly and venting on my Instagram story, I found a Dunk'n Donuts and posted up there to figure shit out. It turned out my second AirBnB reservation was cancelled too. I was momentarily lost in a big city in a foreign country where I did not speak the language, with no plan and no place to stay. Un-fucking-believable. Apparently there was a major flood in all of Jakarta the day before and both apartments were affected by it. I decided to move on from AirBnB and just get a regular hotel, which actually turned out to be cheap and great and everything I needed for the long weekend. 

National Monument

National Monument

I barely slept on the plane and had a pretty hectic morning considering I was briefly stuck in a foreign country with nowhere to stay and nothing but a backpack, but fortunately, the coffee there is really great (the island of Java is in Indonesia by the way). I arrived at my hotel and was not able to check-in just yet, so I dropped off my bag and went on to explore. First stop was the national monument. After being there for about a half hour, I was approached by multiple "tour guides". They just try to hustle you into buying one of their tours and get salty with you if you decide not to take them up on their offer. One of the funnier conversations I had with a tour guide was when he tried to tell me that either New York or California (he couldn't remember exactly which one it was) had successfully seceded from the United States the day before. I told him that never happened, but he was convinced. He was so confident about it, I actually started to question myself. That never happened though, right?

After exploring the national monument for a bit, I made my way back to the hotel to finally check-in and get my life together. I was going to take a nap but I was too charged up on Indonesian coffee, so I just showered and looked at restaurants for dinner and planned the rest of my evening. Dinner was at a spot called Cafe LuLu. After dinner, I explored the trendy neighborhood of Kemang in South Jakarta. There were lots of hip bars, trendy stores and nice coffee shops. I was literally just wandering and my intuition said, "Josh, take a left into this tiny sketchy alley and go back there, something cool is happening", so naturally  I followed my gut. Sure as shit, there was something cool happening, I randomly stumbled upon a skatepark just based solely on a feeling I had.

The sun was setting behind the skatepark and I started experiencing something I cannot really explain. You know how people talk about 'Runner's High'? Well, I think I got like a 'Traveler's High'. After everything I went through that day, I was lost, alone and exhausted, but all I could see was this beautiful palm tree-lined sunset at a skatepark in Jakarta, Indonesia. Like, how on earth have my life choices landed me here in this exact moment? Anyway, after a brief life reflection and euphoric feeling, I stopped at this little art gallery next to the skatepark. Then I made my way to 'Ecology', an eco-friendly bar nearby, for a beer. I was reading about other cool bars in Kemang and decided to check out this chill rooftop bar called 'FJ on 7'. Eventually, I made my way to a nightclub called 'Jenja', I heard this was a great spot to dance. I danced there until 4 in the morning, then thought to myself how 24-hours ago, I just arrived here and was freaking out because I had no place to stay. After realizing I had been exploring the city for 24 hours straight I decided maybe it was time to head back to the hotel. 

The next day I decided to do a little sightseeing around the harbor. There are barely any white people here and I kept catching people taking photos of me. So many people thought it was appropriate to just come up to me and ask me where I was from. It was all pretty awkward, but I tried my best to just be smooth about it or ignore it. At one point I caught three people taking a photo of me, so I stopped and smiled and waved. 

A bit of context for the next part of the story, the weekend before, I matched up with a nice young lady on tinder, but we didn't interact until during the week. I noticed she was thousands of miles away and her profile said 'JKT'. She explained we matched while she was visiting Hong Kong the week before, but now she is home in Jakarta. I was like, "Cool, see you this weekend". It was too crazy of a coincidence not to follow through, so we decided we would meet up Saturday night for a drink. We met at this really beautiful rooftop bar called Skye. We were having fun and getting along quite well, so she decided to invite me out with her friends for the rest of the night. She explained they were going to a new club that had just opened and to be honest, I was pretty eager to tag along. Then I found out two of her friends are famous Indonesian actresses/models and that it was an invite-only soft opening of the club. So somehow I ended up at a private party with a bunch of Indonesian celebrities. It was unexpected, but kind of amazing. I had a great night with lots of beautiful people and new friends. 

The next day, Sunday, I was planning on skating all day. I connected with some of the Jakarta skate crew through Instagram and met up with one of them Sunday morning for a session. We went to this great skatepark all day and I had so much fun skating with these guys. Afterward, one of them gave me a ride back to my hotel on his scooter and we stopped and got dinner together. By the time I got to my hotel Sunday night I was exhausted, so I knocked right out and Monday morning headed home. It was interesting to notice how I consider my Hong Kong apartment to be home, but I was definitely relieved to be back. 

Jakarta was amazing. Like I said previously, not many people go there for vacation, but I'm not many people. I also realized throughout the trip, that I prefer to explore gritty and grimy urban environments over anything else. Furthermore, this trip served as a reminder to how much we can take for granted at times. There seemed to be a huge wealth gap here, so it provided another perspective in that aspect. By the end of the trip, I got lost multiple times, and in some relatively dangerous areas at some points, but I survived and had an unforgettable experience.