The time difference between Annapolis, Maryland, USA and Jakarta, Indonesia is eleven hours. That means that while it is currently 10:15 in the morning in my reality, it is 9:15 in the evening on the Indonesian island of Java. And when Americans go back to Eastern Standard Time in late fall, the time difference will be twelve hours. So while I am deciding what to do with my Sunday, after taking my morning walk and doing some shopping at the downtown Farmers’ Market; my son Justin is winding down his evening and getting ready for Monday morning or is it going to be Monday morning? When we traveled from America’s east coast to the other side of the globe, we crossed the international dateline and lost one day. I left the U.S. from Dulles Airport on a Thursday afternoon, the beginning of July and arrived in Jakarta on Friday night.
The next day, I was awakened at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of Moslem prayers being broadcast on loudspeakers throughout the city. The Moslem faith is the primary religion practiced throughout Indonesia. The only exception is the island of Bali which is mostly Hindu. No, you will not see many women in Burqas or even a predominance of head scarves, but you will hear the sounds of praying being broadcast from mosques both in the city, as well as villages and small towns throughout the day. And in many public places such as airports, rest stops, and restaurants there are prayer rooms with an adjacent station to wash your hands before praying.
On our very first day in Indonesia, we headed to a favorite Chinese restaurant of Justin’s for a late breakfast. Chinese Indonesians are a significant minority in Indonesia, owning many prosperous businesses– not at all limited to the restaurant industry but, there are a lot of Chinese restaurants and Chinese food seems to be a mainstay in the Indonesian diet, albeit it is a modified version to suit the availabilty of ingredients and local tastes. One new dish I tasted that morning was a savory rice porridge, congee, a delicious soup made with a base of chcken. The same porridge is available is a sweet brown sugar/molasses version which I do not find as appealing.
Then we were off to Chinatown in Jakarta to visit the open air market where we saw fish, turtles, fresh herbs, vegetables, and even caged songbirds being sold. There are no such thing as sidewalks in the city. The narrow winding sidestreets, with their strong pungent odors– the mixture of the items being sold combined with the smells of uncollected garbage and people quickly woke up my senses. ( I was, after all, suffering from a certain degree of jet lag). But the sidestreets were much easier to walk on the the major roads with their swiftly moving traffic.
Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, and Historic Kota neighborhood with its 19th century style Dutch architecture is a major tourist attraction. We walked around the Taman Fatahillah Piaza, meandered into an adjacent museum devoted to arts and crafts (a disappointment) and then took refuge inside the Cafe Batavaia for a much needed break. Located on on side of the square, the Cafe has been kept very much as it must of appeared at the beginning of the 20th century with rich dark wooden floors and bars, comfortable seats, drinks with ice plus the addition of a more recent invention–air conditioning. The menu is decided continental, and yes expensive by Indonesian standards but very good. the Dining room is upstairs and an extensive bar is downstairs as well as a place to listen to music (Jazz and torch songs seem to be the choice of the day) and sing karaoke. The wall along the staircase is hung with pictures of celebrities from the past.
Our last stop, once back inside a taxi, were the shipping docks. Many of the large vessels departing from the port of Jakarta are made of wood, built by hand, and are strikingly attractive with their bold colors and handsome shapes. Bags and bags of mix for cement were being loaded up wooden gangplanks. On the other side of the porting area, we saw the more modern ships lined up to transport various container loads of goods, but the wooden ships were more appealing. They brought to my mind some of my dad Herman Maril’s earlier paintings depicting the Baltimore docks. The dock area is not on the list of typical tourist destinations. It is a stop worth adding to your itinerary.