I take a scenic eight-hour train ride from Yogyakarta to Jakarta. In Jakarta my friend Karthik will be picking me up from the train station. It’s a fortunate coincidence to meet up with Karthik, a friend from back home in San Francisco, who is here on vacation to visit his folks in Jakarta. I realize that it’s been many months since I’ve been in someone’s home; I’ve been staying only in hostels and guesthouses at this point. I’m happy to be able to take it easy and hang out with a friend from back home.
My train arrives in Jakarta at 5pm, which means it’s traffic hour in Jakarta. The city is bustling. This is Southeast Asia’s most dense city, with ten million people living here. I’m bamboozled by all the tall majestic buildings.
We arrive at Karthik’s parent’s home, which is an apartment on the 39th floor. My room overlooks the skyline of Jakarta.
What. A. View.
I enjoy homely pleasures that I haven’t in months. Having homemade Indian food. Sitting in a living room with a tv (I forgot about tv!). Going to the gym and running on a treadmill. Not needing to worry about logistics, how to get around Jakarta, what to see, since Karthik could manage all of that. Being taken care of in this way makes it feel like a vacation from my backpacking routine.
The next morning Karthik and I go to see Tankguban Parahu, an active volcano. We have the luxury of a driver – no need to worry about catching up buses like I usually do, that would otherwise make this 2 1/2 hour journey longer.
We begin a hike that is supposed to take about an hour. Volcanoes are an abundant natural treat to enjoy while in Indonesia.
Karthik and I to follow a trail around the crater, and we end up getting lost. For a few hours. Luckily we find some locals who don’t speak English, but fortunately Karthik speaks Indonesian. The locals give us directions back to our starting point, and we hurry to make our way back. We are told to turn left when we see a big rock with writing on it. We encountered the rock below, and we debated if it was big enough to be the rock the locals were describing; but we figured it must be this rock. It wasn’t as big as we hoped, but it was big enough.
Eventually we arrive back to our starting point, and our driver is happy to see us return. He was worried about us, since we were only supposed to be gone for an hour rather than several hours.
A reward is to be had after this long hike: natural hot springs, a 15-minute drive from here. I notice something weird and gummy on my leg, and throw it out the car window after flicking it a few times. I realize I’ve gotten my first leech bite!
Later on, I relax in the hot springs, enjoying the soapy mineral water, the heat soothing my muscles.
The next day, Karthik and I tour a few nearby attractions.
My favorite one happens to be the 3rd biggest mosque in the world, Istiqlal Mosque. Interesting facts about the mosque:
- This mosque can hold 120,000 people
- The mosque’s architect is Christian (there was a design contest, and he won it)
- The mosque used to only have two visitors per day before 2010; after President Obama visited in 2010, the mosque now has 20 visitors per day. An astoundingly low number for such a magnificent building of its size
The mosque has a traditional yet modern look. The interior achieves a modern look with the use of polished steel.
After having a few more adventures with Karthik over 3 days in Jakarta, and enjoying the hospitality from his family, my time in Indonesia has come to an end. I hope to return one day, there is so much to explore in Indonesia!
My next destination will be flying to Siem Reap, Cambodia. A much-awaited moment for me, to finally see my girlfriend Cherry after four months of being apart! From there we will travel through various areas in Cambodia and Vietnam, countries that I had visited earlier on in my trip. A perfect ending before heading back home to California.