Djakarta, Bandoeng & Pak Badroel
March 11, 2009

For the past few months, I've been the subject of my friends' merciless ridicule. My trips to Bali and Bangkok, with six other guys (three on each occasion, thankfully) have provided an avenue for them to make fun of me; mainly on issues relating to my sexual orientation.

A ‘sausage fest wizard' I was called, once. And on a more ruthless occasion, ‘Richard Simmons'. Their name calling spree forced me to reach an ultimatum. I couldn't bear enduring the look of joy and satisfaction on their faces as my dignity is being made an article of mockery. I had to make a stand and vowed to convey just that on my next trip. I shall nevermore travel with three other guys no matter how confident we are with our masculinity. For society (i.e. my idiot friends) will never tire from deliberately misconstruing the truth.

And so I flew to Jakarta and Bandung, with four other guys.

Brotherhood of the Traveling Di..nevermind

Just as any other journeys, I didn't quite know what to expect of Jakarta. At least the stories I've heard of Bandung have all been pleasant: great shopping, beautiful girls, historic architecture, stunning ladies, scenic views, mind-boggling, ridiculously attractive looking women, so on and so forth. The narratives that I've read on Jakarta have ironically been anything but explanatory; especially for the most populated capital in the region. Perhaps the mysteries of the city are only for its visitors to unearth. And what better way to do so than exploring the food.

It's quite safe to say that you can never go wrong with Indonesian food. As my good friend and fellow traveler Ali put it, "The mixture of various flavors challenges the tongue, putting it to the ultimate test as the different taste buds are pushed to its limit through..." I forgot the rest. I was a little too busy gorging down Nasi Padang when he was about to finish the sentence.

The art of enjoying Nasi Padang never fail to fascinate me. Your food is served even before you could land your behind on the chair after the waiter races you to your table. This, however, seemed a bit discomforting for our friend of 10 years, Badol, the more competitive one of the lot. After securing his seat and winning the race with the waiter, he orchestrates the distribution of the different side dishes on the table. "Anyone fancy this one? No? Alright, let me put it aside. How about that one? Roger that." he said, putting on a curiously focused frown as if the plates were artillery tanks on a WWII map.

"Right. Now follow my lead boys..."

Certainly, his expertise didn't come without a price. The amount of travesty he suffered during our Bali trip -- after he had to force himself into finishing a bowl of cow spleen gravy -- appear to have matured him, somewhat. Our boy is all grown up.

Full from consuming food possibly surmounting the amount required to feed a considerably dense city (e.g. Tokyo), we leaned on our backs, smiling in contentment. The waiter soon swung by again to lay two huge bowls of fruits; always a pleasant surprise. "Let's gobble upon this one bowl first. Don't wanna waste food and be charged for both bowls now, do we?" said ourselves to each other, in the form of gestures. Perhaps still celebrating the liberation in finally not screwing up a Nasi Padang meal (which frustrated me, oddly enough), Badol paid little attention, wasted no time, and swiftly delve into, yes, the other bowl. Tears fell down my cheek as the decibels of my laughter matches that of the traffic outside. All is not lost.

Screwing things up... one meal at a time

As a measure of getting the landmarks visit out of the way, we dropped by the National Monument a.k.a. Monas, spending a few minutes snapping pictures, and a few dozen other figuring out where to go next. Since a lot have been said about the malls of Jakarta, we made our way to Grand Indonesia and Plaza Jakarta, where the nearby roundabout statue is a familiar sight of the capital as well. Little that we know, we were about to be introduced to another iconic symbol of the city on the way there. I am referring to, of course, the traffic jam.

There goes half of the website's traffic

The locals call it macet, pronounced "MAH-chet", which literally means ‘road congestion' or ‘hell' depending on its severity. The Jakarta traffic jam is by far the worst I've ever been in. And this, coming from a guy who grew up crossing a congested traffic to go from his class to the canteen during recess. It dwarfs the KL traffic and makes Bangkok look like 3am traffic all day long. Vehicles roam freely no matter how much supervision they seemed to be under. The lines on the road are being made to look like nothing more than mere decorations. Motorbikes squeezing through the tightest of spaces, such as a truck's mud guard, is not a rare sight. Why the Dakar Rally is never won by an Indonesian is beyond me.

Well it does sound right phonically

There were times when we would be in a total standstill, even when the lights are green; all too inevitable for such a chaotic phenomenon. It was during these idle moments, though, that a few other things moved, our hearts. From the windows of our Toyota Kijang, we had a first-hand encounter with the reality of the metropolitan's social gap. It's disheartening to experience two extremities being separated just by the seconds of a head's turn. You could have a 5-star hotel standing tall, scraping the sky on your left while 180 degrees away, barefooted kids are splashing on a puddle overlooking the slum they call home. Their smiles and laughter, only misfits to the depressing state of the sight.

We made our way to Bandung at around 8am the next day. After a grueling 16 hour ride (2 hour drive + 14 hour macet), we arrived in the city the Dutch once called Parijs van Java (you know what it means) in one piece. Our necks however, were in at least a few dozen pieces. Not from the bumpy road leading up to the high altitude town, but from turning out heads around... ogling at the beauties along the roadside. Truth be told, the accounts on the people of Bandung's exquisiteness is no myth. The reality behind Ali's story about one of them smiling at him, on the other hand, remains a mystery.

Our apologies for ruining the day's business

I, for one, felt a bit uninformed as we journeyed deeper into Bandung. Crossing the plethora of colonial structures under the shady trees, we arrived at an area which seemed a lot like home to me. It wasn't the buildings nor the food or weather that felt Malaysian. It was more of the people. The way they looked, dressed and talked; there appeared to be a reasonably large Malaysian community over there. I am of course, referring to the factory outlets. Throw a stone there and you would most likely hit a Malaysian. And while you're at it, why don't you throw one at Badol as well if you spot him somewhere, taking his own sweet time browsing through the clothing as we wait for him outside for a few eons before he comes out with nothing because, and I quote, "I wanna browse the other stores first..."

On that note, men, be prepared to camp outside the stores while waiting for your better halves to finish browsing. The same applies to you ladies too should any of you actually, end up tying the knot with my very considerate friend Badol.

$10 says the Sttellone truck was heading this way

We had the pleasure of trying more local delicacies around Bandung. The bunch of them, coming from various parts of Indonesia such as Surabaya, Jogjakarta and Kampung Pandan. Our approach was quite simple really: 1) Open up the menu 2) Pick the ones with the weirdest sounding names and of course 3) Don't sit too close to Shamir or risk half of your portion vanishing into his tummy. We tried it all... Nasi Timbel, Nasi Gundeng, Oncom, Nasi Liwet, Gurami Kipas, Pempek Kapal Selam Adaan, Marang Kerapu Kepunden Marang Sekeper and, -- I'm pretty sure this one never made its way into the state of Kelantan -- Mee Kocok.

"Mee ni make nga sabun ko guano?"

Rather knackered from tormenting our digestive systems, we headed up to Mt. Tangkuban Perahu on the second day in Bandung. It was a rather calm climb, going up the hills. The cool and breezy air had us winding the windows down to enjoy the sceneries. What really caught my eyes nevertheless, were the cute little wooden shacks underneath the green trees, lining up all the way up to the peak. The special thing about these charming huts were the adorable bunnies they had hopping and wandering amiably as they munch on their greens. Curiosity crept into me to inquire further about the locals' fascination on keeping rabbits as pets. Before the driver's explanation shattered my heart into a million little pieces.

"Ha, bapak... di bahu jalan ini semuanya kedai Sate Kelinci. Boleh dipilih terus akan disembelih terus dibuat sate dagingnya. Bisa dipilih mahu-in besar mana dagingnya pak. Bagus ni pak, sedap sekali! Segar bangat pak!"

Having pictures of Bugs Bunny on the huts' banners wasn't really necessary then. I'm still shaking at this point of writing.

I don't know... make up your own caption

Our three night stint at the neighboring country ended on a pretty quiet Monday morning. It's always the same, somber mood no matter where we're taking off from. In essence, nonetheless, it has got nothing to do with going home. The sense of relief is always there as home, is where the heart is. Where the heart would cringe in going to, on the other hand, is the office. Yet again, gone will be days where we'll be able to laugh at our phones as they ring, conveniently leaving us the liberty of ignoring calls from the office.

Pak Sahril beramah mesra sama rakan sebaya

I still couldn't sum up the trip even after thoroughly putting my mind into it. Maybe too many things went on in little portions of incidents. Maybe four days weren't enough. Maybe I needed more time to absorb into the culture and mingle more with the people. Forget the middle-upper class urbanites revving their Escalades and Hummers around town. I want to talk to that kid playing the violin in front of the cars when the lights turn red. I want to plug in my guitar and jam with that mobile Dangdut band by the street. I want to just sit down at the stall, eat Bakso until I'm full and pass out after only one suck at an unfiltered Dji Sam Soe ("Janji sampe soerga!"). I want to know more. I need to know more.

Nothing more on Sate Kelinci, though.

Me so ronery me love you long time


ko memang genius serih.

badol lagi genius.

Nicely written, well put thoughts .... tapi ada jugak muka sombong dua orang yg aku tak puas hati.. takpa2 hari ni hari rabu.. esok hari khamis... takpa2

Oi mnate mano delete gambar ko ngan ali kene tangkap basah ... celake tol senyap2 delete .. kalau x kompem aku upload ke facebook .. title "Melayu lepas main"

tak pegi java jazz ke?:)

I think you have to have dignity first before it could be mocked.

Oh snap, son!

fuck u guys!

Judd: Iiiiiiyeeeeeer aa tuh...

Ali: Betul betul... takpe takpe... hari ni hari dia... esok hari Khamis... lusa Jumaat lak... bila hari aku nya?! Argh!

Badol: Aku tak paham apa ko cakap ni. Proper BM or English please.

Kawan Nad yang mana ni?: Tak pegi. Dah sampai Jakarta, layan Dangdut. :-)

Snoop: Aw, he's so unpredictable ain't he Ali?

Nali: Abe bekeng, bakpo maroh nyo Abe... jange gitu. Nanti turun darat royak deh.

baru perasan the caption of the last pic. say it like the japs - 'me so ronery me rove u rong time'.. haha :P

ha, jom la ikut gi KK lak kalo nak ada chicas :p

serih. i envy your writing. beci ah. dekki. serro nok tutup jah blog bimbo aku tuh.

lama aku tak komen blog ko serih. komen aku sama cam komen pertama.

Serih. Genius. Period.

Kawan Nad jugak, tapi yang mana?: Five dorra!

Amal: I'm there... if Diana is. Well, she is, always on my mind, anyway.

Azah: Jange gitu... Judd every morning nok keno baco blog mu dulu baru buleh start kijo. :-)

Pie: Kau terlalu murah hati.

haha. yarrite..

seems like reading an article written by malay anthony bourdain...seriously!

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Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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