Sunday, June 17, 2012

We landed around 6am in Hong Kong, and for a flight as long as it was, it didn't seem so bad. If the seats had been better, that would have really helped. They had some newfangled design where they didn't recline, but instead had a "ramp" (for lack of a better description) that slid down and forward to achieve a similar result. There were two problems with this. First, the ramp was not as comfortable as a regular seat. Second, for Justin, when the ramp slid forward, his knees went straight into the seat in front of him. Whatever, we were off the plane.

It was raining, or at least had been raining, in Hong Kong. When we came through here in 2005, it was horribly smoggy the first time and dark the second time, so this was actually the "best" view we had seen. But we still couldn't see much of anything on the hillsides. Because we were simply transferring, we didn't have to go through immigration, but did have to go through security again. We got some breakfast at a noodle place, deciding against Popeyes fried chicken. We walked around the shops in the terminal, but they were nearly all well beyond our price range - Tiffany, Armani, Cartier, Zegna, Prada and so on.

Unlike the relatively heterogeneous group of people on our plane to Hong Kong, we had a very interesting cross-section of people headed with us to Jakarta. There were some muslim people in headscarves, young people looking like they were going to connect to Bali and go to the beach, business travelers, and large families. We didn't really fit into any of these categories. We had been to Indonesia in 2005, but not to any of the main islands. We had gone to Batam and Bintan, two islands very close to Singapore. We took a ferry from Singapore to get there, which logistically was far easier than taking a flight to Jakarta and seeing places on Java. Also, since Java was south of the equator, it would have been it's rainy season, and we didn't want to get rained on. This year, we were going to Java during its dry season.

On the plane, Justin tried to watch Rum Diaries, but the audio kept alternating between French and English, making it indicipherable, so he watched the female Bourne movie, the one with the MMA fighter. It was okay, thankfully it didn't cost any money. We landed in Jakarta around 1pm, and had no problem with Visa or customs. Outside, we met our driver Agus and then our guide Sjarif.


We were headed west out to the west coast, the Anyer/Carita area. For some reason, however, we couldn't just go west from the airport. Instead we had to go north, then east, then south, then west, making a big 270 degree loop and getting stuck in Jakarta traffic in the process. The traffic was bad, but the landscaping was very nice, with lots of flowers, palm trees, and other greenery everyhwere. It reminded us a bit of Manila, only nicer and with better roads. Once we started heading west, the road cleared up considerably. It got even better a bit after Tangerang, where there were lots of soccer supporters getting off of the road. Sjarif told us we had 3 hours left, which didn't make any sense given how close we already were to coast. But after we got off highway and headed towards Anyer, pavement gave way to dirt roads. Also, there were numerous places where paving was happening on one side of the road, making the street one lane only, meaning one side would have to wait for minutes at a time.

It was a bit odd that the roads were so bad, given that there were several large factories in the area that presumably would have wanted/needed better roads. Krakatau Steel was essentially its own city, with housing areas, hospitals, schools, etc. There was also a big cement factory and a big sugar refinery. The roads were now full of motorbikes, which could navigate the bad roads much easier. When we finally got to Anyer, we asked how long it would take to get to the old Anyer lighthouse. Sjarif told us an hour, and asked us if we wanted to risk it being dark by the time we got there. Since we'd been flying for close to 17 hours and in the car for 4 hours for the sole purpose of seeing the lighthouse, we said yes. Ironically, we were there 10 minutes later.

The Anyer lighthouse was one of the most famous reminders of the Krakatau (Krakatoa) eruption in August 1883. The tsunami(s) that resulted from the volcano blowing itself to bits was over 100 feet tall when it hit the Anyer coastline, and it knocked the lighthouse to the ground. Now being there, it was amazing to see the remnants. The old lighthouse had extremely thick walls made of brick and cement, several feet across. Chunks of the old lighthouse were still in the vicinity and the facts those old remnants were still in large chunks 129 years later, after being hit by the surf for that many years, was a good indication of how well constructed it was. Yet the tsunamis broke the lighthouse to bits, like a kid throwing his lego set on the ground.

The new lighthouse - constructed out of thick steel, by the way - stands just 100 feet or so from the base of the old lighthouse (which is just to the left of the small wooden pier). We took a long walk to the top, with a great (albeit hazy) view from the top. Looking all around and seeing rice paddies, homes, forest, it was quite sobering to know that literally everything had been wiped out in 1883. Sjarif told us that occasionally farmers in the area would still find sand and coral well onshore when tilling the soil.

Just as the sun was setting, we arrived at our hotel, the Regal Raya Cottages. Our room was huge, with two bedrooms and a large living area. We put our stuff down, then got dinner. There were some mosquitoes at dinner, but otherwise good, with some authentic Indonesian food (Nasi Goreng Ayam - fried rice with chicken, and Ayam Goreng - fried chicken). We went back to the room and got to sleep around 8:30 - not too bad for getting acclimated.