Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Even though we could have slept in, we couldn't, getting up a little after 6. We watched some TV (our go-to is usually BBC, so we can get some sort of an idea of what's going on in the world). Crystal was fixated on an arrow on the ceiling, wondering what it was for and what is was pointing to. For breakfast there was a very nice buffet, one of the nicer ones we've seen on our travels. Interestingly, the "gold standard" was at the first hotel we stayed at on our first big trip, the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur. We still can't think of anywhere that was more complete. This place was nice because it was essentially outside, covered by a big ceiling but open on the sides. Thankfully no mosquitoes seemed to be present.

We got to the botanic garden at 9. We had hoped to come here in 2005, but didn't have time (plus it would have been the wet season). The garden is well over 100 years old, and is famous for its numerous old specimens. After we parked, Sjarif momentarily stepped away for a bit, and we checked out the map to see how the garden was laid out. When Sjarif returned, he had a guide with him, which we weren't expecting. The guide was very nice, very knowledgeable, but we had very limited time (this was our only day in Bogor) and most of what he was telling us about were plants we already had in Vista and/or Pahoa.

The tour witht he guide ended at around 11:30, and Sjarif wanted to head out then. But we hadn't seen any of the stuff that we really wanted to see, and so Justin said we wanted to walk around on own, asking to stay until 5. Sjarif said that wasn't really feasible because of traffic issues we'd have getting to the hotel in Jakarta that night, so after some back and forth, we settled on 3. On our own, we started by walking around the palm and bamboo areas, then walked around other areas. On the same grounds as the botanic gardens is a Presidential Palace (there are about a half dozen in different places throughout Indonesia), and we checked that out as well - at least from afar. Everywhere we went, people were trying to get our attention, presumably because we were gringoes. This was all very flattering, but when it happens every 30 seconds (seriously), it makes it hard to see or do anything else.

Around 1 we got lunch, thinking we had walked the perimeter of everything. We got some fried chicken that came with some sauces on the side. Crystal tried one - which was very hot - and said "That's not ketchup." After lunch, we made a point of walking towards the orchid garden, not sure how we didn't see it on our morning walk, and figured out that we had walked only half of everything. This was a big bummer, because we took extra time at lunch, figuring we had very little left to see.

So we sort of rushed through the other half, looking for anything that really stood out. We saw a Baobab tree, which was just starting to look Baobab-ish. While wandering around on the paths, Crystal had an epiphany of what the arrow in the hotel room meant. She surmised (correctly) that it was pointing to Mecca, so that Muslims would know which way to face at prayer time.

At one point a group of people made gesture asking us to take photo, and we agreed, only for them to stand next to us and take pictures with us. We figured they wanted us to take a picture of them. It was a little odd, but we sort of felt like rockstars. We did see the orchid garden (which was nice, but not as nice as Akatsuka Orchid Garden not far from us on Hawaii), and the weather was top notch. It was too bad we had to leave when we did - we never did find any of the flowering trees, although that could have been because none of them were in bloom at this time of year.

We headed out just after 3, and the drive was much shorter, with "better" traffic, than the day before. On the drive we talked with Sjarif about numerous things, from Indonesian terrorism to American sports to him living in Saudi Arabia (working at McDonalds) for 3 years after graduating from University to utilize his Arabic degree. He told us that there are five "official" religions in Indonesia - this struck us as very odd. To us, it would make sense to have one official religion or infinite official religions, but anything in between comes across as fairly arbitrary.

We got to our hotel (the Sheraton Bandara) around 5. There was a large front gate, and there were metal detectors for the car, plus one of the employees walked around the perimeter of the car with a mirror for looking at the underside. We had seen the same thing the night before in Bogor, which made us curious whether there was something we needed to be aware of. We were staying at the Sheraton on points, because we had a ton of Starwood points. Justin traveled a ton in 2011, and managed to make Platinum for Starwood for 50+ nights. What's truly sad is that those 50+ nights did not include any of the six weeks of trials he had in Texas during the summer - so overall he was closer to 100 nights, and that's before time in Pahoa and time in Madagascar - all told he was gone from Vista just shy of half the calendar year.

Anyway, the Sheraton Bandara didn't seem to get Platinum guests very often - within 3 minutes both the shift manager and the General Manager had showed up to offer business cards and offer to help however possible. So, for one day at least, we really did feel like rockstars. We went to our suite (we got upgraded) and got cleaned up, got on the internet, watched some TV. At dinner, we were one of the few guests. We spent an inordinately long time figuring out exactly how big a 240 gram steak was (not sure what took us so long), got a couple drinks (no relation to figuring out the steak weight), and enjoyed our dinner in total solitude, unlike the rest of the day. After dinner we went to get some drinks in the bar, where there was a piano player and a singer with us being the only patrons, so it was weird.