Beast in a Box (Again)

Well, the ‘slow boat from Jakarta’ plan didn’t work out.

It proved to be too many things: too complicated (the Beast being treated as cargo and sent separately); too time-consuming (endless running between offices near the port); too tiring (language barriers and miming can wear you out) and too relatively expensive (24 hrs on the ship would cost the same as the ridiculously cheap hop between Jakarta and Singapore).

And so I flew the Indonesian coop this morning, popped back into the northern hemisphere (just), and arrived safely in Singapore just over an hour after leaving Jakarta.  The Beast, while whining as usual about being dismantled and packed in cardboard, appears to have survived once again.  I’ll know for sure when I put it back together tomorrow.

I did have time for a poke around the more monumental end of Jakarta before I left.  It reminded me a bit of some cities in the Former Soviet Union (albeit without the same apparent risk of being topped for being rude about the government), or maybe North Korea, with everything laid out neatly and then massively oversized to emphasise the importance of the place.  The Istiqlal Mosque (above) is hard to get a scale on.  My estimate is that the vertical part (below the dome) is about seven or eight storeys high.  It’s a big mosque.

It’s a little easier to appreciate the largeness of the National Monument.  It’s a monster.  And the enormous, carefully tended park around it was an idyllic setting for families enjoying a Sunday stroll yesterday.  Or at least it would have been, if it weren’t for the fleets of hired mini-motorcycles being raced around and around by manic, grinning teenagers.

Now, I’ve seen so many abused bicycles in Indonesia, overloaded to breaking point to carry everything from reeds to dumpling stalls to multiple sacks of rice, that I felt it was time to expose the practice (although, sadly, I suspect that simply pointing it out will not stop the exploitation).

I’ve switched off my hypocrisy filter, by the way.  The Beast actively enjoys being loaded until it creaks and then thrashed across thousands of miles of mountains, deserts and crumbling tarmac.  Honest.


Anyway, this pitiful example was being used as a coffee shop in central Jakarta by a particularly villainous owner.  An owner who insisted on being photographed with his poor, worn out victim.  And then tried to charge me five US dollars for a coffee to cover his modelling expenses.  Bearing in mind that the normal price of a coffee is 5000Rp (around 40 US cents), and that $5 will buy you a meal in a decent restaurant, I declined his kind invitation, and gave him a twenty percent tip on the coffee instead.  I didn’t want a picture with his mug in it anyway.

For the first time on this entire trip, I walked away from a conversation with what I can only assume were carefully selected curses and threats ringing in my ears.  I wasn’t looking back, but I reckon there were probably some less-than-flattering hand signals involved, too.

In fairness, he was the first and only unpleasant human being that I met in Indonesia, which only accentuates how lovely people generally were there.

Let’s hope that Singapore, Malaysia and points further north are as interesting, and the people as nice, as Indonesia has managed in the last month (though preferably with slightly better roads and less manic traffic).



  1. Hi Tim the roads you are taking are so varied, not just in their condition and altitude, but also empty of traffic or dangerously overcrowded. Singapore your next port of call also mistreat and overload their bicycles/tricycles Uncle H and I being conveyed down a three lane motorway squeezed into the covered seat for two is a memory which will never be forgotten by us, or the very slight gentleman who insisted he could manage us….and did. Take care. Much love E&H xx

    1. Yep, lots of hard working bikes all over SE Asia, I reckon. Not been to Singapore for a few years, but the traffic’s quite a lot calmer here, and the streets well-maintained. Not sure if that continues into Malaysia, though…

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