To get familiar with some more of the Indonesian habits we decide to stay in for a couple of days. After all this time in Malaysia it is quite a bit getting used to, Indonesia really is something else. Semarang is a nice lively city with some interesting sights. The Sam Koo Pong temple is worth a visit and while wandering around for two hours through the outskirts of the city we discover a tiny village on top of a hill that seconds as a graveyard. The graves spread out between the houses along small alleys, quite a nice place to be buried.
In the ‘old city’ district it’s like going back in time. A large number of buildings from the Portuguese and especially Dutch period have been preserved, but almost all have are abandoned. The Dutch slogans on the sagged facades are fun to decipher. The old theatre has fortunately got some love and attention and has been put to use an impressive gallery where an exhibition about the liberation of Java and the independence of Indonesia is being held. To make our trip through west and central Java a bit more comfortable we will leave half of our luggage at the hotel in Semarang. In our best Indonesian, which sticks to a couple of words after one week only, we hope that the staff has understood that we are going to pick up our backpack in about ‘tiga minggu’ again: in three weeks. With the night train we travel to Jakarta where we arrive at five o’clock in the morning. Enough time to spare to take a nap and breakfast at the station before we head out to find a room.
There is little left of the busy and chaotic Jakarta in the run-up to Idul Fitri. The second largest metropolis in the world Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangeran and Bekasi) has more than 30 million inhabitants, of which millions travel to their home grounds to celebrate the end of Ramadan with their families. Empty streets in an usually crowded Jakarta. According to a number of travellers in and around the guesthouse, travel is impossible in the coming days because all train, bus and flight tickets are sold out. We just wait patiently and in the meantime we explore the vast city. The old Batavia, now Kota and the old harbour are nice and contain a number of interesting museums, including the old town hall. Furthermore, the attractions in Jakarta are limited. A number of large mosques, a separate church, the primary school of Barack Obama and the large monument Monas, also called Soekarno’s final erection.
After Jakarta, Bogor is on our list, the ‘Bo’ of Jabodetabek. Although we are not able to get a seat in the train, the crowds are not that bad and we arrive in Bogor little over an hour after departure from Jakarta. After a short walk we pick a guesthouse on the edge of the centre. The rooms are basic (half a year ago we would probably have called them dirty), but the view over the city and the mountains around Bogor is very good. As usual, we wander around the city a bit, try to get lost in cosy, lively alleys and streets and discover a number of nice places. The next day we spend in the large botanical garden, founded in 1817 by Sir Stamford Raffles (who continues to haunt us since Malaysia) and, under the guidance of a number of Dutch and German botanists, has grown into one of the largest and most important gardens of south east Asia.
We notice in Bogor that the cities of Indonesia are making quite an impression and are in need of a more rural spot and some sea and beaches. We plan a route towards the beach of Pangandaran and decide to take the city of Bandung along with the local tourist hotspot Cipanas.