Before Yogyakarta: The Arrival at Jakarta

I always worry about passing immigration since this experience in Hong Kong a couple of years ago, that it was my biggest worry for this trip to Indonesia. Since I've tried being a freelancer for a few months now, I don't have any company ID to show anymore. So as I arrived at NAIA Terminal 3 it was all I'm thinking about it. As I line up to pay for the expensive travel tax, I got distracted by this Spanish looking mestiza girl in front of me. I quickly assumed she's either going to Bali or Phuket. That's why when I saw her again with her friend lining up at the check-in counter going to Jakarta I was a bit surprised.

I wonder if they are also going to Yogyakarta but I took a peek on the papers on her hand, I saw printed photographs of places and a print out of things to do in Jakarta. I thought about butting in and pitching the idea of going with me instead to Yogyakarta. But, the thought of creeping them out shelved that idea. We started boarding just before 9pm and left a few minutes after that. Jakarta is one hour behind our timezone so we arrived there just a few clicks before midnight. Senator Bam Aquino was on our flight as well, taking advantage of piso fares I guess, but later on I saw his twitter and found out he attended an Anti-Poverty Conference in Jakarta. While on the plane with nothing to do I tried reading a few digital pages of Murakami's "After Dark" before I dozed off.

I woke up just in time to see the bright lights of Jakarta from my window seat, soon the excitement of being in a foreign city shoot up and as I stretched my feet I turned around to check on the two girls I saw earlier. I still wish they're also Yogyakarta bound. The woman beside me asked where I'm headed. I told her and asked her the same thing. She's a Filipina OFW and her husband will pick her up at the airport. She offered to take me in for a hitch but they are headed towards the opposite of Central Jakarta where Gambir Station is located, so I politely thanked her and told her I will just wait for the first bus.


I was one of the first few people out of the plane, I even saw Senator Aquino lining up at the assigned lane for those with diplomatic passports. Even the immigration was a walk in the park, no questions asked. I was glad and happy to be stepping foot in another city in South East Asia. By this time, I gave up stalking the two girls as I expect them to be heading out to a 3 or 5-star hotel in Jakarta. I walked out of the arrival hall and was instantly greeted by cab drivers. I've read about the proper cab fares as well as the scam fares. I figured I've nothing to do at Gambir Station because it opens at 5am, I might as well hang around somewhere in the airport.

A man approached me and asked me my destination. I said "Gambir". "I take you to Gambir, 250,000" he told me. I answered "So expensive". So he asked me "How much you wanna pay?". Just to make him leave me alone, I said "100,000". He smiled at me and said something. I figured it must be a Bahasa phrase which means "100,000 get outta here". So I smiled back and said, "See, I'm cheap, I've no money". While they're intention is to rip you off, just like in every airports around South East Asia and probably the rest of the world, they don't throw tantrums if you resist them. Just simply say a firm "No" and they'll leave you alone.

I walked further ahead outside Terminal 2 and found the waiting shed for the Damri buses, it has clean benches, well lighted and has two wide screen TV's to keep one entertained. I waited there from 1am until when the first bus going to Gambir station arrived a little past 4am. I was so sleepy at that point but the feeling of finally being in Jakarta and a few more hours to Yogyakarta made me awake in glee. I thought about the Spanish looking girl at the airport, she and her friend must be sleeping soundly in a posh hotel that time. I wonder if I let out an opportunity of inviting them to travel with me to Yogyakarta slip away. It dawned on me that I am traveling by myself, a bit of loneliness crept in.

I wish my friends who were supposed to join me on this trip made it without conflicts on their schedule. I tried to sleep it off, I think i did for a few minutes until I was woken up by a man touching my knee. He was motioning "Gambir bus Gambir bus, you waiting for Gambir bus?"

I said "Yes". He pointed me the bus with the Gambir sign telling me "Bus is leaving". I hurriedly got up and thanked him and off I hopped inside the bus. There were only one other passenger aside from me. An hour later I arrived at Gambir station and suddenly the lonely feeling of traveling by myself vanishes and was replaced by the exuberant anticipation of my first long-haul train ride.

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