Well Guys n’ Gals, it’s our last weekend in Jakarta for a while so Pedro (who is currently going ape shit trying to write University programmes, plus keeping campus development on track) suggested that we get away from the pandemonium of Jakarta and find a quiet place to stay for this weekend. Bogor was his first choice, as it is about one hour’s drive away.
Bogor has been on our ‘places to visit’ list for a while, not least because my old mate (see Ernest Hemingway and the Runaway Tiger) Sir Stamford Raffles described it once as ‘A romantic little village’. These days Stamford’s ‘romantic’ vision of the place has quite clearly flown out of the window as it’s now just a busy sprawling suburb of Jakarta. It does however boast a world class Botanical garden that was first cultivated by Stamford himself, and then later re-designed and developed by the Dutch botanist Professor Reinwardt. Bogor’s other majorly big selling point is its moniker as ‘The City of Rain’. Apparently it has 322 thunderstorms a year and at 1,500 above sea level, it’s a lot cooler, and less humid than Jakarta.(Certainly as I write this, it seems so, but I’m just a tad disappointed that we haven’t had a thunderstorm yet.)
So last Thursday, Pedro looked, then booked, on the Internet, a ‘very nice hotel’ in ‘Bogor’ that proudly boasted not one, but three restaurants, WiFi throughout, and all mod cons. In other words, the perfect place for us to hole up for 2 days and do some writing, drawing, and generally chill out before we start our four week trip away to the UK and the States.
Farjar picked us up early on Friday afternoon and we were soon on the four-lane toll road and speeding out of Jakarta. Within half an hour we were in green Indonesian countryside, and within the hour, we were queuing to get off the toll road and squeeze into just the one traffic lane, which was the approach into Bogor. (Fridays are chaos here as the entire world, and his wife, wants to leave Jakarta and go away for the weekend, so the road into Bogor was something else). As we crawled along at snails pace there were countless hawkers walking in between the cars, tapping on car windows and urging the restless, stagnant traffic into buying snacks, drinks, bananas, sweets etc. Amongst the hawkers there were also beggars, and cripples, some of whom were so deformed, it was heart breaking. Young mothers with their tiny babies, men with no legs strapped to makeshift skate boards, the sick, the lame and the blind. They were all there, each and every one of them, hoping beyond hope, to try and extract some money, any money, from the incoming ‘Rich’ Bogor traffic. Despite the desperateness of the situation, I did have to laugh as there was a hawker man carrying a load of bananas who obviously needed to relieve himself badly. He quickly darted out of the traffic, hung his string of bananas on a tree branch, and then dived into a bush to do whatever it was that needed to be done….
By this stage we had been traveling for 2 hours or more, and I didn’t dare to ask Farjar how much longer it might be till we got to our hotel. The main road into Bogor started to seem interminable. Each side of it was littered with tiny stalls and shack like shops selling fruit and vegetables, amongst which, bananas of every size and every dimension, snacks of every description, car batteries, tyres, and sweets. A motley array of everything. Tiny, empty, Padang restaurants with filthy fronts, and graying fly screens, presenting various cooked foods in their windows which were covered in a million blue bottle flies. Men, women and children, all hanging about, either standing, or sitting amidst the fumes and the dust – it was just like a scene from my favourite book, ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry. As we crawled along I was like a sponge soaking up what was happening around me. I was fascinated to see how many mothers there were, picking lice out of their children’s hair, and it reminded me of when mine were small, doing just the same thing, but maybe not quite so publicly.
Suddenly we were on the other side of the town, and quite literally climbing up, and out of Bogor. The road started to snake, twist, and then rise rapidly. The hullabaloo of Bogor became far behind us as Farjar drove us up, and up again, through tea plantation after tea plantation. We climbed so high that our ears began to pop but still there were no signs of our ‘Bogor’ Hotel. By now we had reached the summit of the pass and were starting to descend. My fantasy Bogor hotel in a tea plantation was rapidly beginning to evaporate as we then started the descent into what seemed like ‘Motel Hell’ 20kms out of Bogor.
Eventually, 3.5 hours after we left Jakarta, we arrived at our final destination. Farjar bade us farewell and then sped off into the night as Pedro and I went inside to check-in. The first thing that struck me on our arrival was the very vocal prayer room just adjacent to the lobby. The next thing that I noticed was the very large sign advertising ‘MOCKTAILS’. As Pedro handed over his passport and filled in the myriad forms and slips that are all part of the check-in procedure, I, on the other hand, was about to have a major coronary and a serious paddy. Could we possibly have landed ourselves in a ‘Dry Hotel’? a million miles from fucking nowhere, with no umbrella, and no transport.
ME – to PEDRO – ‘I thought that you’d said this was ‘a very nice hotel?’ –
PEDRO – ‘Yes, it is a very nice hotel Lottie’ –
ME – ‘No, it’s not! It’s horrible. I don’t think they serve alcohol!’ –
PEDRO – ‘Calm down, let’s go to our room and check out the mini-bar’.
ME, – (on getting to our room, and checking out mini bar immediately) ‘Oh Fucking brilliant, Pedro, Congratulations … we have one can of coke between us, and one bottle of water’.
PEDRO – Nervously ‘Ok, don’t panic, I will walk back to Bogor’.
ME – ‘Like Fuck you will, it’s bloody miles from here’
Except it gets worse…. We then wanted to eat. Staggering back up from our room to the hotel foyer to enquire about the 3 restaurants, we were told by the lady at reception, that ‘A GROUP’ had booked the entire hotel for the night. Now exhausted, running out of steam fast and with a total sense of humour failure, I immediately demanded to see the Hotel Manager.
HOTEL MANAGER – ‘May we suggest that you eat in your room Sir/Madam?’
Me – ‘WHAT?!!’ What the fuck do you mean? …. You cannot be serious?’ (By this stage I was actually losing the will to live).
PEDRO – To HOTEL MANAGER – ‘Where else can we eat, apart from our bedroom?’
HOTEL MANAGER – ‘Here in the Hotel foyer Sir, OR, outside’
ME – ‘Outside in the car park? Yes, that’ll be just fine thank you, thanks a bunch with all the mosquito’s and serious risk of Denge fever’
PEDRO – ‘Lottieness, I will still walk back to Bogor to get you some beer’
ME – ‘No way Jose’, I’m absolutely determined to find a drink here in this ‘lovely’ hotel that you promised me’
ME – (to Hotel Manager) – ‘Excuse me, I don’t wish to be difficult (I actually wanted to wring his neck by now) but, you tell us now that we can’t eat in any of the 3 restaurants due to ‘THE GROUP’, and that we now have to eat either in our bedroom, or, in the hotel car park, we don’t have any wifi in our room which was promised on your website, PLUS, and this is the really, REALLY important bit, we don’t have any ALCOHOL. I think it would be a really nice gesture if you gave us a reduction on our room rate for tonight please’ (I then told him a massive fib that I was a journalist, that it was our honeymoon, and also, that I would spread the ‘word’ about his wonderful hotel, if he treated us right)
HOTEL MANAGER – ‘I can get you beer, I PROMISE that I will get you beer, but you can’t use restaurants, nor the Poolside Bar, and you can’t use wifi in your room, only available in lobby because we don’t have wifi in all of hotel. I am sorry. You can have a reduction of 400,000 Indonesian Rupiahs’
ME – (by now on my knees with exhaustion, and plainly ‘losing face ‘as he didn’t believe a word of what I had said earlier) -‘Ummm, ok, so that’s 8 beers in Hotel prices, (equivalent to 18 beers in K Circle stores) and frankly Mr Manager it sucks, but I’m a desperate lush so I’ll take it’
HOTEL MANAGER – smiles.
PEDRO – ‘See Lottie, I told you it was a very nice hotel’.
ME – ‘The minute I get that beer my darling, I’ll agree with you’.
The rest as they say, is history.
P.S The one thing that I really wanted to eat on the Menu tonight (now that we are allowed back in from the car park and don’t have to skulk in our room) was ‘Banana Pizza’ (Banana, Mozzarella and Honey) and would you believe it, it wasn’t available.