the wonders of Indonesia series 1 – day 1 from Jakarta airport to Gunung Gede

There seemed to be a special magic power that made our every single trip to Indonesia brimming with excitement. The first time was when Toni first came to Singapore, eight days before my new semester started. We took a ferry to Batam, but soon found it boring enough to convince us to opt for what seemed to be the only alternative – another ferry to Sumatra. It was truly a spontaneous trip and brought many fond memories to us. A few weeks later we spent four days in Bintan, where we stayed in a wooden hut at the edge of a long beach and drank many coconuts. We didn’t go to Indonesia again for a long time after that, partly because we had to pay for the visa-on-arrival, partly because Malaysia was even more accessible. But our experiences in Malaysia was somehow always tainted by the jammed causeway links and ugly rubber plantations. This year, when the announcement about an additional jubilee national holiday was made public, we immediately started searching for the cheapest flight ticket to anywhere out of Singapore. It turned out that prices to many places shot up but Jakarta was not one of them. This could very well be a telltale sign that Jakarta was not that popular with tourists for some reason, but we still decided to book the flight after spotting some volcanoes close to it on Googlemap. Moreover, the Indonesian government opened the border for free for Chinese and German nationals recently, so we accepted the sweet deal and ventured again to the land of excitement – Indonesia.

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Figure 1: view from the plane with filtered objective

Once we arrived at the airport, we took a long journey bus to Bogor immediately, thanks to some of the patient bloggers who listed down many detailed instructions on how to get to various hiking destinations near Jakarta. They talked about many points of transit from Bogor to Gunung Gede, and I expected a lot of challenges from getting off from the right point and getting on the right bus again. Somehow we missed the drop-off point a few times, but it didn’t create any trouble in the end because the road was always full of buses. In fact, there might be more buses than the number of private cars and motorcycles combined, and they were perhaps the main reason for the horrible traffic jam at any time of the day. Of course, they were not the conventional buses, but some partially privately owned, self-modified vans. People from all over – women with babies, school children, street food vendors – took them, sometimes only to get off after 100 meters. One mystery which continued to haunt us was the bus fare, because everyone seemed to know how much to pay, and the bus driver accepted them without even looking at the amount. This made it impossible for us to know the correct fare without asking, and we endured several waves of emotional turbulence when we were charged an exorbitant amount (fine, maybe 10 dollars for both of us) for an apparently short journey, just after we exclaimed at the peanut amount we paid for a much longer distance.

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Figure 2: a typical “bus”

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Figure 3: the perpetual traffic jam

It took us almost eight hours to finally arrive Gunung Gede. The temperature was a bit lower because of the higher altitude, and I secretly thought how freezing it must be for Indonesians who already wore some winter jackets at the bottom of the hill (see the motorcyclists on the picture above). [On a side note, our mountain guide once wore a pair of gloves yet was still shivering when we were hiking up Mount Marapi. He also hugged Toni tightly when we slept in the tent to get some warmth~]

The entrance to the national park appeared more like a market, with villagers selling all kinds of fresh vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers), fruits (avocado, banana, a kind of special root, strawberries), cooked food (fried tofu, rice wrapped in green leaves), toys and clothes. Our lethargy from the lengthy and tedious bus ride disappeared, and our nerves were stimulated by the fresh and crisp air. Unfortunately the second park entrance was already closed, but thanks to that, we unknowingly walked into the park without having to pay for the first entrance fee, which was quite a significant amount for foreigners. We camped on a golf course sandwiched between the first and second entrance of the park, and spent the rest of the evening marveling at the biodiversity of our campsite, hardly thinking what awaited ahead of us in the next few days.

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Figure 4: we pitched our tent on a golf course

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Figure 5: campsite – an ant with a scary rear weapon

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Figure 6: campsite – a colorful ladybug

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Figure 7: campsite – a heart shaped flower

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Figure 8: campsite – grasshopper

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Figure 9: campsite – cocoon

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Figure 10: campsite – butterfly

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Figure 11: campsite – fly

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Figure 12: campsite – lizard

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Figure 13: we enjoyed an orange sunrise the next morning

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Figure 14: Gunung Pangrango (another volcano) viewed from our campsite

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Figure 15: the colorful jungle

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