Tag Archives: Jakarta

Day 7: The Demon Masseuse – Jakarta

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On our second night in Jakarta, we were sat in a bar, sinking suds, watching the football.

I returned to our table with a fresh couple of beers.

“Hey Mike, do I look especially wretched, desperate and lonely tonight?”

“No more so than usual. Why?”

“Well, a fifth different prostitute has just offered me her services”

“Oh right. Maybe Jalan Jaksa is a seedy part of Jakarta? What did you say to her?”

“I politely told her that I am not yet wretched, desperate and lonely enough, and that she should either ask me in ten beers time or just come and ask you now”

Just as Michael was about to reply, a couple of pretty looking girls came over to our table. Except for the fact that one of them looked Indonesian and one looked Chinese, they both shared similar features: a bright smile, dimpled at the cheeks; long shiny black hair and a potent pair of dark chocolate eyes.

I lifted my eyebrow in Michael’s direction, as if to say:

“Careful, Michael, they could be ladies of the night”.

Michael furrowed his brow slightly and twitched his cheek, as if to say:

“I know, play it cool Rich. Let’s see what happens”. (We later discovered that the bar we were in was next door to a brothel)

“Hello, my name is Isabelle,” said the Indonesian looking one, the more confident of the two. “Is it ok if we sit down with you?”

“Yeah sure”

“My name is Christine”, said the one with Chinese features, as she sat down. Conversation started flowing and the girls told us they both worked in marketing. Oh yeah, I thought, here we go, what are they going to try and sell us. But they didn’t. They were just genuinely interested in coming over to talk to us. I kicked myself under the table for being so presumptuous. I kicked Michael, as well, just in case he had been too.

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For the next couple of days Christine took us under her wing and did a great job showing us Jakarta. Highlights included a trip to the zoo, trudging knee deep through putrid fish guts at the fish market and an excursion to the Cibodas Mountains, a welcome respite from the congested, urban sprawl of the city. We also experienced the uglier side of the Indonesian law enforcement’s character.

One night we were in a taxi with Christine when a police car, attracted by the silhouette of Michael’s western hairstyle, pulled us over. He demanded our passports and then, through Christine, commanded we go with him to the station.

For some reason, the officer’s attention was on me. I had apparently committed a misdemeanour and Christine pleaded with him for perhaps 15 minutes.

Eventually she paid him a sum of money, the value of which she never divulged. It was a constant struggle with Christine in regards to money. If she had had her way, we wouldn’t have ever paid for anything. At times, we literally had force money into her hands to maintain some kind of balance.

Without the bribe, she told us, I would have spent a night in the cells. This altercation was minor, however, and it paled into insignificance when compared to the next ordeal.

We decided we deserved a massage to relax are battered, travel weary limbs. We walking into a plush hotel-like reception, lit with red low level lighting around the side of the black room.

I was guided into the small massage room and I sat on the table eagerly awaiting my masseuse, when a little smiling woman, about 60 years old, tottered in.

I didn’t notice it at the time, but now I think about it I’m pretty sure she had sharp teeth, a fork tongue and the red fires of Satan in her eyes.

She started things off with some light pinching of my legs. This is weird, I thought. Little did I know she was about to unleash the full extent of her repertoire of playground bullying techniques.

After she’d tenderised me slightly with her girly, kiss-chase style, pinching, she started pummelling me with a series of brutal dead legs, right on the sweet spot. I bit my lip and braced myself as she pottered around to work on my arms where, with an iron grip, she literally started administering Chinese burns, the savagery of which would have made Genghis Khan wince, had he been there to witness them.

“You sleepy mister?” she mocked, before nearly lifting me off the table with a couple of nipple cripples. When she went to do my shoulders I half expected her to get me in a head lock and give me a noogie.

The she-demon did not offer me a famous “happy ending,” but if she did, I can only assume that it would have involved her standing over me, on all fours, before kneeing me square in each testicle with all her might. She then would have stood by the door with her hand out, expecting a tip; or, more likely, she would have demanded my lunch money and then given me a wedgie as I limped out of the door.

Somehow, despite this cruel and, yes, sometimes unusual torture inflicted upon me, I did not give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I did, however, have some residue sun-cream in my eye, so if that devil-woman starts gallivanting around town boasting about how she made one of the bulés cry, she’s a dam liar.

Of course, Michael loved his massage. In fact, his was such a bonding experience that I’m pretty sure I heard him offer his (male) masseuse a “happy ending” (this may not be true).

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Day 4-5: Suwarno – To Jakarta

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We waited at the lights until they turned red and then stepped out into the traffic asking each car in turn if we could join them.

“Turpan,” we’d mouth, pointing at our sign.

It wasn’t long before our actions roused the curiosity of some local children, who, once they understood our intentions, geared up to try to help. We had no idea what was about to happen as we waited for the lights to turn. The kids looked like relay sprinters about to receive the baton.

The light turned red and, well, it must have looked like some kind of riot. We looked on, jaws open, as the 8 or 9 kids ran through the traffic, knocking on car windows pointing at us, squawking, “TUBAN! TUBAN! TUBAN!” like hysterical banshees.

Considering the attention Michael and I get when we’re just being normal, the scene we were now apparently instigating, like a pair of moronic Fagins, predictably led to police intervention.

We heard a whistle from across the road and a policeman waved us over into a small police office, which happened to be nearby, and our passports were politely demanded. Not this time, I thought, as I contemplated the tedious game of charades that was about to ensue, and I handed them the letter from the Situbondo police.

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Not more than five minutes later, after they’d bought us some bottles of water, they set up a road block and practically forced any passing trucks, on their way to Tuban, to let us join them. We jumped in the back of a truck collared by the police.

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It was exactly the same kind of vehicle as the one we were in the day before, an empty wagon, except this one was dirtier and more exposed to the sun. The drivers, however, were less amenable and they stopped about half an hour later at a bus station and demanded we give them some money. After an argument regarding the extortionate amount they’d asked for, we eventually paid them a sum we felt was fair, and the driver marched into a police station, presumably to report us, and we were ushered inside by an officer.

We knew our routine by now though, and when the police asked us if we needed a bus, we just handed them our ‘golden ticket’ and, after a few obligatory refreshments, the third police force in two days set up a road block for us.

The fact that we were at a bus station, with most of the buses heading to Tuban, didn’t deter them in the slightest. Our eventual ride was with a small man in a round pair of glasses.

He initially seemed reluctant to have us in his cab but, as we later discovered, the Indonesian’s are rather fearful of the police and so he must have felt obliged to cooperate. We sat in the cab next to him and introduced ourselves.

“Suwarnooo” he boomed with a voice that contradicted his unimposing appearance. He was one of those people who look thin but have actually got a bit of a belly. Despite the fact that he spoke very little English, we still managed to have a non-stop conversation with him for the first three hours of the journey.

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He didn’t shout, but his voice always seemed to be raised. He spoke in a slow, methodical manner, always rolling his ‘Rs’ to an exaggerated extent. He like to repeat words and sentences a lot, despite the fact that we rarely understood them.

“Baaaliii!” he rumbled, when we asked him where he had driven from and we both cracked up with laughter as he performed a little dance whist fluttering his eyelashes, as he was driving, in imitation of Balinese Hinduism. He had driven his huge lorry full of motorbikes from Jakarta to Bali. As this was his return journey, his trailer was empty.

Suwarno was always pulling over his lorry to buy us things to ease our journey: water, tofu, fresh fruit juice and several meals. He refused to let us pay for anything and forcibly made sure everything was on him. At one point he pulled over to buy us some fruit juice neither of us had ever seen before.

I sniffed it tentatively. It was pale yellow in colour and had a curious, unenticing smell. Michael insisted it tasted a bit like sweet mouthwash whereas I thought it had a slightly nutty flavour. Whatever it was, we decided to finish it, not just in gratitude, but for the vitamins as well. (We later found out the juice was made from durian).

The traffic on the road between Surabaya and Jakarta was always busy. At times it felt like we cruising down a river teaming with life: the foliage that bordered the road had a tropical, almost aquatic feel. Suwarno’s lorry was constantly flanked by a gang of scooters, like pilot fish around a shark. Though the scooters seemed to be darting around the huge lorries and each other with a natural ease, the numerous accidents we saw on our journey suggested the dangers the road users were exposing themselves to.

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In Suwarno’s lorry though, the biggest beast on the road, we felt invincible; we felt safe. We drove past many flooded rice farms, as is the method of irrigation in this part of the world, and we contemplated how much rice must have to be produced to feed Java, the world’s most populated island.

Whenever we passed another lorry from the same company, Suwarno would inevitably stick his head out the window and yell “Touristas!!” in reference to Michael and me, much to the delight of the passing driver.

“Brrrro-ther!” he said, as he pointed at a lorry passing us on the other side of the road. “Indonesia brrrro-ther! No Warrrrr.”

Suwarno always seemed keen to make us understand that, in Indonesia, Muslims are a peaceful people. He pointed to himself and with wide, intense eyes said, “Su-warrrrr-no”. He then pointed outside, “Warrrr-no! Indonesia: no warrrr! Su-warrrr-no! No Warrrr. Su -Warrrr-noooooo!”

He loved the irony that his name contained the words “no” and “war”, and that this mirrors Indonesia’s peaceful culture.

I tentatively tried to bring up the subject of the 1965 uprising and the massacres that followed, but Suwarno didn’t seem willing to acknowledge the event. The mere mention of the topic made him nervous and so I didn’t persist.

After a lot of gesturing and misunderstanding we made it known to him that our preferred destination was in fact Jakarta, 800 km away, not Tuban, which was only 100 km. To our delight, Suwarno agreed to take us all the way and our course was set. We’d get to Jakata a few days early and, even better, we’d get to sleep on the back of his lorry as it drove through the night. It felt slightly strange to feel so ecstatic about the prospect of spending 20 hours straight in a lorry.

On the route we passed The Sangiran Early Man Site, on the World Heritage List, in central Java. It is estimated to have been inhabited one and a half million years ago and half of the world´s hominid fossils have been unearthed at this very spot. If Africa is known as “The Cradle of Civilization”, then surely this place could make a fair claim to be its nursery. We longed to take a few days out of our journey to check out such a historical site but, of course, we could not. We merely added another place to our bucket list of things to see the next time we would be passing through.

When it got to about 11pm, we left the comfort of Suwarno’s cab and got into the trailer with a couple of mango dealers who’d paid Suwarno to deliver them and their cargo.

Suwarno tapped the pocket of my shorts containing my wallet, then the pocket containing my phone, before pointing at his eyes. I nodded.

The noise and motion of our sleeping quarters was incredible. The clunking and screeching of the metal frame, the constant beeping of horns, the roar of the mighty engine as the lorry lurched forwards or backwards, if it slammed on the brakes, which it often did, to avoid the swarms of scooters darting in and out of the traffic.

This combined with the glare of the passing street lamps, flashing past us like paparazzi cameras, and the loose mangos flying about, like ping-pong balls on a bouncy castle, made the prospect of sleep unlikely.

What kind of demented maniac could sleep in these conditions, I thought to myself, just as Michael started snoring next to me.

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