Friday, June 27, 2014

Jakarta Diaries : 2 : First Impression

I took off from Mumbai to Jakarta, in a Malaysian Airlines flight. With the recent incident of MH 370 flight of this airline, the name scares a lot of people. Many warned me casually. I was concerned too. But then, such incidents keep happening, but you can not stop doing things because of it. CST was attacked in Mumbai, but people can't stop going there, JM/FC road was attacked in Pune, and still it is crowded and popular shopping destination. And MH 370 is still a mystery. Luckily, my onward journey was safe and pleasant. 

My first flight was from Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur in midnight. I slept for sometime, watched LOTR for some time, nothing to watch outside the window. But to my delight, I was awake at the time of sun rise, and it was fantastic. Watching sun rise from such a height is a memorable experience for lifetime. 

The second flight was from KL to Jakarta early in the morning. This was a shorter one, and I was awake throughout, observing the scenic landscapes from my window. At one point, the flight was tilted, we were over sea, and there was only water in sight. The line of horizon was almost invisible, it seemed like the blue sky and sea had merged into each other. Only one boat, it could be a big ship also, was visible over a distance. I will never forget that beautiful scene.

I landed in Jakarta, and went through the immigration and customs check. The immigration guy took little longer to process my case than other passengers. May be, every passenger feels the same. I changed the USD into Indonesian Rupiah, and came outside. I hired one cab to go to hotel. The cabbie was a very pleasant and talkative person. I had the same experience almost everywhere, Indonesians in general are pleasant, smiling and friendly people.

I read somewhere that, Indonesia had mostly Hindu people in history, a lot of centuries ago. Later, a lot of population converted to Islam over time, but there are still some Hindus in places like Bali Islands. The influence of Sanskrit, and Hindu culture is still visible in their language, and gestures. To greet, Indonesians also fold their hands like Indians do Namaste. The words like putra and putri for son and daughter respectively are exactly like Sanskrit.

The driver's name was Gunwaan, again a Sanskrit name. He started talking and immediately guessed that I am from India, and then started sharing his knowledge about India. Ofcourse it was related to films and television only. :D He said, mabarat, meaning Mahabharata, he started naming all the characters, bima, arjun, udishtir. Very few Indian channels air in Indonesia, and Mahabharat airs on one of them. So it seemed popular there, since traditional Indonesian drama and plays also have stories of Ramayana, Mahabharata. After that, he started with bollywood, sharuk kan, meaning Shahrukh Khan. SRK is very popular in Indonesia, and his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai has a cult following. They say it like Kuchi Kuchi Hota Hai.

Later when I started roaming in Indonesian markets, I could hear SRK songs playing in shops, at least twice or thrice. I also noticed pirated DVDs of Mahabharata tele-series, and many Indian movies in DVD shops. 

The Soekarno Hatta Airport is in outskirts of Jakarta. Once we left the airport premises, we were stuck in traffic. The driver told me that its like that most of the time, and advised me that when returning to airport, leave at least 2 hours before from the hotel, which I followed a month later. My hotel Somerset Grand Citra, was around 35-40 kms from airport, and it took us 2 hrs to reach through that traffic. 

While talking to driver, I was observing the roads, bridges, buildings, etc. on the way. The infrastructure in Jakarta is awesome, huge bridges, 4 lane roads, giant towers, marvelous pieces of architecture. But despite all this, we were stuck in traffic. 

From what I learnt from that driver, reading articles about Jakarta is, Jakarta is both Mumbai and Delhi of Indonesia, i.e. formal capital, industrial capital, and financial capital. So the population is dense and concentrated in Jakarta region, so even though they have developed all this infra, it is still insufficient for the population that keeps increasing in Jakarta (just like Mumbai), and that is the reason of this traffic.

I saw many malls on highway, all the big brands, retail chains, food chains made their presence felt in Jakarta. And when the driver took a short cut through small lanes, I noticed small food joints, tea stalls just like on Indian streets. And one more common thing was, many office going people were having a tea break on those stalls with a cigarette. 

Have a look on these few pictures I took on the way to Hotel.

I reached hotel around lunch time, and checked into my room. It was a spacious 1BHK serviced apartment actually. A well equipped kitchen was all I needed to survive, since an Indian like me cant stay away from Indian food for long. And in foreign land, you have to cook if you want your kind of food. I was happy to see the apartment. The journey was over. My office was waiting for me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Jakarta Diaries : 1 : Packing And Preparations

Thanks to my current employer, Amdocs, I got an opportunity for my first international trip. For some project activities, I was asked on a short notice to go to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia for less than or up to one month. I said yes, without a blink, and the process started.

Like my previous history with the on site opportunities, this trip was almost cancelled, but then confirmed on last minute. Earlier in my previous company, I was set to go to China for one year, my work permit also arrived, but the client dropped the requirement, and trip got cancelled. And there were few instances in both companies I worked with, where there was an opportunity, but it did not work out, because of some visa eligibility requirements, company policies, too many reasons to name a few.

The china thing seemed to be so certain, the news was spread in all my family, close and distant relatives and friends. When the trip was cancelled, it was quite an embarrassment. So when I was likely to go this time, I used the term "most likely", till the day I was scheduled to go. Even on that day, I was mentally prepared to receive a call from my manager informing me that the trip is cancelled, and I am supposed to come to office as usual.

A colleague who was already on site, helped me a lot with the preparations. I did a lot of shopping for food items and stuff required for one month stay. The luggage weight allowed per peson is 30 kg, and beyond that they charge for each block of 5kg, varying with airlines. So the challenge was to try to adjust the stuff between the limit. I packed only the items I bought in one bag and weighed it on our bathroom scale. It weighed 25kg when kept horizontally, and around 22kg when kept vertical. Obviously it was not reliable.

I hadn't pack my clothes yet, camera, and a lot of things. In addition to this, both my mom, and my mother in law, sent their love. In India, love means food. :D Both of them prepared some durable snacks, and sent it from Aurangabad to Pune for me to take along. It reached my wife first, and she called me to tell that its easily around 8kgs. I told her I am only taking food to Indonesia, no clothes or any other thing. :D

We had to do something about increasing luggage and we did. We unpacked everything, and packed again. We left some of the stuff we packed earlier to make space for the love delivered from Aurangabad. :D We reduced the quantities of many things by considerable amount. Initially we had packed my clothes in a different bag, but when we realized that the bag itself weighs 3Kg, we merged everything into the bigger one tightly. 

Apart from that big aristocrat bag, and my laptop bag, we were still left with few miscellaneous things. We packed it into my office sack, and we were done. We bought one spring balance weighing scale, with maximum capacity of 50 kg, for weighing these, and in a hope that we'll get to go on such trips again in future. :)

Although the scale was capable of measuring weights upto 50kg, it's really difficult to lift a bag and hold it with that small and metallic grip of the scale. I lifted it and held it as long as possible, and the scale measured around 28 kg. The other office sack which I intended to check in was around 2-3 kg. 

I was in no mood to repack now, and so I made up my mind to pay baggage charge if necessary. My cab arrived on time, and I left for Mumbai. Generally, Pune-Mumbai travel takes 3-3.5 hours, but you never know, if some large container meets tragic accident on express highway, and blocks the road for hours, or you reach Panvel fast enough, but later it may take more time to reach airport. So to be on safe side, I left pretty early from Pune, and reached well before the check in time.

I would've got bored till boarding the flight, if my friend had not come to see me on airport. We spent a lot of time chatting and then she left. The recently started terminal 2 on Mumbai Airport, is really mind blowing. Everything is grand, luminous, and wonderful. For a moment, you might forget you are standing in Mumbai. :D

After waiting for more than half an hour in check in queue, I finally boarded my first international flight, and took off for Jakarta. :)