Travels through the Indonesian Island of Java
The weather in Java ranges from hot and steamy to intolerably hot and steamy and that is how it was the day I stepped into the main square in Jakarta. I found a patch of shade and sat on my old bag with the squeaky wheels to check the map.
I had survived the crowds, the taxis, the unknown streets. I had read the guide book and learned a few words. When mobbed by water sellers I knew to check the bottles. If the tops snapped when opened they were OK. I was under control.
I had the whole day to myself and many places of interest were close by – the national monument, the museum, the huge Catholic Church and an equally huge mosque, a long stretch of road and then The Borobudur, the flashiest 5-star hotel in Indonesia.
‘You must go. Coffee is $8.50 a cup’, the locals boasted. I agreed and planned to be there in time for morning tea, a special treat for my last day in that vaporous country.
I set off, dodging water sellers and trinket sellers. The museum was magnificent, brimming with treasures and the dank, moist smell of things disintegrating in the tropics. I stopped to admire a headdress of the finest gold filigree. From nowhere a group of school girls appeared and settled around me chattering and giggling. When in doubt, the guide book suggested, smile and bow. I did. They closed in. Rat-a-tat went their voices. It was some time before I realised the words were English.
‘You can say to us Inlis’, said one.
‘I am Indonesia’, said another. ‘You are Inlis?’
The group crowded in, waiting for a reply.
It was hot. I felt jostled. I smiled and bowed and pushed through to the next exhibit. They followed.
‘We can talking Inlis to you?’
I felt light headed. I ducked behind a display shelf, walked smartly along the corridor, around the corner and down the stairs, my fans in hot pursuit. A security guard watched lazily from the door, hand gun obvious on his khaki hip. He ambled in my direction eyeballing the girls. Rat-a-tat went his words as he nailed them to the spot. We all smiled and bowed. They disappeared. I needed air.
Outside it was heavy, oppressive, the air a fog of traffic fumes, people, people and more people. I thought of the long, cold drink that awaited me at the Borobodur, turned left and headed in that direction.
I passed the church standing massively on its corner and the mosque in direct opposition. I could see the hotel in the distance and stepped up the pace.
A large building with a tall hedge was on my left. As I reached it a man in full uniform leaped out with a machine gun held Rambo style and pointed it menacingly in my direction. It was a squat looking thing, black. I could recall nothing from the guide book that might help.