Sunday, May 10, 2009

Only in Jakarta

During my stopover at Changi, I quickly called the concierge at Hotel Mulia to arrange for airport pickup. The guy on the other line took my hotel and flight details and gave me some specific instructions. After immigration and customs, go straight to the Golden Bird kiosk. Do not go anywhere else. Lots of people will try to talk to you, but ignore them. If I can't find the kiosk, I am to look for their airport representative, wearing a suit and a green(?) tie. Make sure he shows me his airport ID because there will be impostors wearing the same and pretend to be from Hotel Mulia. And if I go with them, they'll do bad things to me. Okay.

Upon touchdown, there's a mad rush for the immigration queues. Good thing I remembered that I'm supposed to get my visa-on-arrival first. Last time I was here, I was already lining up at immigration when somebody mentioned I need a visa. I had to go back and buy me a visa. So the guy at the visa counter asks me how long I'm here for. Five days. Doing what? I'm seriously tempted to say for holidays. My colleague mentioned that if you say you're on a business trip, they'll ask for company referral letters, you'll have to get a business visa, etc. But then, I don't look like a tourist. And I've seen enough Border Security and Border Patrol to be afraid of being sent back if I am caught lying. So I said I'm here for a training course. What training course, he persisted? I don't think he'll understand "FI Service Awareness", so I just gave him a vague answer. Back at the immigration, I had the same dilemma. But this time I have to lie because I've already put in holiday on the arrival card as reason for travel. Good thing the guy didn't ask. Whew!

So I go straight for the Golden Bird kiosk, and this guy guides me outside to the taxi queue. True enough, a guy followed us shoving a business card with the Chinese words for "Miss" printed in bold. No thanks, dude. My fiance reads this blog. Halfway through my taxi ride, I noticed that the meter is active and running. 100,000 rupiah already! I thought the pickup service is complimentary? By the time we got through the security bomb checks and into the hotel foyer, the meter's reading 200,000+ rupiah! Good thing the driver didn't ask me to pay. Whew!

Because I wouldn't be able to pay him. I'm only left with 10,000 rupiah from my previous trip. And how much is 10,000 rupiah? A$1.24! And I was just wondering beforehand if I should bring AUD because 10,000 rupiah seems a lot already. Hah! So I needed to get some money and quick. Concierge tells me that the nearest mall is Plaza Senayan, which is a few blocks away from the hotel. There's buses, but he recommends the taxi for foreigners like me. I have no money to pay for taxi, so I asked him how long to walk. 15 minutes. Let me tell you, the time or distance is not the problem. The problem is you're walking along a busy thoroughfare with no pedestrian lanes on the sides! I managed fine at first, then the cars keep edging closer and closer. I rushed over to the middle island where there's a patch of grass (and rubble) to walk on. Finally got to the section of Plaza Senayan, but I had to wait for about 5 minutes before I was able to make a mad dash to cross the road. The road was that busy.

First task at hand it to change some money. Normally, I would've checked out the rates of the money changers, but at this time of night, there's only one open. The quoted exchange rate is 10,275 rupiah to one USD. Fine. The guy looks at my $100 bill and says the rate is now 10,075 rupiah because my bill is from the old series and there's a small marking on the bill. Uh-huh, ok. I got him to change $50 only because this guy could be pulling my leg. Later, I went to Senayan City across the street to try my luck. Only one money changer open and it's the same one as in Plaza Senayan. Their rates are also the same. When I tried to change my new-series $50 bill, they gave me the same excuse. The guy explained that because my bill has some markings, it's considered flawed, and they have to give me a lower rate. Uh-huh, ok.

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