Jakarta


Instead of walking up the volcano all night and then down in the morning, we get to sleep in. Our flight is at noon, but is delayed a fair bit, so the plan to meet up with Jourdan and Alex for dinner in Jakarta ends up falling through. In no small part due to the fact that Jakarta is huge and getting around, even by taxi, takes forever. It’s cheap enough though, which is nice.Decorative car The Jakartan girls we met at Jomblang had given us a few suggestion of things to do, but we didn’t write them down so they’re pretty much forgotten. There’s this market street that the guide books recommend though, so we head over there to have a look.

The market sucks soo bad though, I wouldn’t even call it a market. It’s more like a shopping street filled with regular stores. So we don’t linger long, but instead start walking to the nearby art museum. All the museum-looking buildings in that direction appear closed though, so we keep walking, aiming for a cool looking statue, standing high atop a pillar in the middle of a park.

ParkThere isn’t much more to the park than the statue though so we wander off in search of the cathedral tower we saw earlier. It proves somewhat problematic though, mainly because Jakarta seems to hate pedestrians, so we finally get a tuk-tuk to take us there. The cathedral has a wedding going on so we just sneak around on the outside and briefly peek inside. (too bad we didn’t know what we learned later when talking to Rara and Vera (the Jakartan girls), that Indonesian weddings are very public affairs and that generally anyone is welcome to just walk in and join the festivities!)

The fact that most things are closed, that you can’t really walk anywhere and that it’s raining finally add up and we decide to head to another part of town. Something had caught my eye earlier when researching things to do; there is a JKT48 show in town! Now, the JKT48 phenomenon requires a bit of explanation: It all started in Japan as the all girl group AKB48, short for Akihabara 48 (which is a district in Tokyo). It is an all-girl constructed pop group where most of the girls are teenagers or early twenties. They usually perform in groups of 12, called teams, and do two or three shows a day.Cathedral I was fascinated by this concept back when I worked in Japan, but trying to get tickets for a show is very hard if you don’t know any Japanese so I never managed to go. I did manage to go to their gift store though, which is pretty fascinating all by itself. There are all manners of collectibles, including albums you put stickers in with the different members, much like the sticker albums I had as a kid with the Transformers.

So the place we go to is the mall where the JKT48 are performing, but since the show isn’t yet for a few hours we roam around the pretty cool mall. In the middle of if there is an open space that runs all the way up to the ceiling on level 5 and in it is a long tube spiraling down. As we trace it up with our eyes we suddenly hear a trundling noise and inside the tube there is a person zipping past! Obviously this is something we need to investigate, so we head up to the top floor and find the entrance to it. The guy shakes his head though and says we need to buy tickets down at the slide exit. We’re pretty much used to this kind of nonsense at this point though so we head back down again (in the end it did make a certain amount of sense though since you have to leave your bag and such in storage since you can’t take it on the slide). When we finally get to ride it’s pretty cool, you get a little rug to sit on and off you go at breakneck speed. When you exit the chute at the bottom you slide and tumble for several meters before coming to a halt on the padded mats. I guess there is a good reason they make you wear a helmet…

ArtistWe roam around some more before the show until it’s time for the lottery. We weren’t really sure what the lottery was but it turned out to be that you don’t buy a specific seat, rather they call out a random number, and everyone with that number on their ticket get to go in and choose a seat. A pretty good system when you’re dealing with fans who otherwise would be willing to wait for hours to get in. We get seats in the back but the hall is pretty small and there are no really bad seats in there. We notice that the fans are almost entirely teenage boys, with the occasional sprinkle of girls (and one or two men in their fifties, as you might expect…).

We’re seated next to a university student who speaks great English and can explain a lot of what is going on. The show is mostly prerecorded singing and a lot of (rather good) dancing. Every now and then though, four of them will be alone on stage and do some sort of dialogue with each other. The student explains that they talk about their plans for the future, favorite foods and so on. One of the girls repeatedly talks about how she’s going into politics and becoming the president of Indonesia. All in all the show is a rather fun spectacle and something you really only see in this part of the world (but give it a few years and I’m sure it’ll come to Europe as well).

When the show is done you get to shake hands with all the performers and I even get a present from one of them; a cute little origami box. You can also take a picture with one of them, but only if you buy a single as well. They’re a moneymaking machine after all… Afterwards, all we really have time for is to get our luggage and go to the airport. Jen hops on the plane to Hong Kong while I board for Beijing, feeling like my adventure is just about to start.