An introduction to Indonesia

We arrived into Jakarta quite late, but the organised customs meant we were out of the airport fast. Our hotel had advised us to use Grab or Go Jek so that’s what we did. Around 9pm, we checked into our hotel and thanks to a thunderstorm found ourselves in the ramen restaurant downstairs for dinner. We enjoyed a tasty bowl of miso ramen and some gyoza to remind us of Japan.

Independence square Jakarta

The next day we had plans to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and strangely they had nothing to do with Jakarta at all that was of interest to us. We took the commuter train to Bogor, which is around 2 hours south of Jakarta. Bogor has one main attraction: it’s botanical gardens. Judging by how busy the train was, everyone else was going there too. We found the gardens easily but had to walk around the outside until we found the entrance. There were large queues of locals all looking to spend Sunday in the gardens. Once in we were shocked to see just how many people there were. Everywhere we looked there were bus loads of people sitting on picnic blankets and having huge feasts. Some of them had their own music blaring across the lawn competing with others for attention. The groups were usually all in uniform, which in Indonesia means all the women are wearing the same coloured dress and the same coloured headscarf. Bogor is certainly the busiest botanical garden we have ever visited, even Glasgow on the sunniest day of the year doesn’t get quite that busy.

Bogor botanical gardens
Ted riding the birds of Bogor

As we wandered further away from the entrance the crowds reduced a little but there were still hundreds of picnics and music everywhere. We obviously stood out quite a bit and groups of young students kept asking to practice their English on us. Some of them were really good and we got some recommendations of Javanese food to try, but after a while we wanted a little us time. The gardens of Bogor are filled with lots of huge trees and lots of information signs, but the heat made our walk quite tiring; we missed the cool Cameron Highlands. By the time we reached the café, we were both in need of a cold drink and some food. The café is perched on a hill overlooking the gardens, so it is a nice place to relax a little. Following our rest we moved on to see the orchid house where we learnt some cool facts about orchids. We had no idea that vanilla came from an orchid or that orchids rely on a fungus to provide nutrients to their seeds. Filled with knowledge we carried on to see the hanging bridge, happy couple tree and Dutch cemetery before being defeated by the heat and taking the train back to Jakarta. We took a brief walk through the independence park before the most exciting part of the day…dinner!

One of the beautiful orchids

Hiding in the orchid house

For the evening Matthias had booked a lovely restaurant where we enjoyed a Javanese feast. The food was delicious and very interesting, we even had our own private romantic room to enjoy it in. We started with bamboo spring rolls and a dutch style soup. Matthias had a duck and rice dish while Zoe had rice with 9 accompaniments. The Javanese coffee and banana coconut dessert were a perfect end to the day. Our first romantic day in quite a while, but worth waiting for.

Dinner for two

We can’t really comment on whether Jakarta is nice, but for us it wasn’t a bad place to start. We would have liked to see the old town and mini Indonesia, but since we only have 28 days in Indonesia we would rather see at least some of it full size. So far the people are friendly, the food is good and transport is going where we want it to go.

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