A (Thousand) Islands In the Sun
Sometimes the scheduling gods smile down on you. When they do, you should get out of Dodge. Because of Ramadan and Idul Fitri and my day off landing on Wednesday (because my boss was nice and decided to move it from Thursday), I got five days off in a row. That was clearly a message for me to go to a tropical island in the sun.
A few hours by boat from Jakarta are the Pulau Seribu – Thousand Islands. I had heard that these islands are popular with Jakartans due to proximity, price, and well, tropical paradise look. I woke up at 5 a.m. and headed up to Muara Angke port with friends. This was probably the worst smelling place I have ever been in my life. The port was dirty and nasty. Spend as little time there as possible. We found our packed wooden boat and managed to grab some floor space and cuddled up with our neighbors (some of whom got seasick). But for Rp 33,000 ($3.86), this was the cheapest, most local way to travel (you pay for tickets on board). Be forewarned, it will smell like gasoline for a good part of the trip. The boat stopped a few times along the way and a sailor dove under to check the motor, but we made it. And, we saw dolphins swimming by our boat along the way. The journey may not have been romantic, but I’d do it again.
After three hours, we left the gray, polluted haze of Jakarta and then we found…
We rented a house that split among us all cost $7 a night each. It wasn’t luxurious at all, but when you are young, and don’t want to spend money, it’s the perfect way to go. It was fortunate that a member of the group is a good bahasa speaker because he was able to arrange this over the phone the night before (yes, another last minute trip). After dropping our bags, we went and found delicious grilled fish for $1.75.
And of course on our walk to the restaurant we saw coconuts everywhere. So we had to have some juice with lunch. A coconut goes for 80 cents (usually double this in Jakarta) and I had the best one of my entire life. It was so fresh and had a huge layer of meat on the inside.
We were on Pulau Tidung, Tidung Island, and there were plenty of ferline friends on the island ready to cuddle up in hopes of some leftovers.
It’s amazing that a tropical paradise is so close to an often (minus these past few days) polluted Jakarta. I must say I have really enjoyed this past week in Jakarta. You can get places in a cab much faster and the air quality has been much better. But, I do miss paradise:
There were mangroves growing around the island:
The one downside to Tidung, and perhaps the other islands, is the trash. Trash from Jakarta gets carried out by the currents and washes up on these beautiful shores. In addition to this, from what I’ve witnessed over the past few months, Indonesians as a whole haven’t developed a great concern for the environment. While lying on the beach, I saw a group leave all of their trash behind – plastic water bottles and plastic bags – which can be very dangerous to sea animals. Hopefully this mentality will start to change over time, it took time in the US as well.
Tidung has a bridge linking islands. The legend goes that if you jump off, you’ll be lucky in love. Well here’s to hoping – I did jump. People cheered all of us jumping and seemed fairly amused by us silly bule.
On our second day we went on a five hour snorkeling trip and stopped in three different spots (this was also ridiculously cheap, I think I’ll have a heart attack when I go to Bali and see Western prices). The coral in the Java Sea is amazing. Every tropical fish you saw in Finding Nemo was swimming around. The water is bathtub temperature and the snorkeling was amazing.
These two photos below were the view from the backyard of our rental house. This harbor was where all the supplies from the mainland arrive:
And for those of you who don’t think I work, I am now working on the Web desk. I find this really interesting because this is a side of the newspaper industry I haven’t been exposed to before. Every story that goes online is tweeted and it’s amazing to see how many other people are online retweeting what we tweet. I wrote two stories, here and here, in the past two days and both of them were the most read stories on the site, so I think I should go on vacation more often. But for my birthday weekend, I’ll settle for Jakarta. Happy weekend to all – wherever you find yourselves these days. Cheers!