A little history about me, I was born in Indonesia, grew up there and went to U.S. in 1997. I have never been back ever since and I kind of miss the food there. There are Indonesian food in the U.S., but they are not the same. I went back solo since my wife could not make it.
I bought an EVA Air Elite class ticket from SFO -> TPE (Taipei) -> CGK (Jakarta) for around $1900, which was decent considering economy class was $1500. A few days before, the economy class ticket was $1100, but I was waiting for the ticket to go down and it was not happening. In the end, it worked out well since it was justified to upgrade to a next class ($400 difference, compared to $800 difference). For $400 more, I convinced myself that I would get bigger seat, reclining seat, longer leg room, better food, priority boarding, & heavier luggage allowance (and it was worth the money). Elite class is just a new name for EVA’s old Economy Deluxe. With upgraded class, I could bring heavier luggage (up to 55lbs, compared to 44lbs) which came very handy for me. However, the Elite class benefits only applied to long distance flight from SFO to TPE. From TPE to CGK was just an economy flight but the checked bags was automatically routed to CGK.
When I got to SFO, it was interesting to see most of these “chinese or taiwanese” people started to stand and lined up even before first boarding call. They did not have the patience to wait and they did not want to pay extra, and then they tried to block all other people with priorities boarding. Some of them were even trying to sneak in but they were blocked by EVA crews. On the way to Taipei, there was one guy who was snoring really loud. He has his headphone and sleeping mask on without considering other people around him. I sat quite far from this guy and I had my headphone with Noise cancellation but I still could hear his snoring.
During my stay, Indonesian Rupiah was at its lowest point, US$1 to Rupiah 12,500. Since I have not been back for 10+ years, I did not have new Rupiahs, thus I had to exchange it in the Taipei Airport. The conversion rate was quite decent, so I had no problem with it. After arriving in Jakarta, I had to buy Visa on Arrival for US$25. If you are U.S. passport holder, you can either purchase the visa through Embassy or airport. Since the line was long and I do not have the patience to wait, I asked a few guys whether they could hook me up so that I did not have to wait in line. The first guy I asked, he was like “NO”. Then, I moved on to a different person and he could hook me up. He said “200”, then I was like “WoW”. I asked him “200 what?”, then he replied “200,000”, then I knew he was talking in Rupiah . Rp 200,000 is less than US$20 plus I had to pay Visa fee of US$25. I was brought to a special line and I waited there. After around 10 minutes, he gave my passport back and I was good to go. I did all this in Bahasa Indonesia, even the guy was surprised that my Indonesian was still good after all these years.
Moving on to custom, there are porters that are waiting at baggage claim area. If you do not want hassle, just use them (you sort of have to bargain with them). I brought a 1.5L (magnum) bottle of wine and they only allowed one 750ml bottle . Anyhow, I told my porter that and he said “No Problem”. I had asked him about the rate and he said “100,000”, then I asked why it was that much. He told me that he needed to pay all the custom guys, too. It was fine and as long as I did not have to pay the fine.
My mom, dad, & my sister still live in Jakarta. There are many reasons why I decided to stay in the U.S. and not Indonesia. Most of my friends are still in Indonesia, they went back home after they were done with their school.
There are a few things that I really miss the most, chicken noodle (bakmi ayam) with soup on the side. It only cost Rp 3,500, which translates to US$0.25. For the most part, the food was getting more expensive, only this particular one was still on the cheap. Food was the main reason that I went back to visit Indonesia. I did not miss the traffic, weather, & mosquitoes at all.
First night I was there, I got bitten so many times and it was super itchy like hell. I used the bug-repellent lotion but it only worked for a few hours, I just could not keep applying them every few hours, my skin became super sticky (mixed with sweat too). I bought 2 anti-bugs shirts but I would change my shirt every few hours since the weather is hot & humid. When I arrived to my parents’ house, I could not help but to notice that we have a neighbor who has a pink Hello Kitty house. As you can see from the picture below, there is a blue house right next to it and, it is also belong to the same owner.
While I am in Indonesia, I might as well go to Bali as the ticket is around $100 round trip. Airline ticket to Thailand was cheap too, around $70 round trip but we decided to go to Bali. My sister bought the ticket and we were using Air Asia. This airline was never on time (our flights were delayed from Jakarta to Bali and back), both flights were delayed 2 hours, and that would be my last flights with them. We had to use a somewhat air-conditioned bus to get to the airplane from the gate. After we got to the airplane (from CGK to DPS), we were seated 1/2 hour before they found out there was something wrong with the airplane. They tried to fix it for 1 hour and failed, so they told us to move to a different airplane. We got to the bus to go to the other airplane, however it was circling around for around 45 minutes under the freaking hot & humid Indonesian sun plus the A/C in the bus was not working properly. Because of this incident, I almost got sick when I got to Bali.
We stayed in Sheraton Kuta when we were in Bali, however we did not get a chance to go to Kuta beach. We hired a driver and a car for US$50 for 12 hours (everything is included, gas, etc). The driver picked us up at our hotel at 9 am, drove to the places that we wanted to go and drop us off back at 9 pm. One thing that I noticed, Bali was hot and traffic was bad, worse than Jakarta.
Our first destination was “Babi Guling Ibu Oka” as it was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s No reservations. However, we went to the original Ibu Oka in Ubud and the place was much nicer. We ordered the complete plate with crunchy pork skin, pork meat, rice, and soup. I also ordered young coconut since it was really cheap back in Indonesia compared to the U.S. The crunchy pork skin was good but it is a little bit hard as it looks like it has caramel on it. The meat was cooked with Balinese spice and it was a little bit spicy but it was delicious. After we ate, we headed to Monkey Sanctuary in Ubud since we were already in Ubud area. Before you were going in, there were people who was selling bananas for them monkeys. If you are afraid of monkeys, DO NOT buy any. These monkeys were eyeing on my bananas all the time and one of the big fat one tried to steal it from me. They went BANANAS!! Do not bring plastic bag as they were going to take it from you by any means necessary. One of my bananas got stolen but one of them monkeys took all bananas from this guy.
Stay tuned for the next episode in Nusa Dua, Bedugul, & Tanah Lot.