Loaded becaks

Bicycle taxis aren’t just used to transport humans — they also carry goods, as seen this morning near the hotel where I’m staying in Surabaya (East Java). I’m pretty sure two out of these three becak peddlers couldn’t see where they were going. Which was all the more exciting because I myself was riding in a becak, going the wrong way on a four-lane highway.

Hungry for cyberspace?

This is a typical warung: a roofed metal frame with sheets hung on the outside. The fabric serves the double purpose of advertising the menu and giving diners a modicum of privacy.

This place lists “Internet” at the top of its menu, along with roasted bananas, boiled noodles, fried noodles, and soft-boiled eggs. I initially wrote that there must be a computer place behind the warung, but in fact, as Treespotter astutely points out in the comment section, this is actually an abbreviation for noodles with an egg and corned beef (Indomie, Telur, Kornet). They also offer an assortment of juices, from avocado to guava, and other drinks including milk with raw egg, honey and ginger (Susu Telur Madu Jahe, abbreviated STMJ).

Last but not least, there’s kopi susu, probably made with half as much coffee and twice as much condensed milk as I use at home.

Warungs are where most people eat most of the time, since they’re fast and cheap. You can also get food from the carts that make the rounds of all the streets, but there’s only a few kinds of carts: they’ll usually offer fried rice or meatballs-and-noodles or chicken-and-noodles. In Jakarta they’ll also have ketoprak, which is tofu and bean sprouts with peanut sauce, especially in the morning. But if you want more variety you go to a warung.


Kemang is one of the most expat-y, and also one of the funkiest, parts of Jakarta. I’m usually too lazy to go there because the traffic is a nightmare — everything’s crammed onto one long narrow winding road, and the taxi always slows to a crawl. But the other night a friend had her birthday party at a bar there, so we roused ourselves to go, and I have to admit it was pretty fun.

There was Indian food for $5 a plate and a band playing Donna Summer and Metallica. The dance floor was packed and the beer was free. I don’t think you’re even allowed to give away beer in the US anymore. I remembered why when I saw a guy throw up on his shoes. At least he went outside first.

I tried to take a picture of Chad but he wouldn’t stay still.

Around midnight we went out to catch a taxi home. All these children in headscarves kept walking by asking us for money. I was surprised, because it was awfully late for proper little Muslim girls to be out on the street. Then Chad pointed out that most of them were boys. I suppose they get more donations that way.

Saved by the bus

We were so happy when we discovered that the airport bus goes right by our neighborhood. Not only is it fast and cheap (about $1.50), but it means we can avoid the voracious cab drivers that hang out in front of the terminal. If you show the slightest interest, they surround you, badgering you with offers and lies (“it’s cheaper if we don’t use the meter”; “there’s a $5 surcharge”; “there aren’t any buses”). Airport cab drivers seem to be specially selected for their dishonesty. It’s a shame that the few tourists who defy the odds and come to Jakarta get browbeaten and cheated the moment they stumble out of the terminal.

Anyway, the bus is like garlic to vampires — utter the word to taxi drivers, and they fade back into the night with a look of horror and vexation.