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“Happy Holidays!” aka the Jakarta exodus

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There really wasn’t time for any ‘planning’ or ‘preparation’ before this trip to Indonesia. Everything came together quite suddenly. And while instincts screamed there wouldn’t be much we could do the week of Ramadan, we had been assured that technically only 8-9 August were holidays so at least some people would be working the balance days. Furthermore, for such an important project, it was critical we demonstrate our commitment by being on the ground ready to work.

What happened? Friday (2 Aug) late afternoon as I was about to head out to hunt for apartments, learned that the office would be closed. As in an hour from when we were informed, it would be fully shut until Mon, 12 August 2013. Not only would the office be closed, the entire building would be. Not only that, but the national holiday was extended to the full week as well so Jakarta would shortly become a ‘ghost town’.

I had already been considering heading to Bali or Gili islands for the latter half of the week. The work would be ‘virtual’ those days anyways, so why not do it from a blissfully relaxed beach? Why not indeed!?

So on Saturday, before checking with the “boss man”, decided a little research was required…

  1. Found excellent fares on Lion Air to LombokYeah!
  2. Got a recommendations for a great place to stay on Gili islands. Called it to learn “Yes! There is one room left but only for Monday – Wednesday not Thursday – Sunday. May I reserve it for you? It really is the last room in any of our 5 properties.” I’ll get back to you soon….
  3. Sent off my request for approval (after all – I am here for work, right?)

With a proviso that the massive stack of work must accomplished, including regular Skype calls and coordination with a colleague in Europe, received the “Go ahead.”

Did a little happy dance and went back to the Lion Air website… selected flights and came to the payment gateway page… Arghh!! Credit Card not accepted for flights booked within 48 hours of departure? All other options required a local bank account?? Dang!

My old university buddy and I planned to meet, so we added a travel agent to our plans. We nipped over to Plaza Senayan (yes another mall!) and found a travel agent – just as the fellow was stepping out to break his fast. Suggested we come back in an hour. Whiled away time in a bookstore, instrument store and meandered our way back.

Can I just say this – the guy tried. He really Really REALLY tried. As in more than 2 hours of trying!

Super helpful but ultimately unsuccessful travel agent

Super helpful but ultimately unsuccessful travel agent

My criterion was simple and under normal circumstances easily obtainable:

  • Flights / transportation under $200
  • Hotel preferably around $50 but up to $100 / night
  • Preference for beach but flexible
  • MUST have reliable wi-fi and cell reception
  • Could be within Indonesia or outside as I didn’t need a visa for the neighbouring countries

You would think we would have been successful? Right? Nope! We tried:

  • Other Lombok flights well above $200. Travel agents can only book Lion Air tickets Monday to Friday… which effectively meant could only take late afternoon flights… which were anyways all booked for the cheaper fares!
  • Bali flights available however no accommodations close to meeting my criteria – seriously?! Nope not in Seminyak, Legian, Kuta, Sanur… and of the usual or less usual locations…
  • We started to get a bit crazy with other ideas like – if I could get a flight home to Mumbai for a week for $800 or less, could justify as would save hotel costs in Jakarta – NOPE!
  • What about Singapore for a couple of days? Could stay with friends… Na!  Only business class for around $1,200?!
  • My buddy called one of his ‘connects’ to learn that his own Sanur plans with the ‘gang’ is in jeopardy as the rooms they booked were nearly hijacked by another party!
  • With great determination, my young man gave up on his system and started calling up his friends with places and proudly showed on his phone a photo of what looked like a lovely spot in Belitung. Responses poured in – crestfallen he relayed “All full.”
  • Various options via train or bus also explored… no luck on places to stay!
  • My buddy suggested I could go to Medan and stay with his mom – but no internet. 😦

In the end, I just decided the universe was telling me to wait until next trip – ideally when my partner is also here and we could do a little weekend jaunt exploring together.

Before anyone protests that surely SOMETHING should have been possible, permit me to put it into perspective. Jakarta is the 17th most populated city in the world with an estimated population of 28 million. At this time of year, its population drops a staggering 80% and more than 30 million people from Greater Jakarta and surrounding area leave.

As we drove back to my hotel, our car was surrounded by swarms of motorcycles all heading ‘home’ in this mass exodus known as Mudik lebaran. And we aren’t talking about an hour drive out of town, these are journeys of 2 – 3 days on bikes with many accidents and fatalities. It is extraordinary to witness.

Who needs a beach and who wants to join the millions exiting?? I’ll be super productive with work and shift to a place I found through AirBnB tomorrow for a change in pace…

Ever been thwarted with impromptu vacation plans?

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  1. pollyheath says:

    That’s really interesting. I had no idea that any city had such a gigantic exodus like that. At least you get a week of being the first in line (if you can find anything open, I guess).

    • Its really quite amazing. The highway outside my window is normally packed bumper to bumper and is nearly empty now after the mass exodus which began on the weekend.

      We had dinner with the senior director and his family on Sunday and the wife used a term (I’ll need to ask again!) which describes the ‘plight’ of women who once a year manage their homes without any maids, cooks, etc. Joked that some ‘ladies’ convince their families to check into hotels rather than deal with the daily drugery of housekeeping! 😉

  2. gkm2011 says:

    I am bad at planning last minute travel to start with, so a “weekend jaunt” typically requires at least two weeks planning. You are more flexible than me! Enjoy the quiet, catch up on your DVDs and take photos of a city deserted. Some of my favorite shots are of an empty Shanghai over Chinese New Year.

    • This was a ‘zero’ plan / fly by the seat of my pants kinda trip to Indonesia! I’m about to shift from West to Central Jakarta to a private studio loft with a real kitchen. It should be more accessible to begin exploring a ‘deserted’ Jakarta. 🙂

  3. […] “Happy Holidays!” aka the Jakarta exodus (everydayadventuresasia.wordpress.com) […]

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