Not sure why I thought Jakarta was so small. Lack of knowledge most likely. But not only does Jakarta stand as the 2nd most populous city in the world, with a population of 20.6 million, Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world – behind China, the USA and India.
Armed with none of this info or any other information about Jakarta, I googled a hotel from the airport and decided on a Novotel in an area about 12km from the airport. How we were getting to Bali didn’t matter at this point, we were done with traveling for the day. Some fellow passengers headed back to Seoul, others chartered a 24+ hour bus ride to Bali (sounded fun if we hadn’t been traveling already for a million hours) and still others made their way to Jakarta for a little R&R before figuring out how to get to Bali without flying.
Gridlock traffic, people walking up and down the traffic filled roads selling things, little stands on the side of the road squaking everything from coconut to toys, massive amounts of scooters filled with one, two, three or four people + their wares, whizzing by all combined for a lively first impression of the largest city in Southeast Asia.
The hotel was in what I like to call a “green zone area”. Yes, we had to drive through a taste of the real Jakarta but once behind the walls of the hotel, we could have been anywhere. A security gate for the taxis to get in, a metal detector for guests to pass through, security at the elevators. Once inside you would never have imagined what the neighborhood looked like on the outside. A courtyard with a gorgeous pool, restaurant, bar. Like a fortress smack dab in the middle of chaos.
A good night’s sleep and I was up at 3am trying to plan our way out of Jakarta and on to Bali. The Denpasar airport was still closed till at least 9:30am Saturday morning. So much ran through my head. How about a flight to another city in Java and then a train, bus, boat combo to Bali? All adults agreed that was a good plan. Airline tickets to Surabaya were bought. Train tickets from Surabaya to the train that would take us to the bus that would take us to the boat that would take us to the bus to Bali were bought. And then the Denpasar airport was reopened. Now what?
First we tried to get something directly from Jakarta to Bali but nothing was showing up available online. Then how about Surabaya to Bali? Yes there was one flight to Bali that might work, but it took off 30 minutes after our flight landed. We were optimistic. Could we make this flight? We couldn’t buy the tickets ahead of time because we had no idea if we would arrive on time never mind get our bags and make the flight.
When our flight landed in Surabaya (a city I have never heard of, the 2nd largest city in Indonesia with a population of nearly 3 million people and a key city in the Indonesian war for independence) we were early. Keith stayed back to collect the bags and the girls and I sped off past Dunkin Donuts, A&W, Burger King, etc. through the stifling outdoor terminal area. I talked my way through the security gate – a guard accompanied me to the Lion Air counter to inquire about the flight to Denpasar. I looked up at the departure board, I have never been happier in all my life to see that a flight was delayed by 45 minutes. The ticket agent had seats – and they were cheap. But for some reason it is impossible to use non Indonesian credit cards tor transportation purchases so I had to find an ATM to withdraw cash to purchase the tickets. So happy to see an HSBC cash machine a short walk away. So much happening within minutes. Without a working cell phone Keith had no idea what was going on with me on the inside.
Money handed over. Receipt given. Off to the check-in counter. The security guard let me run out of the departure terminal to grab Keith, Caroline and the girls and let them know that we had tickets for the flight and we that we now had to race through security, get our bags to check in, get our boarding passes and head upstairs for boarding. All the while we were hoping that the airport would not be closed again at the last minute.
And it wasn’t. After a 30 minute flight we landed in Bali!
(Side note: Indonesian airport workers are surprisingly happy people, ready to help in any way they can. I love NY and other east coast cities but I will speculate that if this stress was happening to our family in one of these airports, it would only be made worse by the glee on the airport workers faces as they continued to make our journey more and more difficult with each hurdle they happily threw in our way!)
PS I keep forgetting to mention the most important part of all – the kids were absolutely amazing through every step of this crazy travel story. Absolute travel troopers!