Some Indonesian TLC

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I wish I had more time in Indonesia. A month would be a good start! It’s such a special place.

After two days in Jakarta, I was off to Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city. I found it rather unremarkable- grimy, crowded and lacking in any distinct character.

Though I have to admit, being incredibly sick when I reached there had my patience and tolerance at an all time low. For two weeks, I had not been able to shake off a cold and fever. I was keeping myself going on Tylenol and a lot of green tea.

Unfortunately the rain gods were not playing fair and most of what I saw of Jakarta was from my guesthouse’s balcony. It poured. Without a break. For two days! I spent a lot of time in my room.

And considering that I had just arrived in Indonesia from Singapore… My budget was starting to feel a little strained. You see, in a moment of weakness- I bought myself the Nikon D5000 DSLR camera! It’s a beauty, and I don’t regret it. But it ain’t cheap! It made the two days trapped in my room a lot more bearable.

Also, Jakarta has very limited budget accommodation! You either have to pay the price to be in a safe and reasonably comfortable place or chose one of the scanty and poorly rated dingy rooms listed online! I chose the former. Hey, I’ve been sick!

The hostel I was staying at in Surabaya had a paid pick up service and claimed to be just a fraction of the cost charged by regular taxis. So I emailed them a confirmation and as soon as I arrived, I saw a young kid, rocking a crazy afro, standing at the exit with a placard ‘Tithiya Sharma Guest @ Da Rifi Hostel’.

As we walked out, the kid introduced himself as B.J. It took a lot of effort to not tell him what an unfortunate acronym he’d chosen for himself. The sky was a gloomy grey and my new friend said we’d better hurry.

There is no comfortable way to sit on a motorcycle with a huge backpack on your back! And it doesn’t help when it starts to pour and your rider thinks it’s best to carry on.

Soaked and sneezing, I checked into the hostel and got chatting with the German girl I’d be sharing the room with. She’d just returned from Mt Bromo… my next destination. She also mentioned that she’s recently been fired from her job and had received a fat severance cheque from her employer and would be traveling for about a year. Whoa! I asked her if her employer would like to fire me, but the humour was lost in translation and she thought I was mocking her!

By seven in the evening, I was burning up with fever. I did the same routine I’d been doing for a fortnight- cup of tea & a Tylenol, but this time there was no respite! I was shivering in a non air-conditioned room and feeling very sorry for myself. The owner of the guesthouse- Dayana came to ask me if I’d like some dinner. She leaned over me, touched me head and almost shrieked! “What happened to you? You need to see a doctor”. I dismissed it saying I’d be fine once the medicine kicks in. Of course by this time, Dayana was saying something in Bhasa Indonesia and yelling at B.J to bring her mobile phone.

She sat on my bed and dialed-a-doctor! Relaying the doctors’ questions and my sheepish responses back and forth. She jotted down a prescription and packed BJ off to the pharmacy.
I was very embarrassed by all the attention. And also very grateful. Dayana proceeded to bring me dinner and sat besides me till B.J. arrived. Made sure I had my fistful of pills and tucked me in for the night.

I woke up exhausted by without a fever. And considering I only had a short while here, I got busy with planning my trip to Malang and my trek to Mount Bromo- an active volcano that’s supposed to have an amazing sunrise.

Dayana interrupted by telling me I was stupid to consider going for the trek and that it would be very cold there. But I told her that I didn’t come all the way to Surabaya to ‘not see Bromo’!

My beautiful hostess got the drift. She made a few more phone calls and told me that at 3 pm, she’d be leaving for Malang with a friend and that I should go with her instead of alone! She was worried that I’d get really sick on the way and faint or get robbed.

I was really happy to get that offer. I really wasn’t feeling great and the idea of changing three modes of transport to reach Malang and then wait till midnight at a restaurant to be picked up by my jeep-tour seemed quite daunting.

Dayana and her lively friend grabbed a hand each and walked me across streets and through bus stations like I was their prisoner. Never letting me out of sight or allowing me to have a conversation with even the conductor! The two of them fretted over me, bought me water and a snack and insisted that I take a nap for the two-hour bus ride! They even switched off the air-con over our seats so I wouldn’t be cold.

When we got to Malang- Dayana took me to her home, called and arranged for the midnight trek jeep to pick me up from there. By eight, I decided to nap till my jeep arrived. I slept so well in this stranger’s home. I think it was just some Tender Loving Care I needed. Because by the time my pick-up arrived… I felt great!

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