Friday, March 30, 2012

Rujak Manis

I tried a new (for me) Indonesian dish this week and was surprised by how much I liked it, as its description sounds a little bizarre/off-putting:  rujak manis literally translates as sweet salad, but it is basically a fruit (buah) salad (watermelon, starfruit, jicama, pomelo, rose apple, pineapple, etc.) topped with a special sticky sauce made from brown coconut sugar, dried shrimp paste (terasi udang), chilis, and tamarind juice (sometimes peanuts, garlic and other things are added, depending on the cook, but I don't think the version I tried had those things). 

The sauce is spicy, sweet, sour, with a weird but pleasant umami flavor, which is a nice contrast to the crunchy fruit.  Add this to my list of things to try making!  Perhaps using one of these recipes...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another day, another protest

There have been a series of protests across Indonesia over the past week or so, all surrounding the government's plan to reduce the heavy transportation fuel subsidy currently in place, in effect raising fuel prices across the archipelago starting on April 1.  On Tuesday the protests in Jakarta were supposed to be massive, but ended up being much smaller than anticipated.  Things did get violent between students and police- rubber bullets and tear gas, I understand- but the size of the crowd was dampened by a torrential downpour.  Also, apparently the police were using female police officers as a tactic to keep the crowd in control??  Below is a view of some of the protesters from above, gathering at the beginning of their march...

The rallys were also not so peaceful elsewhere in Indonesia, unfortunately- it seems like things got out of hand on both sides, despite claims from the police that things were "handled."

I'm not sure who's right in this situation: on one hand there really shouldn't be a fuel subsidy making gas and diesel artificially cheap in Indonesia, incentivizing people to drive everywhere, causing major traffic problems, but on the other hand, people have no other options for getting where they need to go since the public transportation options are pretty weak: overcrowded trains and buses that break down regularly, no subway system to speak of...

Update:  There were more protests all week, some violent, some not, culminating in the government ultimately deciding to postpone the decision about the fuel subsidy removal for 6 months

Here are photos of Friday's noontime march towards the government buildings:



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bogor, Part II

So... once in Bogor, as I said, we headed to the Kebun Raya/botanical garden, where we ate lunch (Tim had the Dutch-named rijsttafel (rice table), which is a big pile of rice with about a zillion tiny servings of all sorts of stuff from veggies to chicken to beef to tempeh and tofu to sambal to eggs...) and then wandered around for a while.  The gardens were full of peeps hanging out, picnicking, playing badminton (Tim and I have noticed an uptick in the number of kids playing badminton in parks and on the street since an Indonesian doubles team recently won a major championship), walking around.  

We took a look at the orchid (anggrek) house, too, which was quite beautiful:

 The Kebun Raya is adjacent to the Presidential Palace that I mentioned, a large columned building used as a weekend retreat:  

The palace is surrounded by a really strange sight: a massive herd (700+ head, from my understanding) of spotted deer, originally placed there for hunting purposes by the Dutch governors.  These somewhat mangy beasts look really out of place in the middle of the city, roaming around, snagging carrots from tourists walking around outside the palace gates (carrots and greens are sold by roadside vendors just for this purpose):

As we were out and about in Bogor, we saw hundreds of apple green angkots driving around, honking, pausing to let street musicians and/or kids on and off to minta-minta:

Hidden amidst all the angkots were a whole bunch of horse-drawn carriages, which seemed fairly anachronistic:

We also noticed that the siren song of the ice cream man is truly the international language:

Finally, we saw some interesting food carts, including one I hadn't yet seen in Jakarta- strange green, crepe-like discs... maybe pandan?

Monday, March 26, 2012

On the Road Again: Bogor

Tim and I took a quick trip out of Jakarta this weekend to nearby Bogor, which is about 60 km south, close to Mt. Salak, an old volcano named after the snakefruit (not far from where I went hiking with Ben and Erin in the fall).  Called Kota Hujan, or city of rain due to its frequent downpours, from what I understand, Bogor used to be the local vacation spot during colonial times- a slightly cooler weekend/summer get-away.  The Dutch built a governors' retreat there- a large palace that is now used as a presidential get-away/secondary capital (Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [or SBY as he's called here; pronounced "Es-bay-yay"] recently met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the Bogor palace).  Apparently SBY plays golf in Bogor on occasion, too, at a course right by the hotel where we stayed.  This I overheard from a random kid who jumped in our taxi to guide our reluctant taxi driver towards our hotel in the pouring rain (don't ask).

Lately the sprawling beast that is Jakarta has extended all the way out to Bogor, so the traffic and craziness have somewhat subsumed the formerly relaxing get-away. It was still worth a trip, though, even just to walk around Bogor's famed "Kebun Raya"/botanical gardens and to check out the aforementioned presidential palace. 

Anywho... Tim and I decided to take the train out to Bogor, figuring we could avoid the holiday weekend traffic which apparently can make the 1 hour trip to Bogor last about 3 hours.  That was an adventure...  at Gambir station (right next to the National Monument [Monas]) we bought tickets for about 75 cents, which earned us a spot on what we think may have been the ekonomi-AC train (we had intended to get the eksekutif class tickets, but something got lost in translation). 

Monas from stasiun Gambir.

Once the train arrived, we shoved ourselves on and a few minutes later we were notified that we had somehow squished into the special women-only car on the train... Tim was forced to press into the significantly stinkier and more crowded car right behind with all of the other men.  Oops.  

Khusus untuk wanita saja.
 I think everyone got a kick out of us being on that train.  We were definitely the only bules there.  Funny thing is, it wasn't even the most economic train we could have taken- there was one that doesn't even have doors (sorry for the blurry photos... the train was moving too fast!):  

Once we arrived at the station in Bogor, we stepped out into the street and were inundated with calls from both vendors and angkot drivers.  Strangely, we noticed that a large percentage of the vendors on this particular street were selling bunny rabbits (sorry Jamie!):

Angkots are small green bus/vans that are the main form of public transportation in Bogor... somehow both Tim and I missed reading about the fact that Bogor has very few taxis (unlike Jakarta).  Since we couldn't find one of those few taxis, we hopped into one of the angkots and basically hoped it would get us to or at least near our hotel.  Once squished inside the bus, a very nice woman who spoke English quite well helped us figure out where we were going.   I should note that these ankots generally drove with the door open so people (including local street kids and/or street musicians) could jump in and out at will.  I had 1/4 of a butt cheek on the seat, with the rest of my body hanging out the door as we took our jaunt through town:
View out the angkot door as we rolled through town.
Sweaty and squished in an angkot.
 More on the meat of our Bogor trip soon...

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Well, I've been keeping track this past week, and here is that list, in all of its glory:


"One for all, all for one"  

(Vintage toilet enthusiasts? [a joke only my Randolph Street McCarthy brethren are likely to get] '80s music fan? or perhaps a Van Morrison junkie...)

(From my Bahasa Indonesia lessons, I understood that this word meant "too" in the sense of "excessive," as in "too much" or "too big" or "too sexy for my shirt"... that doesn't really explain why it's on the back of a bus, though.)

(This one's pretty self-explanatory, I guess. Or not?!?!)

 I'll update if I see any more good ones or manage to capture a photo of one of them that's better than this blurry mess:

This is the "Sensual" bus, from a taxi.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I think I've mentioned before how jarring I find the juxtaposition of the super-rich and the super-poor here in Jakarta...the contrast is so stark. It's pretty insane. Massive, extremely high-end malls, mansions and apartment buildings right next to shacks with jury-rigged electricity and the most polluted canals I have ever seen.  

Here are some examples from our neighborhood:  

 A highly-polluted canal/sewer between our apartment building and our neighborhood grocery store... complete with precarious electrical lines hanging over it.

Tim, sweaty and holding his breath because the canal smells so bad.

Also on the way to the grocery store, right across from the canal.  We think this may be temporary housing for construction workers who are building a big office building nearby, but we're not sure.  Either way, it amounts to little more than a double-decker cardboard box.

 A brand new condo building towering over a mini shanty town and random empty lot.

 Closer view of the shanties.

Grocery Games: Lady's Choice

 Lady's Choice Mayo Magic... 1 liter of mayonnaise in a plastic bag.  
"Pilihan Nyam! Nyam!" = Yummy choice!  Yum!

I'm pretty sure this is a pigeon.  People in Indonesia are certainly not squeamish about weird, edible animal parts or raw meat of any sort in the way that Americans are. For example, there is a commercial that keeps running on the channels I watch (well, mostly on the Asian Food Channel) for chicken broth... the commercial involves a headless, featherless, raw chicken dancing around and then jumping into a big stock pot, bumpy chicken skin and all.  This would never happen in the U.S.-  the chicken would only be shown trussed and roasted.  Our delicate sensibilities would be offended by anything less "civilized."