A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

A prologue of sorts

In the three weeks he was here, myself and old rascal of my university years, Captain Razzle himself (aka Shane Conneely) experienced much, so much so that it would take a great and tiresome effort to convey even half of it within the walls of this mere blog. For this reason, I will use my camera's memory card to initiative my own memory into action, and will carefully upload some of our better photos than attempt to convey our entire adventure within what would ultimately become a failed narrative. I will, however, resort to narrative when I see fit and in this endeavour I have the aid of my journal, which I occasionally wrote in upon my travels.

I met Captain Razzle at the airport with one Putri Sekar Wanggi. It did not take long to find him. Within five minutes of being there, in fact, he came storming out of the airport, headphones in hand. It was hot and humid, typical Jakarta weather. I figured he would be thirsty so I brought him a drink of clear, fresh water - or so he thought. Actually, it looked like water but it was a type of arak, a form of concentrated rice wine which can be found in different forms throughout the wonderful Indonesian archipelago. This arak in particular was from Bangka, a small island just off the coast of southern Sumatra. It was a gift from Sekar, not too strong. “You want some water?” I asked the Captain. With no questions asked, he supped from the bottle. I had tricked him and yet there was no emotion in his face: neither happiness nor anger, he accepted his fate as all Razzle Monsters do.

As for the rest of the eve, what language might convey the horrors and the interminable, unforgettable woes which befell us? I will not go into details. Why would I? Just let it be said that it was a continuation of those actions deep within our pasts, often ascribed to cretins and scoundrels – or, even worse, cretinous scoundrels, cretinous at best. I cannot tell the story for it is not my story to tell. I will leave it to Captain Razzle, or to our personal memories and individual histories. Those days do not belong to the present! They are best forgotten!

So, let us think about that first week in more general terms.

Captain Razzle spent a week in Jakarta while I was working. I saw him in the evening, a time in which we usually consumed delicious food and supped mediocre beer, while discoursing upon our soon-to-be adventure. From what I know, the Captain spent his days in Jakarta sightseeing and struggling through wretched heat, and with no language but English he frequently got lost in the vast urban sprawl that is Jakarta, where he would have stumbled through 21st century mega-malls and 21st century mega-slums and witnessed, with his own eyes, the truth and travesty of Third-World inequality. But I am not Captain Razzle. His story is not my story to tell. I was not there. I know little.

We must therefore fast forward to the eve of our journey, where I was, for the most part, present. There were three of us: myself, Captain Razzle and Putri Sekar Wanggi. We were on a train – a long journey, about 7 or 8 hour from Jakarta to Jogjakarta - where we each took Padang food (rice, beef cooked in rendang sauce, curried vegetables, to be more precise) on the train and although a long journey, the train was cheap (it cost around 130,000 rupiah each or 8-9 British pounds). The train was also relatively comfortable: for one, we could sit, and despite the train having no air-conditioning, the breeze coming through the windows soon reduced the overall temperature of the cabin to a comfortable level. Unable to sleep, however, I spent the journey observing Sekar and the Captain, who were by all counts unconscious, except for when the train was invaded at each passing stop with vagrants and peddlers selling all manner of foodstuffs, coffee, and even beer. I was annoyed and so I indulged my self in a cheeky tin of Bintang (a very average Indonesian lager) and wished for naught but sleep (or so my journal says).

We had boarded the train at around 9 pm in the evening and arrived in Jogjakarta at around 3.30 am. I was wearing shorts and I remember the air being quite chilly. We walked for ten minutes before entering into conversation with a local Javanese fellow. He was a middle-aged man and very charming, a maestro in both conversation and discourse. But we were tired and required sleep so we asked him about cheap accommodation in the area and he directed us to a cheap and nice place to stay. For the three of us, it cost 150,000 rupiah per night (around 11 quid). Absolute bargain.

After sleeping for a few hours, I remember waking up and feeling ravenous. I was in Jogjakarta and I wanted to eat some of the local food. After leaving our hotel, we discovered that we were staying in Marlboro, on a narrow but rather interesting and colourful street of contemporary and traditional art and second-hand book shops. We walked for a short while and found a waroong: there, we ate the first meal of our journey, a breakfast of Nasi Gudeg – a local speciality of sweet jackfruit and rice, served with egg and sambal terasi (chilli mixed with shrimp paste). Our bellies full, our travels had begun in Jogjakarta, a land which would offer us art, dance, and the majestic histories of Buddhist and Hindu civilisations, today entwined with Islam and local animisms, in what is now generally referred to as “Javanese” (or perhaps better, “Central Javanese”) culture. And, of course, there would be alcohol and tourists; that is, alcohol and tourists and all the deranged manifestations which go with both when combined with two individuals long since skilled in the universal arts of razzling, whether in the East or the West.

And that tale, a tale of times long past (almost one year, in fact) will be with you very, very soon. For now, I leave you with two pictures from our journey: the first picture is of my own fine, astute self; the second is of the wretched Captain Razzle (a beast amongst men). Farewell for now.



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