Official Opening at the ASEAN HQ
After a breakfast of rice porridge, sushi and tropical fruits, PJ and I hopped on a TransJakarta bus to Blok M and deftly navigated through the buses, motorcycles and food stalls that occupy the streets of Jakarta.
Our destination was the ASEAN headquarters, where we were welcomed by Mr. Rajaretnam, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Community Building and Outreach, and the organisers of the ASEAN Rickshaw Run.
After an introduction by the organisers, the head of the Jakartan police introduced to us the Indonesian road etiquette.
First of all, he explained, it is of utmost importance that one should drive on the left. Even though you’re used to driving on the right, he assured us, it is highly recommended to adopt this rule whilst in Indonesia.
Second, many regions in Indonesia are not used to the sight of tuk-tuks, particularly tuk-tuks clumsily propelled by foreigners in t-shirts and short trousers, so the risk of becoming a tourist attraction is quite high.
Third, it was strongly discouraged to drive at night, especially near the Sumatran jungle. Those who do so should also be prepared to encounter wild boars crossing the road. “They’re not aggressive most of the time and you’re welcome to play with them”, explained the head of the police department, to which the translator quickly added: “These are his words, not mine!”
The MVP’s of Jakarta’s Police Force were happy to take some pictures with us and I suspect this new-found friendship will prove very useful indeed on our journey to Sumatra.
Also encouraging was the speech of Mr. Nithee Seeprae, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, who assured us that traffic in Thailand is not so different from that of other Southeast Asian countries and boils down to two golden rules:
1) “Don’t crash into anyone or let anyone crash into you”
2) “There are no traffic jams in the south, if you find yourself in a traffic jam you know you’ve reached Bangkok”
While listening to his presentation on southern Thailand, embellished by various pictures of sandy beaches, we could think of little else than taking a dive. Whether this sudden desire will come to fruition is a matter of luck; we will have three days to drive from Penang all the way up to Bangkok. On the other hand, we aspire and expect to be expert tuk-tuk drivers by then.
The lunch consisted of risoles, bikang ambon and a sticky banana cheese sandwich, the latter a famously awkward Indonesian creation equalled only by mayonnaise fruit salad.
Mr. Rajaretnam had far superior plans for lunch and kindly invited us and the other Singaporean team (Team Sambal Sandwich) to join him for some spicy Menadonese food and cakes.
We are now on our way to pick up Xin Hui and Andrew from the airport, and running late!
Therefore, my friends, I will say goodbye for now and hope to share with you tomorrow’s adventure of driving the tuk-tuk across the gridlocked roads of Jakarta very soon.