A bajaj roared across a surprisingly empty road in Jakarta. It was less than two hours since we landed on Indonesia’s capital city and after a painfully slow transit from the airport to our hotel, a road not filled with vehicles slowly inching away to their destinations was a fresh sight. Jakarta’s infamous traffic notwithstanding, I was elated to be in the city. Together with 39 bloggers and social media influencers from across South East Asia, it was our gateway to the treasures of Indonesia, a starting point in exploring the country's major tourist destinations.
|READY FOR INDONESIA|
|MANILA TO KL TO JAKARTA; STILL WASN’T ABLE TO FINISH XMEN ON THE INFLIGHT MOVIE|
The story started in Manila, Singapore, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai and various parts of Indonesia. It was a convergence of travelers, both acquainted and total strangers, into a single destination.
From Manila, I started to get acquainted with fellow Filipino influencers, and by the time we reached Jakarta, that circle soon ballooned to include peeps from Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and, of course, Indonesia; our future best friends from Thailand, who joined the fray the day after.
|LOVE MERCURE SABANG’S SCULPTURAL MODERNIST WALL|
|AT THE LOBBY, WAITING FOR OUR ROOM KEYS|
|WANTED TO LAY DOWN AND SLEEP, BUT WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT?|
The gang converged at Mercure Sabang Hotel [CHECK RATES & AVAILABILITY] [GPS MAP -6.182309, 106.824846]. And after brief hellos and handshakes at the hotel’s stylishly modern lobby, everyone settled into their own rooms, almost unpacking (we’re gonna leave quite early tomorrow), and freshening up for the upcoming dinner in just a few hours time.
|WELCOME DINNER AT PENANG BISTRO. AND NO, WE’RE NOT IN PENANG, LOL.|
Soon, everyone was back on the bus, bracing for another round of Jakarta’s traffic jam. It was with relief that our venue for the welcome reception was just a few blocks away from Mercure. And there we were, trailing like lemmings to Penang Bistro’s [GPS MAP -6.183265, 106.827349] third floor for dinner.
I was as surprised as my seatmates that we’re having Penang food while in Jakarta, but I never did mind! I love Penang’s dishes. But it turned out that it was all in the name, while they do serve Penang food, they also have Indonesian and other Asian favorites on their menu.
|STRAITS CRISPY SQUID AND ROTI CANAI CHICKEN CURRY|
Soon, our tables were filled with delectable local dishes, most were vaguely familiar, with a few, totally new to my eyes (and tongue). And you can just imagine what happens with a roomful of bloggers and Instagrammers. Shoot first before eating, of course. It was a madness only social media peeps would understand, lol.
As we dug in, introductions were said, to cheers and hoots as profile pictures were flashed on the wall. Itineraries were given; twelve days of exploration across Bandung, Yogyakarta, Lombok, Labuan Bajo and Bali. Nice! And after the table has been wiped clean of food, it was time to go back to the hotel.
|THE FIRST OF MANY BINTANG NIGHTS IN INDONESIA|
But not for us. It was decided that the night was simply too young to say goodnight to. We bade our goodbyes to our newfound friends, and with Filipino blogging legends, G, M, R and C, plus Indonesian superstar F, we scoured the backpacker’s area of Jakarta for a few bottles of Bintang, Equal Park Bar [GPS MAP -6.183509, 106.829777] fitting the bill perfectly. With a very loud local reggae band backing our every shouted stories and swigs of the bottle, I can tell right then that it’s gonna be one heck of a trip.
~ INDONESIA'S MINISTRY OF TOURISM INVITED ME AS A PART OF THE TRIP OF WONDERS TOUR. VIEWS, OPINIONS & BIASES, ALL MINE.