When I saw her message, I was stunned. It said…
“Saya & teman berencana untuk reservasi Jakarta Half Day tour tgl 8 Mei, bisa diinformasikan berapa harga untuk 2 orang? Turnya bisa mulai setelah makan siang gak? Jam 2 siang dijemput dari hotel? Terima kasih.”
Not the content than surprised me but the fact that it was sent by an Indonesian woman. Well, not that I was that desperate, that no woman ever sent me a message. A little bit, I guess. But the fact that she sent me the message through toursbylocals that made me wonder. If you’re an Indonesian, why would you want to book a Jakarta tour by an Indonesian guy via a Canadian website and pay in US Dollars?
Okay, she was from Surabaya. But I bet you have tons of Jakartan friends who would love to take you around and show the landmarks of the town. Okay, maybe not tons, but at least one or two. Or, are you that desperate too? Like I was (and have been) desperate to find my soulmate?
I didn’t expect her to book my tour when I mentioned the price of my half day tour in USD, but she actually did! She added a little note that she will be with his friend, Mr. Geoffroy Parmentier. AH! That explains.
A friend told me on twitter that name “Parmentier” means he’s from Belgium, and my friend was right. When I picked them up at the airport, I directly mentioned that to him and he explained that the name Parmentier was a pretty popular name because Antoine Parmentier was the person who supported potatoes as a food source in France and Europe. Read more about him here. So, whenever he mentioned his name to a stranger, he was always asked, “you must’ve liked potatoes so much, haven’t you?”.
Imelda is from Surabaya (capital city of East Java) and works for UNDP in United Nations Headquarters in New York who adores Denzel Washington but has never seen Spiderman. Geoffroy is from Belgium who works as a pilot trainer and has always wanted to be a pilot ever since his grandfather told stories about working as warplane pilot.
“So, How did you two meet?” I asked them curiously.
“Ow, pardon my curiosity” I added when they hesitated to answer. The thing is, I always find a lot of interesting stories from my guests, and I always try to learn a lesson or two from them.
“No worries. Well, I travel a lot and he’s a pilot. So, yeah, we met up there”, Imelda finally revealed.
At that moment, my strong belief in destiny became stronger.
Going on a tour in Jakarta, you couldn’t expect the road would be friendly all the time. You would meet congestion, motorcycles struggled to find their ways, some public transportation mini buses stopped right in front of you to pick up or drop off their passengers. You just have to enjoy it. And with them, I heard giggles all the way. Not a single complaint about the traffic. The fact that maybe they were in love made the traffic bearable and everyone’s mood in the car pleased. Though I knew, it was my duty to make them content all the time during the tour, it was funny that they did the job.
Our first spot was the leaning tower of Jakarta.
“Now, that I didn’t know!” Imelda shouted.
The leaning tower that I meant was Menara Syahbandar. The tower was built in 1839 by the Dutch during their colonization as a watch tower and observation post, but it’s leaning a bit to the road because the road’s loaded with heavy vehicles like big trucks carrying cargo going into and out of the port.
We went up there to see what it was like to be a Dutch watchman at that time. I was glad Imelda and Geoffroy liked it. They even took a selfie of themselves. Well, Imelda insisted.
From there, we visited the old port, Sunda Kelapa. One of the most important historical sites in Jakarta. Why? I’ll explain in a separate article about this. It was fascinating that an old port that existed since the 5th century still functions as a working port up until now.
A lunch was requested by Imelda and Geoffroy before we continued the tour around the old town. So, I took them to Cafe Batavia that was built in 1884 for a trading office but turned to a sophisticated cafe in 1992. After an hour break, I took them to Museum Wayang or Puppet Museum because Imelda bought a small leather puppet of Rama and Shinta, souvenirs from Jogjakarta for Geoffroy and Geoffroy was eager to find out more about Wayang in Wayang Museum where Imelda discovered her hidden talent as a guide. She explained few things about wayang and puppets to Geoffroy and she was good at it. Really, I had a competition.
In the museum, Geoffroy was curious about gamelan, it’s a traditional orchestra from traditional musical instruments.
“Which one is which?”, he asked while pointing at the names of the instruments and demanded me to explain.
And that was the moment when I was clueless about it and replied, “Errr, that would be my homework to find out and e-mail you as soon as I figure it out”. Geoffroy responded with laughters, “Okay, I’ll be waiting for your e-mail and explanation, then”.
I believe honesty was better than pretending you knew about everything but turned out to be misleading. Guides are not google after all.
I was lucky to find a local guide of the museum nearby and asked him to explain about the instruments to us. Thanks to Geoffroy, now my knowledge about gamelan is broadened.
The next stop was supposed to be the National Monument, but since it was closed because the government was cleaning the monument, so we decided to make a stop at the Istiqlal Mosque, the grand mosque, the biggest mosque in the country and in South East Asia.
Before taking them back to hotel as the tour ended, we made a quick stop near the National Monument to take some pictures while I explained them about the Monument.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t go to the observation deck because the view of Jakarta is breathtaking from up there”, I apologized.
“It’s okay”, Imelda and Geoffroy replied.
And we discussed about how tall the monument was and compared to Liberty Statue in New York that Imelda went when she was in New York and led to my statement, “It’s not the tallest building in town, though”.
A statement that I regretted because it led to a question.
“Really? What’s the tallest building?”, Geoffroy asked curiously.
“Eerrr… Good question, Geoffroy!” I responded realizing that I didn’t know the tallest building in the capital city.
Geoffroy and Imelda laughed, “We give you a lot of homeworks, don’t we?”. And the tour ended there with me busy googling the tallest building in Jakarta.
Thanks to them, now I know that the tallest building in Jakarta is the Ciputra tower, 256 m high and 45 floors.
I always believe I would learn a thing or two from the people I meet during the tour. This time, I learnt a lot from Geoffroy and Imelda. I thank them for that.