August 29, 2009

Survival tip: Know your "mouse streets"!

Jakarta is well-known for its traffic jam. In my opinion, it gets worse every year. So to save time, it is helpful to know Jakarta's back streets, what we call jalan tikus (meaning mouse streets).

Jalan tikus are narrow often winding streets, usually only fit for one car, which go through dense neighbourhoods (usually mid-lower class). Jakarta is full of these small streets, creating a maze that can get you from point A to point B whilst avoiding the traffic jams on the main roads. Because they are actually residential streets, they are usually only packed in the morning & evening, when Jakarta's traffic jams occur. For the rest of the day, the jalan tikus is relatively empty.

So why don't people use it more often?
- First of all, not every one knows a particular jalan tikus. Sometimes the streets are so small and winding, they're not on the map. Or there are lack of street names/ road signs so you can't use a map to navigate through. That is why you usually only know the ones that relate to your everyday life. I know the ones that will get me quicker to my office/ home but I have no idea about the jalan tikus in North Jakarta.

- Second, it is narrow so a bit difficult to maneuver, especially if you have a large car. Some people just don't feel comfortable driving through it.

- Third, you can get stuck. Jalan tikus is usually a two-way street although it can only fit one car. So you must know the "appropriate direction" people are using at that time. For example, in the morning, a jalan tikus will be used to get from point A to point B. But in the evening, the traffic will be from point B to point A.

I once got stuck for half-an-hour before we were moving again. You can't go forward because of the stubborn car that is defying direction and you can't go back because there is already a line of cars behind you. All you can do is wait until someone (usually local teenagers who live there) voluntarily helps direct the traffic. I glared at the driver who caused it once he passed by, and I bet you I wasn't the only one.

The best way to stumble upon a jalan tikus is when you take a taxi. Good taxi drivers know Jakarta's jalan tikus. Another way is just to follow the cars in front of you. If you see a couple of cars turning away from the main road, it may be because they are going to use a jalan tikus. But then again, it may be they are just heading home.

Going through a jalan tikus

Nearing the end of the jalan tikus

August 17, 2009

Batik Komar in Bandung

I'm currently taking a travel writing class which consists of 4 theory sessions & 2 fieldtrips. But, surprise...surprise...I've already missed out on 2 classes & 1 trip because of the hectic load at my office. I did manage to attend 1 trip last weekend to Bandung where we were supposed to write an article about. I eventually submitted mine 1 week after the due date. The article is a bit long while I like to keep my blog postings short so I've taken out some bits of pieces of the article to post here...

After taking a few wrong turns through the winding roads of Bandung, my travel writing class mates and I eventually arrived at Batik Komar's workshop in Cigadung area. The workshop has nice plants and trees on the side, giving it a quite serene atmosphere.

Komarudin Kudiya, the workshop owner, greeted us at the gate. His appearance was friendly and humble considering his achievements are plenty, among others he produced the longest batik in the world in 2005 which made the Guinness book of records. His batik house is also a regular at international trade fairs.

While lunch was served, compliments of the host, Mr. Komar explained a little about batik. "For it to be called batik, it must use malam (candle wax) when dyeing the textile," he started his explanation. The wax is used to cover the parts of the cloth design that you don't want to get coloured. Two general methods of applying the wax are by using "
canting" and "cap".

Making batik with a canting can be a very tedious process. This is usually done by women and the end-product is called Batik Tulis (which means "Written batik").

Batik cap, on the other hand, is usually done by men using copper blocks (cap) which are stamped onto a piece of cloth. It usually takes about 2 weeks (depending on the design) to make a cap from scratch. There are not many producers of the actual cap device, which is why Batik Komar also receives orders from other batik houses to make the device for them.

Mr. Komar showed us the storage room for the cap devices. There are hundreds of them, neatly arranged on shelves which are as high as the ceiling. Each cap design ever made by Batik Komar is saved on a computer.

We then entered the room where the cap is actually used to design the batik. Each man stands behind a table which has a piece of cloth on it. On their side is a small stove with a copper platter containing a thin layer of heated wax. The cap is dipped into the wax for a moment and then taken out and shaken a few times to get rid of any wax which haven't stuck well on the cap. They then carefully put the cap onto the cloth, making sure the pattern fits well with the previous print. Under the cloth, the table is actually padded with a slightly wet material covered with plastic so that the wax will dry quickly once pressed on to the cloth.

After looking at the whole process, you can't help not wanting to buy a piece of batik. Luckily the workshop has a small store selling ready-to-wear batik clothing as well as single pieces of batik cloth.

If you want to buy Batik Komar but don't have the time to go to the workshop, Batik Komar also has a showroom in the Bandung city centre at Jalan Sumbawa.

Besides the workshop and showroom in Bandung, Batik Komar also has a workshop in his birthplace - Trusmi (Cirebon). Trusmi is a village well-known for its high quality batik. I guess in this case, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Mr. Komar explaining the process of dyeing the cloth

Making the copper block, the kid in the yellow t-shirt is Mr. Komar's son...the next generation?

Making the cap, from the hand-drawned design until the finished product

Left: Dipping the cap into the wax, Right :Carefully stamping the cloth


Storage Room

August 8, 2009

Mosquito Fogging

Today my neighbourhood was scheduled to be fogged. This is usually done when a number of people have occurred dengue fever in the neighbourhood. The fogging is intentionally scheduled on weekends when people are most likely at home, not busy working thus leaving the house empty.

I find this very troublesome because then I can't sleep in. Usually the fogging takes place before 9 o'clock in the morning, otherwise it would be less effective in killing the mosquitoes (this is according to my mom, haven't checked out this info).

The sound of the fogging device is quite loud and the "fog" has a disturbing aroma. Usually it takes about half an hour for the air to clear before we can go inside the house again.

But then comes the hard part.
We have to put back in place all the food-related utensils which we stowed away, change the bed sheets, and clean the floors (there is usually a thin layer of residue).

So much for a relaxing Saturday... but at least this night, I can sit in front of the computer without having to slap away too many mosquitoes...

Dark "smoke" fills the house...if you go inside, it's dificult to see anything

Left : The "fogging man" in action, Right : Filling up the device

August 2, 2009

Souvenir from Yogyakarta

It's been 2 weeks since the bombings. Life in Jakarta is back to normal. However, I've had to cancel my weekend-trip plan to Yogyakarta (i.e. Jogja) this August because my friends are a bit anxious about travelling so soon after the bombings. I myself am not too worried because I think we should actually be safer in Yogyakarta, a city where no bombings have occurred, instead of being in the city where the bombing has occurred, right?

On my previous trip to Jogja, a few years back, I didn't have the chance to visit the Borobudur temple. Thus, I was looking forward to go this time. Another reason why I wanted to go is because I wanted to buy some silver accessories.

If you ever go to Yogyakarta, I highly recommend you go to a district called Kotagede to buy silver as a souvenir. You will find many shops selling silver jewellery and handicrafts here, all made by the local people. Many of them actually have a workshop in the back, so you can see how they make the jewellery.

When I went to Kotagede, I bought from a shop called Ansor's silver, which is one of the more well-established ones. Based on my experience, the silver is of better quality (and cheaper!) than Perlini's (a well-known international franchise which sells silver, commonly found in Jakarta malls).

Left : At Ansor's silver store, Right : At the workshop
The pendant and necklace that I bought

Besides silver, of course you can also buy Batik as a souvenir from Jogja. Jogja batik has patterns and colors unique to the area, which are darker compared to batik from Cirebon.

For a more modern souvenir, try buying Chocolate Monggo. It is dark chocolate made from Javanese and Sumatran cocoa beans, but from a mixture of European and Javanese recipes. What I think is nice about them, besides the taste of course, is the packaging. The packagings have traditional designs, mainly related to Jogja...and they're from recycled paper!

Pic Source :

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...