The steamy city of Jakarta comes across as a mix of duality. The steamy, richly scented streets to it’s thumping nightlife, Jakarta always brings to mind a Pandora’s box, filled with unexpected gems. From the rather opposite New York City, our search of travel stories takes us to the tales told by Eka Situmorang-Sir from the bustling Indonesian city. She often writes in Indonesian on her blog Cerita Eka, which is among the top 50 travel blogs, all languages, in the world.
A flash-packer who travels with her own style, a social media enthusiast, a high-heels fans, a choco addict, as well as a culinary worshipper, she also chronicles her travel experiences in videos (Eka’s youtube channel). Talking to Eka, she came across as a friendly, cheerful person who can talk endlessly about her travels. Here are the highlights from my conversations with Eka; on her travels, what made her a travel writer, and more.
I grew up in Yogyakarta, a small town in Java Island, Indonesia. The city is known for its culture, the people are friendly, never in a rush and ever so polite. Yogyakarta is the only city in Indonesia which still has its own King (and he’s also the governor). My earliest memories here are learning how to dance (traditional) and the times I fell in love with its cuisine.
My first experience of traveling was on my 10th grade. Still in my 3rd grade, parents decided to move to Jakarta. After 7 years, suddenly we missed Yogyakarta too much. My dad took us in a minivan, and we got our first 10 hours touring in the car! It was so exciting, we stopped at little towns between Jakarta and Yogyakarta, tried the distinguished cuisine of each city, talked to the local people and so much more. By the time we reached our destination, I realized that I was hooked to travelling!
The making of a flashpacker
On my early trips, I didn’t have the luxury to travel in a business class or something like that. Dad tought me to be a backpacker. Spent as little as I can for the sake of adventure. Once, dad took me to a train station and he didn’t buy the ticket. So during the journey, we were like playing the hide and seek game, tried not to get caught by the officers. I still can remember how fast my heart beat at that time, hopping from one train to another. But it was fun!
On being a local while on a trip and something about loos
I try to mingle with the locals, talk to them and share their experiences. Indonesians are very chatty, they love talking, just listen to them and you’ll get many new insights into the culture of their villages, of how they do a certain religious ceremony, even up to how they cook certain things. Once, on my trip to Kiluan Bay, me and my husband stayed at one of the locals’ houses. Soon, I realized they didn’t have bathroom in the house, the nearest bathroom and toilet was about 500m onto the woods! So all night I fought nature’s calling! And early morning when I got to take shower, it was an open bathroom, they had like a cubicle without a roof. So I took a shower under the sun shining and the birds chirping on the trees. We had seafood for our dinner which was fresh from the bay and it is amazing how you can hear so many ancient stories while sharing plates on dinner.
For the love of Jakarta and being a host
Been living in Jakarta for 22 years now, I know almost every inch of this city. If you decide to come here, you need to know what kind of experience you want from the city. For the landmark go to Monas (National Monument) of Jakarta. For a seep into culture, I can take you to the Kota Tua area, there you can see old buildings with special architecture – a combination of Dutch, Chinese and local – can’t hope too much, many buildings are not in a good condition but you’ll hear the history of the city and its society coming out of them. Some buildings are even claimed to be haunted! Dare to try? I can take you to the local markets like Mangga Dua or Jatinegara. You’ll find experiences like blending with the local sellers.
I’m a proud Indonesian as well as Jakartan. Though instead of Jakarta, I will recommend other cities for you to visit since there aren’t much you can see here (Jakarta is just like any other hustle and bustle city) but if you do decided to come down, it will be my pleasure to show you around.
The inspiration to travel
Culture and nature are the inspirations for me to travel. I love mingling with the locals. Travel enriches my knowledge of the land and somehow I feel closer to God whenever I see nature’s beauty. My travels have taken me so far to most of the Indonesian provinces and to some other South East Asian countries. The most delightful place I have ever see is Lake Toba in North Sumatera Province. It was so pretty, calm and remote. The culture is also very interesting with their traditional dance, apparel and philosophy.
Where to next and the top 3 favourite experiences
Next has to be Paris! Simple reason, the romance of the city and kissing my husband under the Eiffel Tower. The top three in my book has to be Bali for its unique customs, Kiluan Bay for mingling with the locals and beautiful scenery and Yogyakart, a unique city that captured my heart.
“Travel is as important as the air! I always get this nauseous syndrom if I don’t travel for a length of time. Lucky my job requires me to travel.” - Eka