Sunday, October 26, 2003

Nongkrong di Kota

Nongkrong di Kota

Having been able to finish my work yesterday afternoon, I decided to reward myself that evening by going to Kota. Well, not to party with friends at one of the many nightspots, but to visit the Gramedia bookstore there located on Jalan Gajah Mada.

Gramedia sells mostly local books in Bahasa Indonesia. Unlike in Malaysia, there are also many English titles that have been translated into Bahasa: books on management, self-improvement, religion and philosophy--there are such an abundance of such titles.

I was surprised to see Bahasa Indonesia versions of not very well-known books which I had enjoyed: like Through the Narrow Gate by Karen Armstrong (Autobiografi Spiritual Karen Armstrong) and the Freud/Jung Letters. I found a copy of Bung Karno's famous "Living Dangerously" speech delivered on August 17, 1964 and promptly bought it. (Had a good time reading it last night.)

From Gramedia, I walked across the pedestrian bridge spanning Gajah Mada and Hayam Wuruk, overlooking the dirty and smelly canal, formerly known as the Molenvliet Canal. Snapped some pictures there under the fading light. The bridge brings you right in front of Plaza Hayam Wuruk, close to the popular nighttime playgrounds of Stadium and Seribu Satu.

I love the neon lights that adorn Diskotek Stadium. Took pictures of that too and made a mental note of posting one to a friend of mind in Malaysia who is especially fond of the bustling alley in front of Stadium.

The people of the night were just stirring into action--streetside peddlers selling cigarettes and condoms, China girls having porridge at hawker stalls, ceweks in clunky heels taking ojeks and bajajs to work. I myself had my dinner of Medan-style kari bihun at one of the Mangga Besar stalls.

There was a strange sign there that says: "PENGAMEN GRATIS". Gratis means percuma or free. I assumed that it indicates that the place is free from pengamen (street musicians can be quite a nuisance when you are eating outdoors in Indonesia). I wonder if any pengamen would take it to mean that they are entitled to free meals at the stall.

It was fun doing some nongkrong (loitering, Indonesian style) around the area watching the tumult of vehicles and the throng of people going about their businesses. It was Saturday night and Kota was just coming to live.

And I marvelled at the sight of it all: Across the road at the Gramedia bookstore, there were people flipping through Bermalam di Rumah Tuhan (Spending the Night in God's House) by Prof Ibrahim Amini; right here across the canal, the early birds were already making their way into that house of sin and flesh that promises a thousand and one delights.

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