Friends From Little India to Indonesia

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This blog entry about the events of Saturday, February 19, 2005 was originally posted on February 24, 2005.

DAY 490:  The city-state of Singapore is small enough that one can see all of its points-of-interest in just two or three days, and this being my third day in town, it was time to wrap things up before heading off to Indonesia that night to catch up with my old friend Henricus.  However, before catching up with an old friend, there was still time to make a new one.

“You feel like going out for coffee or something?” I asked Jean, the lone Singaporean manager/owner of the brand new Walkers’ Inn at 147 A/B Tyrwhitt Rd., conveniently located near 24-hr food centers and the Lavender St. MRT train station.  Without much advertising or gratuitous plugs just yet, I figured she had nothing to do in the office but sit and watch the paint dry — literally.

“Okay,” she answered.

Between “coffee or something” it was the latter we chose, “something” being a personally-guided walking tour of the Little India district nearby.  And so, Jean transformed from my host into my friendly neighborhood guide.


UNLESS YOU’RE A COMPLETE IDIOT, you’ve probably figured out that Little India (picture above) has a high concentration of Indian descendants.  Its growth came about during the late 19th century during the immigration boom from India when many people looking for work got jobs in construction.  Little India grew and grew into a prosperous cultural haven, but still retained the label of being “little.”

Little India still exists today with a pre-dominantly Indian population that works, lives, prays, and shops in the area.  Many people, Indians, non-Indians, and even tourists, journey there to go to the Mustafa Center, a huge 24-hour retail complex selling everything from PDAs to those sneakers kids wear with the wheels in the soles.  Jean led me there so I could cash a travelers’ check into American cash for my visa-on-arrival purchase in Indonesia later that night, and so we could just wander around in the air-conditioning.  Unfortunately for me, the sneakers with the wheels in the soles were sold out. 

Walking down Serangoon Road led us passed many centers of Indian life; Muslims flocked to the Angulla Mosque while Hindu devotees of the Hindu goddess Kali prayed at the Sri Veerama Kali Amman Temple.  Most of the strip was full of retail stores, many of them gold stores run by Indians but owned by Chinese, according to Jean.  Near the end of the strip was one of the many food hawker stall centers of Singapore — no one in Singapore really cooks because food centers are cheap and omnipresent — where Jean treated me to a uniquely Singaporean/Malay Indian dish, the Roti John, made with a baguette and not the usual Indian roti batter.


TO ESCAPE THE UNSEASONABLE HEAT, we wandered around the air-conditioned Sim Lim computer mall before heading back into a Chinese zone, where devotees were still praying for prosperity in the long Chinese New Year holiday.  Jean brought me to the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, a busy center of faith with many people doing the traditional Buddhist ritual of getting a fortune in accordance with “randomness.”  Jean explained to me the shaking of sticks ritual I’d seen many times before with no comprehension.  I shook a can of numbered sticks until one of them fell to the ground — that one corresponded to a fortune that I got from the counter.

“That’s probably the worst fortune anyone flying today could get,” I said.  The fortune was pretty bad, even using the phrases “likely to crash and get hurt” and “no more journeys to travel as a result.”  Clearly this was not your happy-go-lucky fortune cookie fortune; I mean, there were no winning lottery numbers on the back, nor was there a Chinese word of the day.

“You can burn it,” she told me.  She said it was what people did if they received a bad fortune in order to ward it off.  I put it in the burning urn of incense with the other bad fortunes and hoped for a safe flight later that day. 


I ACTUALLY PAID ATTENTION to the hackneyed pre-flight safety video that evening at the airport, after dinner with Carol and Zac at an award-winning food stall serving the yummy uniquely Singaporean, Chinese-Muslim nasi lemuk otah dish in Changi Village.  They dropped me off at Changi International Airport for me to board my Cathay Pacific flight bound for Jakarta, Indonesia, where I strapped in for a questionably safe flight.

The exits are there, there, and there.  Check.  Safety vest strap around the back.  Gotcha.  Lean forward with head tucked in, in the “unlikely event” the pilot yells “Brace!  Brace!” on the P.A. system.  Yeah, okay.

Nothing disastrous happened on the flight though — everything went smooth — although one unexpected thing did surprise me:  the southeast-bound flight took me back a time zone instead of ahead one like logic would tell you.  Crazy time zones, or was it a weird Daylight Savings Time period?  Either way, my 80-minute flight to Jakarta would take me back in time…


“SILICON ALLEY,” NEW YORK CITY, THE YEAR 2000.  It was the best of times, it was the even-better-than-best of times.  Working for an internet company during the rise of the dot coms was the ultimate Corporate American high.  It was a time when the conventions of stuffy ties and suits were thrown out the window to make room for jeans and sneakers, a time when then co-worker LovePenny hooked up his new X-Box on the big plasma monitor in the conference room for “interface research.”  It was a time of over-the-top company parties, “team-building” corporate outings, and industry conventions with performances by Run D.M.C.  It was a time when you could call in sick with the truthful excuse that you’re “hungover,” only to get a reply from your boss to the effect of, “Okay, just ‘work at home,’ I’m hungover too but I have to be here because I’m the boss.”  (Most likely, he was out drinking you the night before.) 

You know the movie Office Space? Well, working in NYC’s Silicon Alley from 1999-2001 was the exact opposite of that.

I was working for HyperTV on 19th and Park Ave. South, the interactive television entertainment division of ACTV (an acronym that didn’t stand for anything I may add), and it was everything you’ve probably read about or seen in documentaries, and then some.  At our prime, we had a luxurious two-level penthouse office (once featured in an episode of Law and Order: SVU) overlooking Union Square with an in-house gym, a home theater lounge with a PlayStation 2 for our daily lunchtime Tekken tournaments, and even a guy who came in whose only duty was to make us sandwiches.  At the age of 26, I was actually one of the older guys in the creative department; most people were right out of college and had hopped on the internet wagon to work by day and stay in the office late by night to play round after round of multi-player Unreal Tournament

I could go on and on about the adventures of working there — for example, accidentally seeing my sixty-something-year-old executive boss naked in the gym one morning, or the time Maculuay Culkin showed up at a Greenwich Village bowling alley that we had rented out (only to be ridiculed by inebriated us taunting him with his classic “Home Alone” pose) — but I must get back to the focus of this being a travel Blog.

Working at HyperTV wasn’t all fun and games; we did work for our bloated salaries after all, designing interactive components for clients like MTV, the WWE, Turner Broadcasting, and Playboy.  One of us designers was an Indonesian guy by the name of Henricus, arguably the best designer of us all (although not many people would argue it though) and a formidable Tekken player who often kicked my ass.  “You’re so dead, maan!” he’d always say before a match — it soon became one of his catch phrases.

Originally from the Indonesian island of Java (see where this is going?), Henricus had no choice but to leave New York after getting laid off in the “burst of the internet bubble” since ACTV had been his sponsor to be in the U.S.A.  I kept in contact with him though; since his departure from New York in the summer of 2001, he had landed a job in Singapore — which only lasted a few months — got laid off again, traveled around southeast Asia for a bit and got his PADI Open Water diving certification, relocated back to Indonesia, and got married.  However, as I was soon to find out, he still continued to be the always smiling, top notch designer everyone in New York remembered him as.


“ERIK!” CALLED A FAMILIAR VOICE from the mob of mostly unfamiliar people waiting outside the arrivals gate at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.  Henricus spotted me right away and greeted me with his signature smile. 

“Hey, Henri!”  We were reunited again after a three and a half year hiatus, for I had finally made my way to Jakarta with the sole intention of visiting him not only for my benefit, but for all the former ACTV alumni back in the States.

Henricus introduced me to his wife Linda, coincidentally also from Henricus’ Javanese hometown of Bandung (about two hours from Jakarta), and the three of us hopped into his new sleek-looking Toyota minivan that still had its new car smell.  “Did you get a new car or is this a rental?” I asked.

“It’s new.  I heard that you were coming so I bought a new car,” he joked.  Having a car was a must in Jakarta with the lack of a decent mass transit system, although it was the plethora of cars that contributed to Jakarta’s legendary daily traffic pile-ups.  We drove down the highway towards town and Jakarta immediately reminded me of Manila; it too was a huge city where poverty-stricken shacks were juxtaposed to many cosmopolitan modern skyscrapers and shopping malls, each one designed to be gaudier than the other. 

“Jakarta.  It’s a shitty city,” Henricus told me, playing the honest tour guide.  Like most people in the world, he had a conflicted interest with the place he resided. 

“It doesn’t look so bad,” I told him; the streets were empty and clear.

“It’s nighttime.  In the daytime it’s crazy.” 

Taking advantage of the nighttime calm, we drove to the uppity central district surrounding Medan Merdeka (Freedom Square), home of the one touristy national monument Henricus knew about, dubbed “Monas.”  In the center of Monas was the 132-meter-tall “Sukarno’s Last Erection” representing the “strength, freedom, and fertility of the nation” (says Let’s Go) and Henricus stopped the car outside the closed entry gate for me to get a picture.

“Okay, that’s it.  You’ve seen all of Jakarta,” he joked.

The rest of Jakarta, as far as he knew, was all about restaurants, shopping malls, and restaurants in shopping malls.  Most of them were closed around that time, so we sat down at a nearby Starbucks, proudly boasting it was the first 24-hour establishment in Jakarta, for cappuccinos, desserts, and shelter from the short downpour that soon passed through.  I learned that Henricus’ wife Linda was quite an eater, although you would never tell because she was so slender.

I was excited about getting a coffee in that particular Starbucks for some reason.  “This should be the best Starbucks.  This is [Java,] where all this coffee came from.”

“It tastes the same,” he put it bluntly.  It did.


TO SOUTHERN JAKARTA WE DROVE, to Henricus’ and Linda’s high-rise apartment complex just next to the Australian embassy that had been bombed in 2004 — construction of a new entry gate was still in the works.  We parked the car in the garage after the security checkpoint and took the elevator up to the third floor in Tower Three.  When the door opened, I saw that the apartment was “very Henri,” with modern furniture and a clean, minimal look.  To the side of the living room was space allotted for his home office with a new iMac and his old PowerBook G4 that I remember him buying back in New York (still running OS9).  Apartment 3G was clearly the pad of a designer — even the portraits on display of man and wife were graphic designed instead of being just run-of-the-mill photos.

All sleekness aside, Henricus was still his video game-playing self like most of the male ACTV alumni, and we ended the night reliving our golden days of Silicon Alley by playing Tekken on his PS2

“Erik, you’re so dead.”

He kicked my ass of course.  In Jakarta, halfway around the world from New York City, some things never change.

SAVE THE DATE; DAY 503 IS COMING.  MARCH 5, 2005, NYC.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE TRAILER. 
PLEASE R.S.V.P. WITH YOUR HEADCOUNT BY POSTING A COMMENT HERE.






Next entry: Indonesia In A Day

Previous entry: Uniquely Singapore




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Comments for “Friends From Little India to Indonesia”

  • GREETINGS FROM TAIWAN…  omg, i’m about to miss my flight…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  03:55 AM


  • Hey! I was away for a bit, but just got back, and caught up:)!  I’ll stop by for sure day 503, so count me in! Have a safe trip home!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  04:26 AM


  • OS9 still rocks!...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  04:44 AM


  • Yay Henricus! Nice to “see” him again. Not only was Henri the best designer and Tekken player at ACTV, he was also a great actor - providing the voice of the villian character Mucho Malo in the Rod the Bod cartoon we did for TBS Superstation. Mr. Erik Trinidad voiced some bit parts as well - anyone who’s curious can the cartoons out here:
    http://eviltwincomics.com/rod14.html
    http://eviltwincomics.com/rodcred.html

    Erik - Which Tekken character did Henri always used to whoop our asses with? I destinctly remember getting the repeated smackdown from either Paul Phoenix (biker dude with the blond pompadour) or Jin Kazama (corkscrew uppercut!).

    Posted by dunlavey  on  02/24  at  05:11 AM


  • Hey Erik,

      Are you going to make a Flash movie of “credits” Thanking all the peeps you’ve met on your journey at the end of your Blog, like what happens at the end of a film?

      I’m off to Oz in a few days. See ya upon my return!

      Word Life.

      Moman!!

    Posted by Cheif Boot Knocka Moman  on  02/24  at  05:38 AM


  • “You’re so dead,maan!”

    good to see henricuz doing well and married to boot! w00t!

    btw, xbox is where its at now…Halo 2. nuff said.

    gamertag: PorkFryRice (^_^)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  01:34 PM


  • Good times!
    Henry AND Robin are married!  wink
    see ya at the pool…
    N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  01:47 PM


  • I loved the foray into Silicon Alley circa Y2K. “Home Alone” posses… haha… Maculuay must have been so pissed!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  02:19 PM


  • you taunted Macauley Culkin at a bowling alley with the “Home Alone” pose?  hillarious!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  03:05 PM


  • HARRY:  WOW, thanks for the donation!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  05:25 PM


  • DUNLAVEY:  He always used to be Paul.  “Paul Finer” he’d say.

    Wow, Rod the Bod… now THAT’s a flashback.

    Hey, did you really get Conan tickets?  That’s supposed to be my jolt back into late night pop culture…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  05:38 PM


  • TDOT / SARA:  If memory serves me correctly, Macualay had just made his big comeback into acting just that night on Broadway.  He and the cast went to Bowlmor after the show, only to get shit from us.

    We got kicked out for harassing him.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  05:49 PM


  • NIKKIJ:  Good times… we must not forget “lunch in the park” or The Days and Nights of Tracy J’s….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  05:51 PM


  • Dude!

    Erik, I wanna kick your ass again in Soul Calibur II… and Dunlavey, don’t you run from Paul Phoenix…

    Erik brought a good old times, missed you all !...

    Posted by HBomb  on  02/24  at  06:29 PM


  • Quick, someone send Macualay Culkin the DAY 503 trailer!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  06:42 PM


  • HBOMB:  Hey!  Glad to see you again… more stories to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  06:44 PM


  • ERIK - NBC sent me an email update - my Conan tix wont be coming until SEPTEMBER, which is almost a year after I asked for them! Bastards. We could always just go wait for standby tickets if you want - I’m unemployed again so I’ve got time to spare.
    Holy shit - it’s finally sinking in that you’re coming back in ONE WEEK - see you on saturday!

    Posted by dunlavey  on  02/24  at  07:09 PM


  • Erik, are you on Canadian soil?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  07:19 PM


  • I spend about 10 minutes a day reading this blog at work.  OK, I work about 49 weeks a year so that works out to be 3,266 minutes in 1.33 years (16 months, since I’ve been reading from the beginning).  That’s 54 hours - more than a work week.  Isn’t that awesome?  Nice job, Erik!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  07:25 PM


  • No prob Erik!  After all, ‘following’ you around the world for over a year, its the least I could do! (And thanks to PHL for covering the spread in the superbowl too:) 

    That .com post brought back memories for me too! Mail.com for me, on wall street, the 8 thousand dollar projector in the conference room being used by us ‘night shifters’ to watch movies and play games on…the cappachino and even a slot machine in the kitchen, paid rides home….ah, those were the days…I knew they wouldn’t last…

    Damn, I hope you will still have a blog in some way, I’m not going to know what to do with my free time now!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  07:39 PM


  • Who goes Bowling to celebrate Openning night?!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  07:48 PM


  • what do you MEAN? OS 9 is somehow *outdated*?!

    I’m trapped here in the “revised” world of corp. america, where upgraded software/hardware & OSs are a pipe-dream at best. Heaven help me, OS9, G4, and tragically outdated software.  Oh, if only there was a *budget* for these things! ERIK—they haven’t upgraded that media room since YOU LEFT. And that was forever-ago!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  08:47 PM


  • yo

    waiting fo March 5th. hoowah ... hey that was a bad fortune man !!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/24  at  11:26 PM


  • CHRISTY:  Pearson hasn’t upgraded since 1999?  Are you kidding me?  You still think I could get a book deal from them?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  12:43 AM


  • JACKAL7Z:  Don’t forget to bring up some Key Lime Pie!  I’m Rick James, bitch!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  12:48 AM


  • Hey Eric, just logged on to your site. That rules, think we gonna use it for the rest of our stay in S E Asia. Am in Kuala Lumpur now, so gonna check out the nightlife here tonight. Hope we can top the 72 nd floor in Singapore!
    Cheers, Koen

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  09:12 AM


  • Hey Eric, just logged on to your site. That rules, think we gonna use it for the rest of our stay in S E Asia. Am in Kuala Lumpur now, so gonna check out the nightlife here tonight. Hope we can top the 72 nd floor in Singapore!
    Cheers, Koen

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  09:13 AM


  • Hey Eric, just logged on to your site. That rules, think we gonna use it for the rest of our stay in S E Asia. Am in Kuala Lumpur now, so gonna check out the nightlife here tonight. Hope we can top the 72 nd floor in Singapore!
    Cheers, Koen

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/25  at  09:14 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Indonesia In A Day

Previous entry:
Uniquely Singapore




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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