Getting to know the neighbours

With the guavaritas and the Ogés
With the guavaritas and the Ogés

One of the BEST reasons to live in Kuala Lumpur, as I have said before, is that it is easy to get away! We have super friends who live in Phuket and Singapore and though we’ve only been here since September, we’ve visited them already. Now, all that remained was the hat trick – to visit Suzy,  Stephane and their kids, Louis and Anais, who moved from right across our street in The Hague.  They’d been our  over-the-road neighbours for three years and I’d known Suzy for five before that through our shared love of professional networking but, in fact, we’d only had three ‘dinner dates’ with them in all that time. If we we didn’t know them then, after just a weekend as their guests in their new villa in Jakarta, we sure do now!

I think Suzy invited us to stay about a month ago and it took Ian less than a minute to say a categoric ‘yes’ to that suggestion (before he knew the fun that would be in store). We didn’t quite get on the next plane – but almost.

The flight took less than two hours and despite torrential rain on landing we were soon in a taxi. Armed with the address we felt confident. Then we spent two hours in traffic. I know, I know, everyone mentions the traffic before they mention anything else, when talking about Jakarta. I’d not expected such a boring, slow old trip though.

But when we turned off the highway towards their area, everything changed. Highrise became lowrise, concrete jungle became, well, tree-lined roads, crammed with bicycles ridden by folk with bundles on their heads, or barrows attached in the manner of the Dutch bakfiets. There were tuktuks and motorised snack carts and swarms of motorcycles weaving in and out of the nose-to-tail cars as if they were the thread in a loom. Shacks and leantos offered ramshackle shopping opportunities and roads were frighteningly narrow for two-way traffic and bikes. They planners decided to forego the pavements  as a result, I suppose. Actually, I can’t believe there were any planners.

local Jakarta street
local Jakarta street

There, deep in a rabbit warren of narrow lanes their villa, hidden from view, like all other homes by a wall and huge gate. Her driver and helper were waiting outside for us, armed with huge umbrellas. When the gates moved aside, there shining, bright as a light, was their gorgeous villa. The one Suzy had been telling us all about on Facebook – yep, the one where the doors fall out because of termites, water stops, the pool goes neon green once a fortnight and the electricity cuts out. Don’t believe a word of it, folks!

(kidding, Suzy)

Soon with a jolly good glass of red in one hand and decent olives and tapanade to nibble on in addition to a warm welcome from the children and a surprise guest – Luisella and her family, whom I had met earlier in the year when running a workshop in Singapore – the journey was forgotten.

Over the course of the next two full days our hosts planned the perfect trip.

Ingredients of a perfect trip

  • Massage
  • Drinking
  • Eating
  • Swimming
  • Shopping

Eating, drinking and swimming with the kids had been accomplished by noon the next day, but what about that essential fifth element?

You see, I’d had one request prior to our visit – I wanted a ladder! I’d seen one in Brunei, leaning against a wall, and used to display cloth. I wanted one for my scarf collection. Suzy was sure they’d sell them in her street, after all, she lived on Furniture Road, apparently. Being a newbie herself, she’d not yet had time to explore.

Well, Furniture Road was a muddly jumble of dusty tumbledown shops, some much smarter than others but all containing more delights than we could put in our suitcase. Boy, did we have fun in these dimly lit sheds without airconditioning. We wanted the beds, the sideboards, the tables, the carvings. We bought Christmas gifts. Oh, and a few bits for ourselves, but all sadly suitcase friendly. But no ladders!

one of the gorgeous shops
one of the gorgeous shops

However, the evening had more surprises in store at a local restaurant that was also a furniture shop. Apparently, it’s quite normal to juxtapose wood and food. We also, apparently, had to try the guavaritas.

“What on earth is a guavarita?”

Suzy rolled her eyes. “Well, it’s like a margarita…”

“But with guava!” The penny dropped.

It was pink and the colour of Calpol, with bits of mint in it that got stuck in the straw. I think Ian thought his was strawberry milkshake, it went down so fast.

Before our main courses and three guavarita’s later, we were led, not exactly blindfold, to the furniture floor. Well, I blame the booze, but my heart’s pace went up a gear. Everything was quite simply stunning. Reclaimed teak mixed with metal of some sort. I wanted the lot. All of it.

“We’ll just have to go home, finish unpacking and decide what we want, Jo,” patronised Ian, rarely willing to succumb to my manipulative pouts, whines and foot-stamping. “They can ship to Malaysia. I already checked.”

So he was on my side, really.

The evening progressed to a night club with superb live music and more espresso martinis (another drink that was new to us). I have to confess, dear reader, that three cocktails had done this old lady well and truly in, though I did have three sips – they were delicious. I have no idea how many the die-hards drank, but I’m guessing five each. At least, judging by the fact that the next morning, Ian got a text message from the bank querying his spending of £17,000 (yes POUNDS). Which was when Ian realised he had neither the receipt nor his credit card in his wallet.

The following day, I felt sanctimonious. Ian pretended he was fine. Suzy was as amazingly bright as always and was on a mission to find a ladder shop for me. And so we did! So wonderful were they that we bought two!


Now there was the problem of getting them in the case!

Ian suggested we get them wrapped in plastic at the airport and putting them in the hold. Being made of bamboo they were light as feathers. And that’s just what we did.

ladders, wrapped
ladders, wrapped

Only, when we got to the airport, our phones both out of credit because Ian had been frantically calling the bank incurring extortionate roaming charges. There was a top up place but they only took cash and we were out of cash. Which was when we learned that all cash machines here shut between midnight and one am.

Once these problems had been solved, only one more remained – how to fit the ladders in a taxi.

Suffice to say, dear reader. Ian got to bed by 3am – after calling the bank!




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