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Full Circle

Day 114: Kuching to Jakarta

Gunung Mas, Indonesia 
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With the tea pickers at Gunung Mas.
Michael Palin - Full CircleAcross the South China Sea, across the Equator and into the Southern Hemisphere. From the massive, inaccessible bulk of Borneo, to Java, a long, slim island one fifth Borneo's size with ten times its population. A hundred and fifteen million people live on a strip of rich volcanic soil no bigger than England. From what I can see from the plane the only thing it has in common with Kuching is torrential rain. Our plane circles paddy-fields so thick with surface water that it's difficult to tell where the sea ends and the land begins.

Many of the roads are flooded and long lines of traffic crawl towards the centre of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, beneath the skeleton of an un-finished overhead road system. As we reach the downtown area a forest of corporate high-rises springs up along Jalan Thamrin, towering above the spray and swirl of the busy twelve-lane highway.

This is the big city, probably the biggest in the southern hemisphere. Its energy is palpable, its size impersonal and, after the soft, warm space of Sarawak, it cannot help but sink the spirits.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 114
  • Country/sea: Indonesia
  • Place: Jakarta
  • Book page no: 166

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