Awesome Locals I've Met: Ramly The Indonesian Taxi Driver

Touch down Jakarta. My 8:45 pm flight from Manila to Jakarta departed and arrived perfectly on time and I am not the least bit happy about it. For one I am arriving at a foreign country by myself without anybody to pick me up. Second, I don't know a single soul in Jakarta and the entire Indonesian archipelago. Third, I arrived at 11:30 pm. And last and definitely the worst, I need to wait for the first Damri bus to Gambir which is scheduled to arrive at 5:30 am. Damn you Cebu Pacific, only offering late night flights to Jakarta and arriving 30 minutes earlier than the ETA.

First things first, text my family that I arrived safely. Hell no, my cellphone's international roaming was not working. Maybe I can try skype or email. Another big no, there's no wifi at the airport. Now what? I am alone at the arrival hall while the passengers from the same flight are welcomed by their friends and families with huge smiles and air-conditioned cars.

Soekarno Hatta International Airport
One by one they left as the airport turns into a ghost town. Except there were no ghosts. I was surrounded by pushy, aggressive and downright annoying touts. I've heard of them and I'm ready for them. Just look straight and walk away. Avoid eye contact at all costs. Nope, it didn't happen. They were hovering around me like bees talking crap until I stopped walking aimlessly because I seriously didn't know where I was going.

I sat at the smoking area outside the arrival hall. Wrong move, one of them sat with me talking non stop and offering his services. He is a taxi driver cum tourist guide, how effin convenient. No, no and more no's was my only answer to his offers. And no, he didn't budge neither. He had an excellent command of the English language which gave him the leverage against his fellow touts.

Soekarno Hatta International Airport

Ramly, the very annoying tout turned out to be a nice guy after-all. He probably thought I actually knew where I was going and how to get there. He stopped with this bullshit offers and just chatted with me for a good two hours. We talked a whole lot, from his little village in an island near Sulu, Philippines to the Subic Naval Base in Pampanga which I was pleasantly surprise that he knew. Heck, he even knew about the Spanish Colonization of the Philippines. And the clincher, Ramly is a fan of Victor Wood and Freddie Aguilar! Two old but famous Filipino singers.

So we were chatting and laughing the night away. People were gawking at us because we are a weird combo. He is 50 years old that looks like an older and milder Machete (the mexican federale portrayed by Danny Trejo) and I look like a little girl left for a while by her mommy and warned not to talk to strangers. I was having fun and enjoying the conversation but it cannot mask my uneasiness. Of course he can sense it but it didn't stop him from offering more stuff. Again! But this time for free!

Soekarno Hatta International Airport
Ramly, the Indonesian cab driver

"You want to see Jakarta at night" I'll drive your around for free. No, as usual was my firm response.
"Are you hungry? Let's eat upstairs my treat". "Ahm, No thanks, not hungry".
"It's two o' clock, I'll drive you to Gambir, free. I'll also help you buy your ticket". "No and no."
Finally he said "Let's go inside there are a lot of mosquitoes here". That one I cannot argue. There were a ton of mosquitoes and it was kinda hot and humid outside.

Ramly guided me inside of what appears to be the indoor waiting area. There was a small cafeteria, a convenience store and lots of wooden benches with people sleeping. Apparently this is where passengers with early domestic flights to Bali or Yogyakarta were waiting which where I should have been staying as well.

Soekarno Hatta International Airport

Soekarno Hatta International Airport

I was about to bring out my ipod and try my darndest to get comfortable in the hard and filthy wooden bench. until Ramly came back with a Coke in can and a pack of cigarettes for me. He asked me again to come out and smoke the Indonesian cigarette he bought. I didn't want to be rude and ungrateful so we went back outside. The coke was in can and not yet opened as well as the pack of cigarette which was still sealed in plastic. Despite of the movie 'Taken" flashing in my mind, I deemed it clean and good. Right after I sipped the coke I thought, "Oh shit, now I owe him." I immediately handed out some cash to pay but he refused to take it.

Somehow I feel like he is going to ask me to agree to his services again. And of course he did. Again. To Gambir station for free. This time I went bold and direct. I told him, "You know you should be working back again. You're probably losing customers by hanging around with me". His answer was even bolder, "It's okay I work when I want to. If I'm not working I go home to sleep". Great now I'm really stuck with him.

Sensing that I looked dismayed with his response, he uttered "You are worrying to much." The hell I am! It's my freaking first time travelling alone to a place where I don't know anyone. Of course, I didn't say it out loud but he was quick to assure me, "No, no don't be worried its not like that, I'm married and have three children." As if being married makes a person trustworthy.

What I was not expecting was Ramly's real reason. He told me "I'm only here because I like talking to you, makes me practice my English. It's good, it's good." I did not see it coming. That's when I felt crappy for trying to swat him away like a fly.

By three o' clock he was getting tired and sleepy. We bid farewell with a firm handshake. As a parting gift he gave an old prepaid sim card, functional and still with credits. It was from his broken blackberry that he is no longer using. He thought I might need it during my stay in Indonesia. And I most certainly did. I used it to send my mom text messages from time to time to let her know I was safe and having  fun. That was the end of Ramly, my very first Indonesian friend. I hope to see him again for a tour around the city that I passed on. As for me, I still had 2 hours left before the first Damri bus arrives so I went back inside and got me some much needed power nap.

Soekarno Hatta International Airport


More on Jakarta, Indonesia


How Not To Get Scammed At The Jakarta Airport Like Me
Getting There: Jakarta Airport to Bandung




14 comments:

  1. Do you know where to purchase those prepaid sim cards there?

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    1. I'm sorry but I don't. Ramly told me I can easily reload it at any 24/7 convenience stores so I guess you can also buy it there.

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    2. where and when did you change money to buy the DAMRI bus ticket?

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  2. nice.. hope to meet my version of Ramly when touch down Indonesia on November.. try kong hanapin ang mukha nya.. haha.. waiting for you next posts...

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    1. Thanks. I'm coming back to Indonesia this October. He gave me his number so I'll try to contact him when I get there. If I meet him again I will post an update.

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  3. hi there rose! my first time here and is hooked. ramly was such a nice man. but you did just fine. solo traveling teaches us the art of "trusting" and "not trusting" people. we wouldn't know what would happen if you did agree with his offers or what right? can't wait for your next post. you brave girl!

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    1. I know! I trusted my instinct on that one. I would never have let my guard down despite his persistence and I think he understood it. But based on my recent South East Asian trip I can honestly say that Indonesians are among the nicest people, second only to Cambodians. Thanks for dropping by I'm still getting the hang of this, and I do love your blog as well.

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  4. Hello again! Isn't there a time difference between Manila and Jakarta? The ETA on Cebu Pacific... is it local time or Indonesia time? My flight is tonight and I don't know if there are still buses by the time I arrive. Thanks! :)

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    1. Manila is ahead by one hour. The ETA on any international ticket is always the local time of the country you're arriving. So its going to be Indonesia time. Cebu Pacific's ETA at Jakarta is 11:35 pm. You'll be out of the airport by 12 mn at the earliest. You can still try to catch the last Damri bus at 12 mn. If not you can ride a cab but be sure its a Blue Bird taxi as Indonesian cab drivers are notorious for scamming the tourists. Goodluck and have fun.

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    2. Indonesian cab drivers are notorious for scamming tourists???? Really??? What about pinoys taxi drivers? Specially the ones from Manila and Angeles. They are not???
      This is the case in most big cities around the world period and there are other places where taxis are honest hopefully but saying Indonesians cab drivers are bad from somebody who comes from Manila I found this quite hypocrite...and no I m not Indonesian

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  5. hi isang bag lang dala mo pag pumupunta ng ibang bansa?
    buti nalang dika sumama dyan kay Machete wanabee mukhang may balak yan.

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    1. Hahaha. I also brought one rolling suitcase. Hindi lang kita kasi yun ang ginamit ko para kapitan ng flexible na tripod =).

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  6. Very useful blog for my solo trip next year in INA...No IO unpleasant encounters?

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  7. None so far. But I've heard of terrible stories though. But if you have your travel documents ready there won't be an issue.

    You will enjoy Indonesia, its one of my favorites.

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