An animal or human grotesquely deviating from the normal shape, behavior, or character.
Any animal or thing huge in size (or intent)
My first (and likely only) Hallowe’en in Jakarta, and magnificently, both definitions apply.
On the afternoon of October 31, I found a Facebook invitation to what I thought was an innocent gathering of JKT cyclists. Not so. But then, nothing is as it seems here in Indonesia.
Cycling up to Plaza Indonesia at 8 p.m., I headed round the traffic circle and headed off into an unfamiliar sidestreet looking for a field called Taman Menteng. Could this be the spot? Well, there certainly were a lot of cyclists hanging out on the corner.
Indeed, this is the place.
Feeling a little silly in my Whiteboard costume (white shirt, white hair, white arms and legs… and a few markered tips on my arms and legs; yep you guessed it–the only bule at the event) I wandered through the crowd.
There were so many outstanding costumes, it shamed me to recall my earlier theory that Indonesians are not very creative. I present to you the Sunkist Raisin Maid, a Smurf, a Suicide Bomber and Mario.
This … is a man. (sorry for the lousy photo quality; my camera doesn’ t like night shots) I know it is a man because he flirtatiously lowered his sleeve to reveal pasties on his flat chest. He then lifted his skirts shamelessly throughout the evening to reveal rather manly underpants over his lovely black hosiery.
The whole time I was photographing willing participants, a man was making announcements through a megaphone in Bahasa. I had no idea what he was saying but clapped and cheered with the crowd regardless. If only I’d known what I was cheering, I’d have increased my enthusiasm.
At the far end of the event, I suddenly noticed that monsters of all colours and shapes were beginning to form a queue for the street. Grabbing my helmet and triggering my lights again, I leaped back onto my bike. As one, we took a major intersection and headed into chaos. Wherever this led, I wanted to be part of it.
It led to Sudirman. Hundreds of cyclists, mostly young males (and me) took two of the three lanes of traffic. Imagine taking the Don Valley at rush hour, in the dark. Then, imagine the traffic being completely free of emissions controls. You have our Nightmare on Jalan Sudirman. Now, add shrieks, yells, howls and the most fun you’ve ever had breaking the law. “Hell, yeah!” I thought. “Now THIS is a Critical Mass!”
“Hello, Miss!” I heard beside me. Several masks offered to shake hands or to high-five me. I was surrounded by very friendly creatures of dubious genetic disposition, some of whom I’ve likely met at other events but in costume, well… They explained as we rode that this is an annual event, known to cyclists as the Jakarta Hallowe’en Ride. “Fuckin’ Eh!” I hollared. “Excuse my French!” They grinned, pleased that I was fearlessly keeping up with the incredible speed of the mass.
We rode almost the entire length of my carfree route. At the bottom, I considered heading home. However, the mass took a turn I’d never taken before, and my penchant for adventure followed suit. We stopped to collect stragglers at the Ritz-Carleton, where a Polisi slowed down to make a statement.
Following the cyclists ahead of me through several completely unknown streets, I discovered that we were heading back to Monas, at the top of Thamrin, by an alternate route. By this time it was nearly 9:30, so we were greeted by many late-night shoppers and drinkers. The traffic wasn’t keen on us, but the mass was confident and solid. And Indonesians are generally tolerant of protests because of their history.
As we headed a different direction, I realized I was getting out of my comfort zone because I now had no idea where we were. Luckily, the organizers had considered this eventuality and had placed corkers at all the intersections. Corking in Toronto has nothing on this duty.
A full hour later, we finished at a parking lot in Kemang.
Here are two new men in my life. We remain relatively unknown to each other but are bound tightly by our love of freedom on two wheels.
My neighbour removed his green mask and asked after my home country. He then told me he works at a custom bike shop in town, as a photographer.
“Oh! Not as a bike mechanic, then?” I responded, surprised. Oh yes. He pointed to his bike, which is a totally custom ride. Even the name reflects his, although I can’t now tell you how.
“Which way do I go to get to Radio Dalam?” I asked as he readjusted his mask. He turned to the others and the words “Radio Dalam!” were exchanged and carried throughout the remaining mass, of which there were probably fifty riders.
“We will take you home,” he reassured me, and we were off. Imagine that. Fifty people riding me safely through the streets of Jakarta at 10:30 p.m., all bedecked in daunting masks, screeching and howling and chattering at major intersections, taking lanes joyously and imaginatively. How I love you, Jakarta.
Here’s the map, in case you’re even mildly interested. The top A marker is Taman Menteng, which is just west of Plaza Indonesia. North of that, near the top of the map, is where the landmark Monas is located. The bottom A marker is Jalan Kemang. And just to the east of that is my home, Radio Dalam.