Bogor is a town south of Jakarta that is in grave danger of getting swallowed by its big neighbor. The train station spits out passengers directly into a shantytown bazaar made of tarp and corrugated metal, very crowded and dimly lit. At the opposite end of the bazaar, across a small street, is the Abu Pensione hotel with faded awnings and signs that have lost the “i” at some point. But inside the rooms face a nice little garden, and they have two pleasant terraces facing the river flowing in a deep overgrown ravine.

Uncharacteristically for Asia, Bogor’s heart is a huge botanical garden, beautifully landscaped with trees and plants from many countries, a lake, an orchid house, and a zoological museum with lots of tired dioramas with stuffed animals and a huge blue whale skeleton (not stuffed). A little dilapidated like the government museum in Chennai but very earnestly done.

On the way back it started raining – Bogor is the City of Rain – and waited it out at the Mata Hari department store. Outside, small barefoot children with giant umbrellas offered their services. One gust of wind and the sky would be full of floating children.