At the moment, Jakarta is in the midst of its rainy season. For those of you who have never experienced rain in SE Asia, it generally comes in large quantities over a short period of time. All day long light rain is not the norm, it is massive downpours that will soak an individual to the bone in seconds.
The rain can cause paralysis as it is virtually impossible to walk, or sometimes even drive in. Most people will tend to remain where they are when a storm comes. However, this is not always avoidable, especially when riding a motorbike.
Those of us who ride motorbikes usually have rain gear stashed under the seat for such an occasion. Some Indonesians prefer to hide under a bridge or overpass, I prefer to don the rain suit and giv'er. Finding the proper rain suit has been a bit of a difficult task for me as of late as I kept managing to get wet in one way or another, here is how I found the ultimate solution....
Years ago, an old girlfriend of mine had a bright pink poncho that she never wore. I used it in a pinch one day and found that it worked quite well. The down side of a poncho is that it doesn't really keep you dry from the knee down and it flaps around in the wind. This flapping around can be quite dangerous if it latches onto something as you will be pulled off your bike. Sensing the danger and wishing to have dry calves, I decided to try something new: the 2 piece rain suit.
This 2 piece type of suit had always worked well whenever I went hiking back home so I thought why the hell not. I bought a relatively cheap suit on the side of the road and it seemed to do the trick. It managed to keep 98% of my body (minus my feet) dry. The downside of this was the 2% that did get wet.... Sitting on a bike, a puddle tends to form in the crotch area and eventually seeps through the seams in the pants. This results in what I refer to as a "wet basement". This is not a pleasant experience. I often would show up to work being totally dry except for the lower crotch area. Not comfortable or aesthetic. The other downside of a 2 piece suit is that it does not keep your backpack dry. I always have my laptop in my backpack which means it is essential to keep it dry.
Feeling defeated, I decided to take it up a notch and purchase a more expensive heavy duty rain suit from one of my favorite stores: Ace Hardware (http://jakarta-grind.blogspot.com/2010/08/ace-in-hole.html). This getup would not be complete without buying a rain cover for my backpack. This was surprisingly cheap and easy to find. Now there was no stopping me, I would be dry and comfortable and safe. Not so much. I was all of these things for a couple of wet bike trips. Then, when it rained heavily one day, I realized that the backpack cover allowed for water to fall down my back and seep into my backpack, right in the area where my laptop sits. I then realized that with a little rigging, I could tie my backpack rain cover in a way that water would not seep inside.
Then, something completely unexpected happened. The fake leather on my bike seat started to rip, exposing the inner foam. The problem with this was that every time it rained, the foam would get wet (and stay wet for days) which would in turn leave me with a wet basement every time I used my bike. After a slow and painful search to get my seat cover replaced, I realized that there was a place that could do it across the street from my office. It cost Rp. 35 000 ($4) and took 10 minutes. Now, rain or shine, nothing could stop me! Not so much.....
A few days later, I ended up having to drive in the rain for 30 minutes as I was far away from home. Turns out that my expensive "waterproof" rain suit wasn't so waterproof. By the time I got home, I was completely soaked, my jacked leaked badly around my shoulders and I had a wet basement of epic proportions. Upon further inspection, I found that my jacked had ripped under the shoulder, leaving my torso completely exposed. Dejected, I went back to the drawing board.
A few days later on my lunch break, I stumbled across a bike accessory shop that sold mostly helmets and rain gear. I managed to find a cheap poncho that was also gigantic. It was so big, that I could tuck it under my butt and avoid the flapping in the wind, not to mention keep my backpack dry. This combined with the pants that came with my "expensive" rain suit turned out to be perfect. The front of the poncho covers the crotch area and prevents basements from getting wet while the pants keep my calves and ankles dry. Now I am completely waterproof (except for my feet). Turns out, as often happens in Jakarta, I took the long way around to the easy solution. The answers were right in front of me the whole time, not to mention right outside the door of my office.
No more wet basements makes for a happy blogger.