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"The Amazing Race #21" on CBS

Week #2 - Shanghai, China to Surabaya, Indonesia

After the first leg’s pit stop at the Bund Observatory in Shanghai, teams head to Surabaya, Indonesia. Indonesia is an archipelago, a country made up of 17,000 islands, where they speak over 300 languages. The world’s fourth most populous country, with over 240 million people, Indonesia straddles the equator, meaning it is always hot.  For most people, Indonesia brings to mind bustling Jakarta and tranquil Bali; the “dragons” of Komodo or the orangutans of Sumatra. Surabaya, however, is not on the radar of most tourists. It’s one of the largest cities in Indonesia, and home to the country’s navy.  There’s an Arab quarter, and some Dutch buildings left over from colonial days, as well as one of Indonesia’s largest Chinatowns. It’s a transportation hub as well, with air, train and ship connections, but otherwise there’s little to draw tourists. For most Indonesians, however, Surabaya is incredibly significant, as it’s where the battle for Indonesian independence began (hence its nickname, City of Heroes). 

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see much of Surabaya in this leg. The racers’ first destination is Alun-Alun — turns out this is pretty much a generic term in East Java for a park at the center of most provincial towns. They take part in a traditional Kerapan Sapi bull race, then head to an anonymous bridge for a clue; then to a nearby park for the first real challenge of the leg: a Roadblock involving odong-odong, a pedal-powered children’s ride, and balloon animals. From there, teams have to find a motorcycle dealership, then complete a detour: either move blocks of ice from an ice factory to a market, or arrange fish properly in a stall at the market. The most interesting part of all of this is the market itself, Pasar Pabean. In this sprawling traditional market in Chinatown, just about anything can be found. Here in Old Surabaya, regular taxis give way to becak, the old-fashioned human-powered pedicab. (In the ice task, teams use one of these to deliver the ice to the market). 

Most travelers to Indonesia will find the locals full of smiles and generally interested in foreigners. Sometimes this interest can become a bit like a police interrogation, with questions ranging from “Where are you from?” to “How many children do you want to have?” 

  • Travel tip 1: Indonesians are very friendly, and very family-oriented. If you’re traveling in this part of the world, bring along some photos of your family, and even your pets. It’s a great icebreaker!
  • Travel tip 2: A question you’ll hear often if you’re on foot is “Where are you going?” Usually, this is from a taxi or pedicab driver. If you don’t need a ride, or just don’t want to encourage the questions, just say with a smile “jalan jalan,” which means “I’m walking.”

One of the things that makes The Amazing Race so popular season after season is that while the routes and activities of the racers are pretty well decided for them, they still have to deal with bumps in the road just like regular travelers. In tonight’s episode, the eliminated couple—Amy and Daniel—lost mainly because of a taxi driver who couldn’t find their destination. Which brings us to this week’s

GAME CHANGER: Two things might have really helped out this week’s teams. Several racers remarked on the heat in Surabaya, but the teachers, Gary and Will, really struggled with it. A BluBandoo neck wrap might have made a big difference; wet this with water and wrap it around your neck, and it does a great job of keeping you cool. Gary and Will finished 9th, just ahead of Amy and Daniel, who might have been helped by Game Changer #2—a phrasebook! Basically, they got a raw deal with a taxi driver who couldn’t find the clue stop, but a phrasebook might have helped them communicate better…or at least tell the driver to stop so they could find another taxi!

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