Are you familiar with police stakeouts? No, not seeing one. But the general term and sense. Familiar, yeah?
This is how it usually looks like in Indonesia.
Just like how police stakeouts usually are, the agents are disguising themselves as regular folks — mostly as food peddlers. Regular-looking guy, very unassuming, but holding a walkie-talkie and communicating with the other agents (you can see the person on the picture above is holding a walkie-talkie. A telltale sign he’s an agent on a stakeout.)
Food peddlers in Indonesia vary in forms. There are restaurants, stand-up bars/cafés, and the most common one is the gerobak (carts.) They usually walk around the neighborhood by making noises, signaling folks that they are around and calling hungry tummies. If you hearing a clink-clink-clink sound coming from porcelain bowl, it usually chicken noodles seller. If you hearing a toc-toc-toc sound as if the seller is hitting a piece of bamboo, it usually satay seller. If you hearing a clang-clang-clang sound coming from a wok, it’s nasi goreng (fried rice) seller.
One of the disguises commonly used by the agents are these type of food peddlers, the one using carts. They are high in mobility and tend to be low cost.
And since it’s a mission — police stakeouts and disguises — the food is rarely good.
Anyway! Last week we went back to Jakarta, Indonesia after 2.5 years, right. On our last trip to Jakarta, Wira got hospitalized due to food poisoning. The whole experience was enough to make me paranoid so I made sure everyone in the family chugging down Yakult twice per day a week before our trip and during our one-week trip.
It went okay. At first.
Wira and Rey are doing fine now. Ari and I… not so. On Monday, one day after we arrived back in Kuala Lumpur, Ari complained irregular bowel movements. I had the same problem on Tuesday. However, it was not super severe so we chalked it as regular tiredness after a trip and took some herbal medicines.
Yet the issue persists. Day by day, both of us have been feeling uneasiness on our gut. While it’s not really serious, it’s annoying enough. Ari and I decided to go to a clinic earlier today to check.
The doctor mentioned that both of us have a case of super mild food poisoning. “Commonly happened when people are traveling and eating food on the area,” he said. We got a couple of antibiotics, probiotics, and some rehydration powder which tasted like disappointment and tears of your cringey teenage years.
On our way back home, Ari and I listed down the food we ate during our time in Jakarta. Since Wira and Rey didn’t have the same concerns like we do, it has to be something that only two of us ate. Then it dawned on us: Siomay and batagor.
Okay. So it was siomay and batagor. Ari bought them on his way to the hotel after he met his high school friends. He bought it from a food cart nearby the hotel. Cool, cool.
Then Ari looked like something just hit him and he slapped my shoulder while I’m playing Two Dots.
“HE WAS AN INTEL!”
“Wait— what? What intel?”
“THE SIOMAY GUY! HE WAS ON A STAKEOUT! HE’S AN AGENT!”
“… … Now you are being ridiculous. How could you possibly think that?”
“IT’S ALL MAKE SENSE NOW.”
“I still don’t get you, but do go on.”
“I bought siomay and batagor at 10 – 10.30 AM, right. I paid him using 100,000 IDR bill.”
“… He didn’t complain?”
“HE DID NOT. And you know what? He had the change! He had money on his box! He accepted my money and gave me the change without any fuss!”
“Furthermore, the siomay and the batagor are all cold!”
“How could he— No. No siomay and batagor seller would let their food gone cold! I can get siomay at 6 PM and it would still piping hot!”
“See? And you know what? He didn’t appear on his spot on the next day!”
“HE’S AN INTEL ALRIGHT.”
You might be wondering what the hell is going on. Here are the explanations.
100,000 IDR bill in Indonesia is pretty big. A portion of siomay and batagor on food peddlers like that usually cost you around 10,000 to 20,000 IDR tops.
Most food peddlers hate big bills. It gives them problems when they have to give changes. Furthermore, giving 100,000 IDR bill in the morning time, when food peddlers just started their day, guaranteed you getting scolded by them. “Can you just give me a smaller bill? I don’t have any change for this!” and you have to run to other peddlers to exchange your bill to smaller bills.
So this siomay and batagor seller not saying anything and he even got the change for it is suspicious enough.
Also, we believe his stakeout duty is completed that day, as he was nowhere to be seen on the spot on the next day.