Squashed in a Van with Rappers

JakartaJakarta is a mega-city; one of the largest in the world and sits on the most populated piece of land on earth.  On Java there are around 136 million people, give or take a few.  Even though it’s only one island among thousands it is the center of economic, political, and social influence for Indonesia.  With all those people on one island there is no wonder it can be frustrating to everyone. I was going to say westerners but Indonesians find the problems just as tiring.

Jakarta can be a transportation nightmare and here’s one account.

Jet-lag caused me to wake at 4am.  I went through the rest of the day without stopping. Visiting hotels, restaurants, cemeteries, ports, churches, canals, and basically anything of historic relevance on the northern side of town.

Whatever was on the periphery took me hours, literally.  To get 3 miles in this city can easily take two hours.  Bikes, bemos, becaks, and every other form of transportation clog the streets from dawn till dawn the next day.

It’s unrelenting!

That said, when I was out of a taxi I loved it. The heat and dust, the chaos, the general reverse logic or lack of it is mind-blowing.  It’s really crazy trying to get around unless you stay in the center and can walk.

I was in a taxi today leaving Tanjung Priok harbour and heading back into town. The driver turned left out of the car-park; town was right.  By the time he turned around we were in another jam.

Almost 30  minutes later we went sailing by Tanjung Priok heading in the correct direction but just up the road the canals had flooded the street and there was no way to get through.

We turned around. One hour had passed and we were 50ft from where we had originally started.  I was losing it, a little bit, so paid him off and jumped out of the taxi and onto a bemo;  a small bus that stops every few feet to pick up anyone.  I wasn’t exactly sure where it was heading but figured it couldn’t get worse and in a bus the meter isn’t ticking.

I squashed into this tiny van with ten Indonesian teenage rappers smoking Pall Malls and hitting on some young thing from a catholic school.  The roads are all flooded, the mud and slush is in the van and its all mingling with rap, smoke, and youthful hormones.

Its 95 degrees and I’m slap happy!

We go through the Indonesian version of a ghetto with homes made of boxes and corrugated iron, tail-less cats everywhere, and me with no idea where I am or where I’m going.  Still, I kind of liked it. What was the worst that could happen…

I go even MORE out-of-the-way!

Jakarta has started a policy of “no traffic” streets which does make walking pretty soothing and little cafes and restaurants have popped up all over the place since I was last here.

There has been a lot of restoration around town and conscious efforts to make the city more welcoming to foreigners.  Not withstanding the current traffic nightmares.

The “family on a bike” is very prevalent here.  Along with pieces of furniture, an extra baby, and all manner of items stacked so high the driver can’t see.

You have to laugh, you have no other choice.

For photos of Indonesia click here.

15 thoughts on “Squashed in a Van with Rappers

  1. I would love to visit Indonesia someday and visit all the beautiful islands! Love your detailed account of what happened in a day in Jakarta. I love the chaos, the heat and the people. Reminds me so much of Manila, my hometown.


  2. Quito isn’t quite as bad (here in Ecuador) where I live. It’s squished between mountains but it only has about 2 million habitants. Still the traffic can really get to you and you can spend 30-45 minutes in a mile. One of the reasons why I don’t live there anymore. I much rather live here in the jungle and enjoy the life without traffic 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was laughing as I read your vivid descriptions of life in Jakarta. It reminded me of the horrible traffic in Lagos, and I suppose every major city. The rappers must have been having a blast; I’m always shocked to read that some countries still allow smoking on public transportation!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am laughing right along with you Tim! Reminds me of a bus ride in the Bahama’s just not with rappers, LOL. You have painted a lovely picture of a far off land, but despite the traffic, heat and chaos you have indeed made it sound beautiful. Nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey traveller.. its was interesting to read about your account of Jakarta. .. much of what you described is commonly seen in my country, India, as well…the pictures you posted are similar to those of the southern indian coastal regions..much is similar in developing countries of Asia.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. No traffic streets? Now that is something we will never have in India! The traffic however sounds nightmarish. So, I guess walking is the best option. It will keep you healthy, save time and will be environment friendly, too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so refreshing to see Jakarta from a foreigner point of view :). You’re right, the crazy traffic is equally as frustrating for locals, i am from Surabaya and i dread my visits to Jakarta because the traffic jam is just… *sigh*. The worst one was when i had to hold my toilet business while getting trapped in Mangga Dua’s exit traffic, we couldn’t even leave the parking lot for 3 whole hours! Madness…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been going to Jakarta for many years and the traffic has gotten worse each time. My first time there was in the 90’s and it was not so bad. Then, it just exploded and has not stopped ever since.


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