Jakarta 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.
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.