23 – 25 February 2013
Welcome to Jakarta.
It hit me in the face like you wouldn’t believe. SO. MUCH. TRAFFIC. So many people and so much pollution! The car fumes were intoxicating and there was no escape from it, and in true Rohan & Wendy style we tried to walk everywhere even though the city lacked footpaths. What an eye opener, I had never been in any city remotely like this one, there is something like over 10 million people living just with the central area and over 30 million in the metropolitan area!!!!!! The grubby congested streets run through the metropolis, lined by high-rise commercial buildings with slick marble floored malls. The line between rich and poor is extremely obvious! The street vendors were desperate for our money, and everyone just starred at us, all the time. Jakarta is not a tourist city, we maybe saw another 4 white ‘touristy’ looking people per day. The locals were intrigued and came up to us practicing their english, or asking for photos and they were all so lovely and friendly, despite the craziness of the city they called home.
We couchsurfed with a Canadian guy Eugene who was living in Jakarta and teaching in a nearby international school. He was awesome, and a fountain of knowledge and we listened intensely, preparing ourselves to navigate Jakarta. The area he lived was ‘fancy’ with tree lined streets and 6 foot high fences, but as soon as we walked a block away the chaos began. After the initial shock we started to follow the flow of the city for the few days we spent there. We gave up on walking the streets and just got where we needed to go by the limited bus system or taxi, allowing an hour to get across the city from north to south (forfeiting a measly $5 cab fare for the journey). We visited the National Monument in Merdeka Square, and the National Museum of Indonesia, the Fine Arts and Ceramic Museum, and the Textile Museum which I found all really interesting and well worth the time. We also ended up on a mission through some back streets looking for a fish market in the north of the city, but arrived in time to have missed all the action. There didn’t seem to be many fish left but maybe we didn’t even find the actual market. It could have been one street away and we would never have known! The area was still vibrant even though we were in the the slums and the locals seemed happy to see us. So wander we did for the time we had left.