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It's hard to think of something fresh to say about Jakarta, unless you seek it out. Any attempt at modernity was severely restricted by crumbling roads and pavements, crowded public transport and a stinky, black, open sewage system that gripped the back of my throat. Too long in the place could prove a severe health hazard to a fragile foreigner, and I would not even contemplate eating at a street-stall here. But I refrain from continuing my condemnation of the place because it is life to these poor people from the fields of Java; who hope for a better chance in Indonesia's capital city. Pasar Ikan: I walked around the squalor near the fish market (Pasar Ikan), opposite the port of Sunda Kelapa. The conditions were appalling, but only smiles and openness greeted me. "Halo mista!" Children and mothers alike welcomed me to their streets; their environment; their homes; their lives. "Photo!" The children wanted to be photographed as they were: happy, playing, living. This was not an open sewer, it was their home and playground. I was treated as a guest, not a voyeur or an intruder, and it saddened me to make comparisons with an easier world of video-recorders and microwaves in the homes of some of our country's poor. Only by visiting places like this can we see how well off we are. A young girl scrubbed some clothes clean, yet floating in the ditch two feet below her I could see decomposing excrement. Barrow-boys pushed a clearer water to the wooden houses; how clean it really was, I hated to think. Sunda Kelpa: After some bargaining, a boatman ferried me across to Sunda Kelpa, where labouring youths unloaded timber, steel, or sacks of rocks on their shoulders. They had to walk across precarious-looking planks and many of the youths were barefoot or only wore flip-flops; neither safeguarded their toes. Work was slow and hard, but no
-one complained. They greeted me with good humour, proud that I was showing an interest in them and their work. (Ok, I was there to sell the photo story to a magazine). The ships were magnificent wooden sailing vessels, that you would associate with a bygone age. Crew members sanded and repainted the hull where necessary, working from a plank of wood and two pieces of rope suspended over the side, or from a smaller craft for refurbishment nearer the water line. Some strips of weather-beaten wood were even chiseled out and replaced. Women approached the boats with refreshments for sale. Nobody whistled or made sexist remarks, but many smiled and continued with their working rhythm. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah: One of the best exhibitions of a country's culture and tradition would have to be the Taman Mini Indonesia in Jakarta. In a large parkland area, the 27 regions of Indonesia are separately represented by large buildings or pavilions constructed in the traditional style of the area, in natural surroundings. Customary costumes are worn and dances performed to inform and entertain the interested, for a nominal entrance fee to the park. As well as keeping regional traditions alive by these time-honoured displays, some of the regions put modern life into their set by giving youngsters wearing jeans and t-shirts a chance to express themselves with electronic instruments and amplifiers. The words were in Indonesian; probably about life in the regions today. As well as regional awareness, the great Faiths are given space too. There's a mosque, a Catholic church, a modern Protestant church, an Hindu Dharma temple and a Buddhist wihara. A lake in the middle has the Indonesian islands set out as a showpiece to be sailed around or viewed from overhead cable-cars. In the park there's also a newly built mono-rail, a children's playground, an orchid garden, a waterfall, a bird park, a cactus gard
en, a stamp theatre, museums, and art and craft galleries. There's even a swimming pool and a couple of youth hostels on the site. It was something for the Indonesians to be proud of and I enjoyed it too; even though it rained horrendously in the late afternoon, as it often does at this time of year. Not once did I see a child play-up, cry or sulk. They were well-behaved and happy, and liked to wave and smile at the foreigner to prove it. And to think that I was warned to avoid Jakarta because there's nothing there. Who says Jakarta stinks? www.travelnotes.org
Jakarta has had a bad press: bomb explosions (13/9/00) and people having their heads cut off (1999); army barracks and millionaire generals; drugs and gambling; murderous schoolboy gang fights; unsafe buses and taxis; few pavements; fundamentalist Moslems calling for jihad against Christians (fundamentalists got virtually no votes in the election and most Moslems are extremely moderate, hospitable and kind); people mysteriously disappearing (Jakarta Post 16/8/00)-allegedly the work of the army's special forces KOSTRAD; Chinese women raped and many hundreds slaughtered in the May '98 riots; groups of para-militaries and gangsters.... BUT, 1.Jakarta is probably no more dangerous than Colombo Manilla or Rio. An Asiaweek reporter (25 Aug 2000) stated how surprised he was at the pleasant atmosphere in Jakarta during a recent trip (that was before recents bomb explosions). 2. The people (most of them) are incredibly friendly. 3.Jakarta is the BIGGEST CITY IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE; it's the capital of the FOURTH BIGGEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD in terms of population; it's the capital of the world's largest Moslem country. HOW TO GET THERE - Jakarta has disappeared from travel brochures. However, you can fly QANTAS or SINGAPORE AIRLINES (and many other airlines) from London to Jakarta via Singapore. British Airways take you as far as Singapore where you switch airlines to Qantas. Avoid Garuda. Note that some airlines take very indirect routes. Jakarta airport is modern. BLUEBIRD taxis are generally OK. (Some taxi drivers have kidnapped passengers). HOTELS - there are loads of cheap 3 star hotels like Hotel Garden (South Jakarta) and Ibis Kemayoran ($35 a night according to asiatravel.com but beware of street crime in Kemayoran). You could try Marco Polo Hotel in Menteng or Hotel Indonesia, made famous by the film "Year of Living Dangerously" HOW TO GET AROUND - the best way
to get around is with a Falkplan street atlas and a taxi rented from Bluebird taxis. You should try OJEKS (motorcycle taxis) or BAJAJ (3 wheel taxis) - good at nipping in and out of traffic. PLACES TO VISIT- 1.Palatial Shopping Malls with cheap designer goods (Chanel, Armani...) and ritzy cafes. 2.Nightlife is relaxed (try the Sportsman's bar in Blok M or BATS at the Shangri La. Be aware that Tanamur Disco seems to have few fire exits and mobs occasionally burn down places of entertainment. Visitors to one very seedy Blok M bar were kidnapped in a taxi and later found in a river. 3.The slums of Kapuk Muara -people living in flooded shacks/ kids dying of typhoid/ houses on stilts. 4. Various old Dutch buildings. Indonesia was a Dutch colony famous for spices. 5.Ancol amusement park is a bit like DISNEY WORLD, BUT THE PRICES ARE LOWER AND YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO QUEUE. Most of the people you'll see around there will be army wives and their children (the elite). 6. Ragunan zoo - big, dark and tropical and containing Komodo dragons and Orang Utans... 7.Pondok Indah - see the palatial homes of crooked bankers, gangsters, civil servants, and multi-millionaire generals; and there is a posh mall. 8.Pasar Majestic - a typical market with fabrics, clothing and most other things; and massage parlours. 9.The Oasis Restaurant (if still open?) - a wonderful old colonial house with Italian statues in the garden. 10.Taman Mini Park - A huge park with boating, amusements and houses from all parts of Indonesia. 11.The third class children's ward of Rumah Sakit Cipto hospital where kids dying of TB etc may not be getting any medicine. 12.The Istiqlal Mosque (enormous and modern) and the Catholic Cathedral. 13.The Army HQ where Indonesia's real rulers are based. 14.China Town - scene of riots, burning and looting in May 1998. 15.The Pondok Indah Hospital - a good private hospital if you get Dengue fever (from mosquitoes) and start vomiting blood; or if you get typhoid (present in Jakarta all year round). Ask for Dr Samsu. 16.Above all the KAMPUNGS (poor housing areas) with their red tile roof houses, little fields of bananas and corn, chickens and goats, kids flying kites, tiny mosques, and friendly smiling people (most of them). Jakarta is still a collection of villages (once you get away from the horrid main roads). LATE NEWS- The Jakarta-based news service, Detikworld, reported on 21 Sept 2000 the existence of a leaked document revealing that bombing targets would include shopping centres used by foreigners and hotels. The document said serving military officers (and hardline Islamic leaders) had held meetings from May to July to discuss ways to plunge Indonesia into chaos with the aim of forcing the downfall of president Wahid.
Jakarta (also Djakarta or DKI Jakarta), formerly known as Sunda Kelapa, Jayakarta and Batavia is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Located on the northwest coast of the island of Java, it has an area of 661.52 km² and a population of 8,792,000 (2004). Jakarta has been developed for more than 490 years and currently is the eleventh largest city and metropolitan area and ninth most densely populated city in the world with 44,283 people per sq mile. Its metropolitan area is called Jabotabek and contains more than 23 million people, and it is part of an even larger Jakarta-Bandung megalopolis.