Tag Archives: jakarta

Return to the Big Durian!

17 Jul

I’ve written about Jakarta before and been here a few times now but this trip is the first time I’ve really made an effort to do anything that vaguely resembles any type of sightseeing. That said I have been here on business so there has been the necessity to do some work.

After arriving in the centre of town I did something which seems natural in Jakarta- I went to the mall and ate some Western food. Yes not the most cultural of experiences (or is it in Jakarta) but the Grand Indonesia complex is amazing- heaps of levels of shops and when I saw a Pho 24 stall well I couldn’t resist the temptation. Then I met a few friends for dinner and we went to a pizza place where we enjoyed pizza and red wine which again while not very Indonesian was rather enjoyable.

So the next morning after a meeting I thought I’d take advantage of how close I was to Monas and finally see what it was all about. It was… well previously I thought the negative reviews from friends were a bit harsh- honestly it wasn’t that bad but it really wasn’t that great. I did find the dioramas at the bottom celebrating the liberation of Irian Jaya and the Integration of East Timor pretty hilarious and if I was the leader of a large country I’d probably build myself an incredibly large monument and deck it out with gold but would I go back to Monas? Probably not.

The National Monument (Monas)

I did have a couple of funny experiences around Monas though- firstly in the taxi going there where the driver was quite the character and tried to convince me to give him my sunglasses in exchange for the taxi fare. That wasn’t going to happen so instead he asked me why so many Western men like Indonesian women. Couldn’t help him there. Then standing beside the road trying to flag a taxi next to Merdeka Square a procession of tanks drove past and all the gunners on top wished me good morning and waved. It seemed rather fitting given the history of the area and it was definitely quite strange.

The afternoon saw me do some more work before meeting up with another lucky person currently enduring thesis writing for coffee which turned into a lovely walk around the neighbourhood and dinner at an amazing little restaurant called Restoran Trio which has been around since the 1940s and all its menus are written in the old style of Indonesian spelling. The place is famous with Indonesian scholars and it was great to hopefully become a part of that history. We also bought beers from the petrol station and drank them in the street watching the traffic jam- only in Indonesia.

Restoran Trio- Charming little place

Jakarta is not really known as a particularly pleasant or even safe part of Indonesia and to be completely honest there isn’t a huge tourist appeal to the place however there are some hidden gems. It was an interesting trip for me because I did 3 things which I have never done before;

  1. Catch a non-Bluebird taxi- not recommended for non-Indonesian speakers or first timers to Jakarta. Express is a reasonable company but it is good to have a vague idea where you’re going and be able to communicate with the driver
  2. Walk around- not something that has appealed to me in the past but it is a really lovely way to experience Jakarta. Use common sense of course. I even walked across an overpass which seemed a bit dodgy but there were plenty of police around due to me being in the CBD.
  3. Ride on an ojek (motorbike taxi)- Only really good for short trips unless you are keen. Jakarta is full of one way streets so these little things are the best way to avoid the horrific traffic by taking back streets or the “Honda highway” (footpaths, tiny spaces between cars etc)

So that’s Jakarta. I could live here but would slip pretty much into the expat life and frequent a lot of Western restaurants which although is not really getting in touch with Indonesian culture it is a fun way to spend time in the city. It’s probably worth a visit for a quick introduction to Indonesian history with some of the museums not updated in recent years and still showing the glorious patriotism of the 1970s.

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How to survive Jakarta

30 Jan

Oh Jakarta. Hours spent stuck in traffic, extreme wealth juxtaposed against extreme poverty. The Big Durian. Some people love it, some people hate it- I think I’m between the two.  Flying out of Jakarta at night makes you realise how big the city actually is, well more like cities as they have all blended into one big mess of officially 9 million people (but realistically there are millions more- 28 million people live in Greater Jakarta) and millions of cars and motorbikes.

I had to go to Jakarta for a meeting but was lucky that my friend Kelly whose lovely parents live in Jakarta was going to be in town so a quick trip for a meeting turned into a long weekend of adventures. Flying out of Jogja I was excited to see a brand new plane waiting on the tarmac for me. Until I went inside and saw the classic tired, let’s fit as many seats in as possible interior. To make matters worse and to shatter my confidence in Indonesian airlines further, along with the emergency instructions card in the seat pocket was a card with how to pray for our safety in each of the 6 official religions of Indonesia. The fun really started when I got to Jakarta and had to find a taxi. There is only one real taxi company that is considered safe so after waving away many touts and finding a taxi I faced a two and a half hour drive to Kelly’s house in South Jakarta. The distance is probably about 40 kilometres and the constant honking of cars and barely moving gets somewhat frustrating after the first hour. The traffic is considered the worst in Asia and without great public transportation (like the MRT in Singapore or Skytrain in Bangkok) the only way to get around is to brave the roads.

You definitely notice the extreme difference between rich and poor driving from the airport to South Jakarta. From the slums on the outskirt of town and the over polluted canals to the modern sky scrapers which jut out from different parts of the skyline and the huge mansions. Beggars approach the highly polished private SUVs (pretty much a necessity in Jakarta) and run down buses and angkots clog the roads. It’s really interesting to sit back in the taxi (with air conditioning thank god) and watch it all.

As it was Australia Day we had a barbeque for dinner before heading out for a few quiet drinks at a few of the pubs. We were introduced to two stereotypes of South Jakarta- the sleazy old white man and the young rich Indonesian. While highly entertaining for us to talk to these people we definitely made use of the we have to meet a friend/our driver is outside bail out excuses. The night ended just shy of 3am at Kemang maccas (almost a tradition for us) and a sleep in the next day was quite nice.

While there are touristy sites to see in Jakarta we had very little desire to see any of them. I did get to drive past Monas (Monumen Nasional) as monument built by Sukarno and basically a flame on a giant concrete pillar, on my way to my meeting which as Kelly described, it was the most boring tourist attraction ever. The 10 minutes in front of it stuck in traffic was more than enough. It was really interesting to head into the CBD and see the expensive hotels, wide roads and huge office complexes. Friday we spent most of the day with me “preparing for my meeting” aka we ordered pizza and sat around in pyjamas watching the Chaser.

Friday night we faced the complicated decision of where to eat eventually settling on Hacienda, a reasonably famous Mexican restaurant. We ate far too much delicious Mexican food and had some fantastic frozen margaritas before heading home in a food coma. Perhaps the funniest thing to happen that night was just after we sat down someone we studied with in Salatiga two years ago sat at the table next to ours. While we knew she was working as a journalist in Jakarta the fact she came to the same restaurant on the same night was crazy so it was good to catch up!

Originally we had planned to hit a few of the clubs around town on the weekend however the previous weekend a drug related car crash linked to one of the notoriously dodgy clubs in Jakarta had killed 9 people so word was there were going to be drug raids. These raids can turn violent and realistically just ruin a night out so no clubbing (which wasn’t that disappointing in the end). On Saturday we decided that we would go have a massage then headed to two different malls. The first to buy dvds to watch that night rather than going out and then to PIM which is massive (although not the biggest) to have lunch and do some shopping. They had an ice skating rink set up and segway rides but we just ate some delicious Japanese for lunch before shopping for winter clothing in Zara which had a sale on. It does seem strange to shop for winter clothes on a 30 degree day in the tropics.

That night we had another delicious barbeque of pork ribs and prawns and watched the new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Inbetweeners movie (very lol) and War Horse (not that great- the horse was good).

The next morning we went to brunch. This is something that everyone should experience in Jakarta. We went to the Ritz-Carlton where there is a massive room with every type of food you could dream of and free flow champagne. We ate steadily for over 3 hours with quite the mix from roast duck, design your own noodle dish, sushi, giant pretzels, an assortment of cheeses, chocolate fountain, ice cream and cakes. All while waiters buzzed around making sure your drinks were always full. Not a bad way to spend a day and we all had a lot of laughs. One thing that you really noticed here was the heavy security. Less than 3 years ago the Ritz was target of a terrorist attack which killed a number of westerners so getting in meant the car getting searched, explosive sniffer dogs and metal detectors. We weren’t even able to take a photo in front of the lobby because of the security measures which are entirely understandable but make you realise that security is taken very seriously in this town.

After brunch it was time to say goodbye to Kelly and the family and Jakarta and head back to the airport. The airport was quite frankly awful with it impossible to get food (or water!) after security and my flight delayed for over an hour with no explanation. I think in the future I’ll shell out the extra money for a better airline.

So that was my epic Jakarta weekend! While it did involve a lot of time stuck in traffic the fun we had definitely made up for it (and being stuck in traffic isn’t that bad). 3 days of chilling out, eating western food and doing next to nothing is definitely what we needed before heading back to work and uni. While a lot of people  hate Jakarta I’ve never failed to have a good time so big thanks to Kelly and her family for an awesome weekend.

Courts xx

I forgot to take photos again (camera was too big to lug around, didn’t feel like taking photos of malls etc)

Jakarta from above! A bit of urban sprawl!
Jakarta from above! A bit of urban sprawl!