Took a little trip into the big smoke (Jakarta) last weekend. Its a place I like to visit from every so often to get those things you just can't get in the provinces.
At 6'1, I am a bit bigger then the average Indonesian, so getting shoes and clothes that fit can be an interesting exercise at the best of times and Jakarta is often the last option. As usual, I had plenty of time to admire the view from the airport to city centre as a bus breakdown meant the normal 1 hour tollroad run took just over three hours.
Flew in via Garuda, the national Airline and took the time to read the Garuda in-flight Magazine. There was a fairly large section promoting Jakarta, mostly informative but where in the world did they get those photos of a smog free Jakarta??? No traffic jams, blue sky, lots of green, I must have missed that day! Whenever I am in Jakarta even on clear (?) days, the city is bathed in a very weird yellow tinge..sort of an "end of days" glow. You get the feeling the city is (has) entering an end game of terminal pollution meltdown.
Having said all that, Jakarta has a lot going for it as well. Some for the best food in the world, try Oasis or Lan Na Thai you won't de disappointed or duck down to the nearest Kaki Lima (street vendor) for some real down to earth tastes (stick to the fried stuff and you won't get sick). Personally, I love the Padang food and the way they serve it up.
Some of the malls are just bizarre in scope and size . There ia a night life scene that caters for all tastes and wants ranging from very up market clubs to downright sleazy. Best of all, a live music scene that is second to none and is easily affordable to most. One thing though, for some reason all the bands seem to come from Bandung (is there something in the water there?).
Hotel/Motels range from Hilton class five star to rent by the hour flea pits. Mind you, it might be ok to stay at the Hilton bit it seems a risky place to work at times as a poor young waiter found out here
"In the early hours of New Year’s Day 2005 Sutowo’s youngest son, Adiguna, was arrested in the bar of the Hilton Hotel, Jakarta. According to witnesses, when the woman with whom he was drinking had her expired credit card returned by a young part-time waiter, the young Sutowo said, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’, and then pulled a gun and shot the waiter dead. He was found guilty of murder, but received only a seven-year gaol term, much less than that of the well-known Australian drug smugglers."
Great movie houses can be found in Jakarta, I went saw the "Insider" in fanastic comfort. I must confess still confused about the movie, I must have missed a couple of twists somewhere.
All in all a great weekend but as usual I was left pondering the vast difference between the "haves" and "have nots". I know all cities have them but in Jakarta it is right in your face, walk 50m from your plush, air conditioned hotel and suddenly you are looking at people with no hope, no future and nowhere to go. I don't claim to have the answers by any means but it is confronting to say the least.