I went into Jakarta doing something I don’t normally do because all I heard were very negative things about the city-I decided I hated it before I got there. That was dumb because I really enjoyed Jakarta. I thought it was an awesome, frenetic, fast-paced city that reminded of Bangkok during the day-I mean almost identical looking just substituting mosques for wats. If you’ve ever driven in from Bangkok Airport-Jakarta looks almost the same that you wouldn’t know where you were if you didn’t know. Then at night when it was all beautifully lit up and the streets had cleared out a bit, it reminded me of Singapore-which is a very good thing on both accounts because I love both Bangers and Singers as the Aussies say.
Jakarta is the fourth largest urban sprawl on Earth. This megalopolis has some 25 million people in its metropolitan area and it is easily the heart of Indonesian culture and the biggest city on Java. However, the ridiculous growth rate the city has seen over the past decades have led to awful traffic issues and major, seriously major polluion problems.
A good example is my taxi driver from the airport had this awful smokers cough and it was driving me nuts; but he didn’t smoke. I asked him what the problem was and he said it was beause of the air pollution. As a result of this, he carried a hack rag hanky thing on his lap that he would hack up a nasty lung every 30 seconds. A very pleasant ride as you can imagine.
Anyway, aside from that the city was very cosmopolitan and very modern which I wasn’t expecting. After touring the city which has no real sites, I wanted to stop at the Hard Rock Cafe to buy a T-shirt-it’s just one of my things-give me a break. Anyway, it was attached to this massive beautiful, fancy mall called Plaza Indonesia.
Now I hate malls, but this mall was amazingly modern and very hip-understand malls are unavoidable in Asia, much like the Middle East and they are spreading-I fear for the future of humanity. But it was so hip in fact that at each part of the mall where there was a convergence of hallways and an open area-they had a DJ playing that Asian trance techno stuff. But that’s not it-they had a big dance floor in front of the DJ booth and there were people, a lot of people dancing. I’m talking like exed out clubbing style dancing-it was very weird and slightly disturbing.
Speaking of clubbing-Lonely Planet said that Jakarta has the biggest club in Asia that opens Thursday night and doesn’t close until Sunday night and it’s called Stadium. It’s completely dark inside and its capacity of 4000 people is always full and many people stay for days without sleep. I also hate clubs and didn’t see this for myself but you get the point that Jakarta is a pretty well heeled, hip city with a lot of money as the packed Gucci and Prada shops would tell me.
As a result of my quickie visit to Jakarta, I was very surprised by how nice it was-I also didn’t think the traffic was that bad but I was also there on a Sunday. Regardless, I wouldn’t avoid coming to Jakarta again for a day or two-it’s a pleasant place with apparently a lot of malls-such is Asia these days in the big cities.
Now I am off on the red eye to Shanghai and I have been excited about seeing that city ever since the opening scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom from when I was like 6 or so-until tomorrow…ciao