Jakarta, Indonesia

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

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  1. Funny that, of all places, you mention Plaza Indonesia — in 1997 and 1999, I spent a total of two months at Jakarta’s Grand Hyatt, which is attached to Plaza Indonesia, and I’ve probably had more meals in that mall than any mall in the world. The Hard Rock, right down the block, is relatively small, but I did see the band “America” perform there — when you’re in Jakarta for two months, you take advantage of every entertainment opportunity. Too bad you didn’t have time to see the historic area around Cafe Batavia, its walkable and relatively nice, plus close to the schooner docks.

    Shanghai is a lot more interesting!

  2. did you get a shot glass?

  3. Already had it-I cheated and got it on eBay but had to go to make amends

  4. nice trip lee
    i think if you would to go to indonesia in another trips
    you can try to visit , bukittinggi – west sumatra 🙂

  5. Thanks Eko, I will certqinly keep that in mind. I may be back in Indonesia in November and I love Sumatra!

  6. you have to visit Danau Toba ( Toba Lake ) or Samosir in North Sumatra 🙂

  7. Oh you completely missed Jakarta’s old town where Dutch colonial buildings are scattered. Now that’s the real site you’ve been looking for I believe.

  8. I’m from Indonesia and I live in Jakarta. Well, it’s true Jakarta can be quite challenging, not only for a foreigner like you but also for an Indonesian citizen like me. So, do be careful when you are traveling in Jakarta.

    There are lots of beautiful places in Indonesia and I would easily recommend Bunaken in Sulawesi and also Raja Ampat in Papua. Foreigners when they heard about Indonesia, they would instantly think of Bali. Bali is inarguably beautiful but there are a lot more to Indonesia than Bali. Green Canyon in Pangandaran West Java has been recently elevated to the scene if you are into body rafting and forest greenery. Go to Martapura in Kalimantan to hunt for gems and go to Lake Toba in North Sumatra for a one of a kind scenery.

    There are tons of great places to visit in Indonesia. I know that my country is a developing country and even for me it’s not always safe. But, as a fellow traveler I must say you are missing a big chunk if you don’t travel all around my country. From the westernmost tip of Aceh to the easternmost of Papua, you will surely be dazzled how rich our country is.

    Visit Indonesia! 😉

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