While visiting Malaysia, my cousin and I decided to make a short weekend trip to Jakarta. I had never been to Indonesia so I jumped at the opportunity to see this new country. We also had a great tour guide in Vincent, my cousin’s friend who went to school with her in the US.
Depending on where you go, Jakarta can be like any other big city, or like a smaller town with its own character.
The city center is big on malls, just like every other big city. Indonesians in particular love their malls, with two gigantic malls, the Mall of Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia. On the other hand, you see beggars on the streets and at times, generally an atmosphere of what north americans might consider “ghetto”.
One sight that really touched my cousin and I was a boy beggar, who was missing one leg, sitting in the midst of traffic in the pouring rain. Despite the danger, he hobbled around and braved the cars whizzing by to knock on the car doors when the traffic stopped at the light.
Other people were more creative with how they obtained their living. There were the vendors, walked between cars selling water, snacks and other goods to commuters stuck in Jakarta’s horrendous traffic. Some came with guitars and yet others sang songs in hope for the odd donation.
And then there is the traffic control. Whether or not you need it, there will be someone who helps you back your car onto the street. At times, the 3,000 IDR we pay seem like a great price to have someone spot and stop traffic for you to back out. Other times, there really is no traffic and I wondered if they were worth the 3,000 IDR we paid. Well, my friend was generous.
There are no speed limits in Jakarta and many drivers buy their licences. Many areas, especially the main roundabouts, have no lane markers and thus traffic is chaos. While those travelling in luxury are stuck in traffic, those who opt for the motorcycle are sometimes able to weave their way through to the front of the line.
Those two wheelers were in abundance on the streets and I was told that there was a 500,000 IDR monthly credit for motorcycles. When we did some of the math, we figured that essentially offset the cost of gas.
While at Jakarta, we took a day trip to Bandung. On our way, we took the wrong route so our two hour drive to the crater, Kuban Prahu, ended up costing us four hours.
The silt filled base venting steam was ringed by stores creating a colourful commercial community selling all kinds of volcanic souvenirs.
The guards started asking us to leave at 1700h and promptly, a mist crept over the crater engulfing the base and store houses as if to draw the curtain close on activity for the day.
We stayed on to watch this magnificent sight and listen to the wind whistling through the mountains as well as steam hissing out of the crater vent.
If you visit Indonesia you have to visit a volcanic crater. After all, that is what gave birth to this chain of islands.