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Around some of the world in 180 days


INDONESIA | Wednesday, 9 May 2012 | Views [962]

Indonesian Indah

Indonesian Indah

Just before arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, I started to read the travel guide on Jakarta and realised I completely forgot I had to pay about $20 for a Visa on Arrival (VOA). So I was a bit worried when I queued up for the VOA with only sterling in hand. Luckily they accepted UK curency at what I thought was a pretty crap rate as they convert it into Indonesian Rupiah, then to US dollars. Although crap rate may be a bit hard to tell considering the exchange rate at the time is close to 15000INR to £1. I'll be needing a calculator to do a lot of arithmetic for my time in Indonesia.

My taxi ride to the hotel was a taste of things to come in Jakarta. The traffic here is busy and absolutely chaotic. It's around lunchtime, so not supposed to be rush hour. In fact, after a few days, I couldn't even tell the difference between normal and rush hour traffic. Usually, I'll brave a walk around a city, but that's near impossible here. The main roads are actually not bad, but little thought has gone into catering for pedestrians when the roads were planned. There are virtually no pedestrian crossing areas and I'm compelled to use taxis and buses for anything but the shortest of walks. If I had to go anywhere, I got the trusty Blue Bird taxi which are metered ande I know the driver isn't going to take the 'scenic' route.

Even the pavements are not completely safe. When it gets really busy on the roads, some motorcyclist will use the pavement:

For the first day of sight-seeing, I decided to visit Kota. This is the Jakarta Old Town, a small area in Northern Jakarta dubbed "Queen of the East" in the 16th century by European sailors. I had so much trouble crossing the road in this area. One time, I spent about 10 minutes standing on the pavement, unable to cross. Eventually, I had to enlist the help of three teenage girls, who simply strolled across the road. They just knew when it was safe. Amazing.

A picturesque scene at Kota square:

Most of the Jakarta museums are based in this area. Namely, Jakarta Historical Museum, Museum Wayang (puppets), Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics. Besides these three, I visited a few others around the area. Apart from Museum Wayang , I thought most of these were a complete wast of time. Even then, I only liked the puppet museum because I'd never seen Indonesian puppets before:

Most of the museum exhibits are so poorly labelled, I'd be surprised if even the locals can understand them. The Bank Mandiri Museum was a case in point, supposedly showing the history of this bank, it's nothing more than themed sections with no information on the displays. Although I was surprised by these items in the security guard section. I guess sometime in the past, bank branches were protected by ninjas, presumably only a single ninja since the inverse ninja law clearly states that the effectiveness of a ninja is inversely proportional to the number of ninjas:

The museums are not all bad. The National Museum in centre of Jakarta is really good and I recommend it as it's well labelled and does a really good job of describing all the various cultures in the archipelago.

Day 2

I've discovered I could have seen the whole of Indonesia for only 9000 rupiah. There's a place called Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, which could be described as a cultural theme park. Mostly, it shows the different style of houses on the different islands of the archipelago, which various museums and information centres interspersed. The place seems sparsely visited, with many of the rides and shops closed and I think the whole place is nothing more than a big white elephant. My plan was to walk up one side of the park, then down the other side. Unfortunately, I was pretty bored after 3.5 hours at the exact halfway point and decided to take the cable car back to the entrance. The good thing about the cable car was that it let me see the other side I decided to skip from high up. When I finally get to the entrance end, the dude doesn't let me out of the car and I thinking maybe I need to let myself out, which only earns a rebuke. As the car slowly wound it's way around, it finally dawns on me we're heading back arghhhhh, where it's explained to me there is no one way options. I couldn't be bothered walking and I'm forced into paying a motorcycle taxi guy 5000 rupiahs.

Me at the Indonesia Museum inside the park:

A picture of a lake from cable car, supposedly a map of Indonesia:

Day 3

I've booked myself for a tour of Jakarta. The Real Jakarta as the tour is named, is a tour of Jakarta slums behind the skyscrapers. In the Jakarta slums, there's the poor and the really poor. The poor are even poorer than those in Mumbai Dharavi slums, but the really poor are in a terrible situation. The poorest make their homes near railway tracks, a very dangerous situation with daily passing trains. They're not even living, they're just surviving. Collecting rubbish for recycling. The Real Jakarta guides are know within the slums, who provide medical assistancem some schooling and other financial aid. It felt good my money (donation as they like to call it) was going to a good cause when I see the residents constantly showing their gratitude towards Real Jakarta guys. The saddest story was a mother of two who lives in a hut next to the tracks and collects plastic bottles to survive. She'd been struck on the head by a passing train, unable to support herself because she could no longer collect enough plastic bottles just for her daily food needs. At least the Real Jakarta guys were paying for her medical bills and emergency financial help for food.

I kind of dawned on me that these tours are a kind of poverty tourism. Why do I want to see poverty in another country when I barely take note in my own country. Maybe it makes us better to appreciate just how lucky we are in the west, with all the opportunities available to us. I certainly hope it's not to see that I'm better off than the Jones. It's so difficult to relate to the residents I find myself asking the dumbest questions like, doesn't the government provide help? are there no political groups that advocate on their behalf? All the kind of things we'd take for granted in the west.

In case, the kids seems to enjoy the attention of the adults:

One of my guides, Anneke:

Day 4

Last day in Jakarta before I head off to Bandung. I check out the various landmarks such as the natioal monument and the grand mosque ( supposedly the biggest in SOuth East Asia)before spending the rest of the day in Mall.

National Monument at night:

The mosque:

Tags: indonesia, jakarta


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