Walking Central Jakarta

What do you do with a single day in Jakarta? We’ll be back here soon, but wanted to get a first impression of the 9 Million people city today. We usually try to see new cities on foot as this brings you closest to building and people. And boy, did we get close!

After sitting in traffic for hours in a taxi the day before, we decided to brave public transport and were really impressed by the train system they have running through the city. After figuring out how to get into the station and how to buy what kind of tickets, the train ride was pleasent and easy. Our first stop was the “National Monument“, a tower and monument that tourists can go up for a view of the city. A random guy approached us to tell us how to get in and offered hand-made postcards. He as well as his postcards seemed really nice, but we had no plans to write any cards at the moment. It took a veeery long time go get to the single elevator that takes visitors up, I’m not even sure there are stairs as an alternative, but the view from the top was great. The city stretches into to three direction all the way to the horizon – and borders the ocean at the forth.


Jakarta is big, really big

Jakarta is big, really big

Coming down, the helpful guy came back to tell us where we could go next, we started talking a bit and he casually offered to take us around the city for the rest of the day. As we are usually quite suspicious and easily scared away from situations like these, it took a little bit, but after bringing down his price, we agreed and he started walking. The rest of the day saw these two tall white Europeans walking with big eyes behind this small Indonesian guy through the most remote corners of this huge city.

Indonesia and specifically Jakarta is not rich or what you would call “picturesque”, what we saw today was an honest but shocking introduction to the life here. 

Iwan and myself at the mosque

Iwan and myself at the mosque

Iwan first took us to the Mosque Masjid Istiqlal, patiently showed us where to take our shoes off and where to go. We had actually never been all the way into an Islamic mosque before and felt quite excited. Right next to it is a much smaller Christian church. – And to complete the journey of religions of the world, the next stop was a Bhuddist temple in “Chinatown“. This is one of the oldest of the world-wide Chinatowns and the places Iwan took us to were not made for tourists. There was trash everywhere, people sitting in dark corners of the street and a fat rat ran up to us and bounced of Iwan’s foot. On the market streets frogs were sold, alive and tied together as a bundle you could pick up and buy. I really do not want to know what else was being sold inside these shops! The temple itself was pretty, with lots of golden ornaments and huge candles lit up from the new year’s celebrations. Iwan brought us to a restaurant here where we had Nasi Goreng, a very typical dish, while he was talking about his life and football.

The tour went on through back allies and across streets you could not cross. The traffic was so intense with taxis and scooters shooting into every slight opening there was, and with everybody completely ignoring lines or traffic lights, that we would have waited in vein for hours. Iwan simply raised his hands high and started wading through the sea of cars with us closely following. Part of the journey was accomplished in a motorized rickshaw they call tuk-tuk. Becoming part of this crazy sea was another level of experiencing the traffic! And breathing in the smog from the traffic in some of parts of the city was the final level…

The next stop was the “Old town”, Batavia, the remnants of the Dutch settlement. I guess if you’re from Europe it’s not too impressive, but here they promote this part of town, telling people that if they can’t afford to fly to Amsterdam, they can see what it’s like here. 😉 It certainly had a nice atmosphere! Here and at most other places around town you could buy street-food of various shapes and colors, some looked very tasty indeed!

Fishing boats and slums at the harbour

Fishing boat and slums at the harbour

The final part of our walking tour was the harbour. On the way there he showed us through the slums next to it. It is only a small area, but we were taken right into it, walking on paths of wooden planks over the dirty water with huts on the sides. I hit my head on some wooden beam, a poor monkey they had tied up came a bit too close to Anja, and more rats became visible. Looking at the small fishing boats it could have looked idyllic – but it was far from it! The people looked different here and you could feel the hopelessness.

We took the train back, but we were all a bit quiet, digesting the events of the day. Iwan brought us all the way to the hotel, and even gave us a set of his beautiful postcards as a leaving present. It was a short, but very intense first impression of Jakarta!


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