moonwire

jakarta

Posted in indonesia, jakarta, java by moonwire on July 29, 2009

I left Yogyakarta at 7 AM to catch a train to Jakarta. The ‘Argo’ (more luxury) trains were sold out, so I had to take a seat on the ‘bisnis’ train. Well, I didn’t expect ‘bisnis’ to be up to Western ‘bisnis’ class, but what I encountered then, I never expected. The seats were okay, but I wouldn’t call them exactly comfortable. They reminded me of the seats we used to have in Holland for the short distance trains.

But okay,  9 hours sitting on that would be do-able. Well, after about an hour into the ride, a whole bunch of people selling stuff embarked. Nasi goreng and chicken, drinks, cigarettes, fake wallets, mini sewing machines, teddy bears, slippers, toys. With the exception of the food, drinks and cigarettes, most sellers just threw the stuff onto your seat or lap so you’d have some time to grab some money. If you didn’t want it, they’d come back to pick up the crap. This went on for hours. At every station where we stopped, new ones came on. With the same stuff and the game started again. And it wasn’t just sellers getting on. I also saw drag queens doing bad music performers and a bunch of disabled people begging for money up and down the isles. The only thing missing were the goats and chickens.

Another curious thing is the habit of people to just throw their garbage out the window. Bottles, cups, cigarette butts, food left overs, newspapers. Off it goes, into the environment. The amount of garbage along the railroad is shocking.

The train is supposed to sell tickets for the seats, but it was obviously overbooked, or people booked a ticket without a seat. After an hour or two, people were sleeping in the isles and in front of the ‘kamar cecil’ (bathroom). Needless to say, after about 4 hours I was totally done with this. Luckily, the man who sat next to me arrived at his destination so I had 2 seats for myself and it was slightly more comfortable.

When we got into the outskirts of Jakarta, I noticed the people living next to the tracks. I had seen this in a documentary called ‘War Photographer’, about James Nachtwey. Severely shocking. People sleeping on dirty matresses in and on piles of garbage. Just horrible.

I arrived at Pasar Senen station at 5 pm. I took a cab to my guesthouse, which was situated in South Jakarta. After the bombings, I thought it would be better to hang out in a residential neighbourhood, rather than the touristy one. Well, it took me 2.5 hours in a continuous traffic jam to get there. When I finally got here, I was seriously surprised where I had ended up. It’s a huge house, with a swimming pool and it has just a few guest rooms. The people live upstairs. I wasn’t feeling it, and decided to move closer to the old city centre the next morning. I could just imagine trying to get to the airport from here. It might have taken me 4 or 5 hours.

I left the guesthouse at around 8 AM by cab. Even though I was once again stuck in traffic for an hour to get to Blok M where I would take the Transjakarta bus into the city, I was happy to be gone from that place. I can’t exactly say why I didn’t feel right there. The room was big and clean, there was a pool, but I just wasn’t able to relax (even though I did sleep very well). Also very strange, after I checked in, the people were nowhere to be found. I hadn’t eaten properly all day and was starving, but nothing to be had. The only one I saw around was a white dog (just a tad smaller than my dad’s best friend). He had one blue eye and one brown eye and he seemed to like me a lot. He creeped me out.

Anyways, after I hastily made my way out of the guesthouse, I arrived at Blok M. Blok M is a huge mall complex and bus terminal. When I bought my ticket, I asked the girl where I should get off for Jl. Jaksa, my next destination. She didn’t speak English but luckily a man who was also buying a ticket told me to just get the ticket. He was going in my direction and he said he’d tell me where to get off the bus. The bus ride was great. The Transjakarta buses are airconditioned , they have their own lanes and they don’t let too many people on at once, so it wasn’t crowded. When we got to the ‘Sarinah’ stop, the man told me to get off the bus and where to find Jl. Jaksa. I ended up taking an ojek, which is basically a very slow scooter with a bench in the back. It worked fine. I got on Jl. Jaksa and started looking for a guesthouse. This was also the first time in 2 days I encountered a tourist. I found a cheap guesthouse right away. It wasn’t exactly great; shared bathroom (cleanliness was obviously not their forte) but I was just so glad to be out of South Jakarta. Jl. Jaksa is a tiny street with lots of little restaurants, bars, guesthouses, used bookshops etc. I just put myself down at a place, read the newspaper, took advantage of the free wifi and drank tea. What a lovely afternoon.

After Ami was done with work, we met up. And it was really great meeting her. She was exactly how I expected her to be. And most surprising, to me at least, her English  is very very good. And not just because I’ve gotten used to hearing  ‘trrransport, trrransport, ya?’ but her accent is so good. She told me she learnt it from watching movies 🙂 We had some really great food (I forgot what it was called, but it was different pieces of tofu like things with spicy peanut sauce). Delicious. After dinner we went to a book store. It reminded me a bit of borders. Big store. Lots of English books as well. Didn’t end up buying anything but it sure was tempting.

Ami told me something very interesting that I didn’t know. Most Indonesian people don’t have a family name. When you see two names, those are just two given names. The last name is not a family name. Some people, like Soekarno, only have one name. Fascinating.

When I walked back from the Transjakarta bus station, I was simply amazed at what was happening in the streets. Lots and lots of little food stalls. People hanging out, talking, playing chess or guitar, eating, drinking. It was very very lively and for a moment I wished I had had another day in Jakarta to soak up more of this.

Though my stay in Jakarta didn’t start out so great I had a really good day in Jl. Jaksa and judging by the mood in the streets, I think Jakarta could actually be a great city to spend some more time in. ‘Maybe later, ya?’

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