Posted by: patriciamar | September 24, 2009

Jakarta Jakarta Jakarta

After the slow  island life of Alor, driving into Jakarta is a blast into modernized society.  The drive itself was what I most dreaded about Jakarta.  It normally takes at least an hour to get into the city- and that’s without any extra traffic problems.  Fortunately, we went to the right place at the right time, and as thousands of Indonesians traveled from Jakarta to Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong, or other vacation spot, we flew to an empty Jakarta.  Coincidentally, we visited Jakarta precisely on Eid ul-Fitr (Idul Fitri in Indonesian), the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan and a month of fasting for Muslims.

Instead of entering a stuffy, polluted, traffic jam of a city, Matt and I took a 35 minute taxi ride into a city of dazzling modern skyscrapers, international businesses, fountains, huge boulevards, and so many lights and so much color that it almost reminded me of visiting Las Vegas.  Whether you love or hate big cities, Jakarta is a city of another caliber, and you really have to see it to understand… You just can’t compare it to normal cities.   

I suppose the line must be drawn somewhere around 20 million people, because the only place it seems to resemble is Mexico City, where the city goes on and on for so far- that you have stopped being able to comprehend just how huge it is. 

Now I admit, nearly everyone I talked to anywhere else in Indonesia hated Jakarta.  Too big, too busy, too hot, too smoggy.  I also admit, that because we went on a holiday, we were given a gap of fresh air that few people experience when they visit.  With this being said, I thought that Jakarta was a fabulous city.  There are people from everywhere, working in all areas of business- NGOs, embassies, tourism, trade, etc., etc., etc.  When you’re tired of the city and need to get away, you head towards the coast, where there is a string of tiny islands to visit, some so small that you walk or bike around them.  You can rent a motorboat for a ride or for a day and head out to your favorite spot on an island of ten instead of 124 million.  You can get delicious Indonesian food at a street stand, in a neighborhood warung (small family restaurant), in an upscale restaurant, or at the mall.

Speaking of malls, if you at all interested in shopping, Jakarta is apparently the place to go.  The dozens of insanely sized malls in Jakarta are impeccably clean, have huge varieties of shops- both Asian and International- huge movie theaters, benches where you can sit and eat ice cream and watch Indonesian families stroll, and a food court that I could probably live in…

I probably sound like a git telling everyone how much I liked the mall food court (I really have been telling everyone), but if you like Asian food at all, this is like heaven.  Any type of Thai, Korean, Japanese (both noodles & sushi!), Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, Sri Lankan… they are all there, and they all cost around $3 for a full meal.  Of course, since it is indeed a food court, it isn’t like eating an authentic meal in the country- but really- so much better than pretty much anything we have in the U.S. that it’s no contest.  I could live in the food court.  The walls cascading with water and bamboo poles dividing the sections of tables don’t hurt either.

Did I mention that most of the malls are at least five stories high, sometimes eight or nine and with sometimes thirty stories of condos above them?  Six towers of thirty stories of condos?  It’s an experience- and I hate to say it, but I am from Minnesota so I actually do have the Mall of America to compare it to.

If you’re ever in the area- it’s a city worth visiting.

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