“I live 30 minutes away from the airport but it will take us between an hour to three hours to get home. In Jakarta, you never know”, our host told us with a smile. We had no reason to doubt her, after all she had been living here for three years, but it was somehow hard for us to comprehend how a 30-minute drive could stretch into a 3-hour one. Friday night? Rush hour? No, we were told traffic was quasi constant, almost all over the city… Now… THAT is impressive! Fast forward two hours: there is no mystery anymore. After witnessing the way Jakartans drive and seeing the complicated road network currently in place, Jakarta’s roads are doomed to be constantly jammed, unless its traffic management can drastically be improved.
Many travelers had told us to avoid Jakarta. Since a friend of M’s family and his wife were living there, we decided to ignore this advice and stop over for a few days before starting our Indonesian exploration. We were glad we did not give Jakarta a miss because there is definitely more to this city than just traffic jams! If like us, you have only 48 hours in Jakarta, have fun:
- Daydream while strolling among the antiquities on Jalan Surabaya
- Stroll on The Jenderal Sudirman Street turned into a pedestrian lane until 11 on Sunday mornings
- Wander trough Mederka Square with its shaded alleys before heading to the national monument, Monas to locals. You can up to the observation deck
- Visit the beautiful Istiqlal mosque (Masjid) by joining a tour. Fascinating!
- Discover the historical old town, known as Kota or Old Batavia. It was definitely not the most impressive old town we have come across but it seems that some work is in progress…
- Take pictures with young students keen to speak English on Fatahillah square or rent a colorful bike that gives your the chance to wear a bright hat. Priceless
- Go up to the Skye Bar for a fantastic view over the city but be aware that you will need to be dolled up. On Sundays it is more casual but flip flops are still a no go
- Pay a visit to Jakarta’s incredible malls! Retail shopping is the best cure to anything… They are modern and have some great restaurants!
- Ask your hosts (or the hotel staff) for secret tips to have a great time on the Indonesian archipelago
They say that you either hate or love Jakarta. For us, it was a very positive experience, despite the horrendous traffic. We couldn’t have asked for a better stay in Jakarta, especially as we were spoiled rotten by our fun and lovely hosts. It felt like being at home with dear friends, laughing, cooking and grilling together. You can take Swiss people out of Switzerland but you cannot take Switzerland out of them so we had brought some sausages from home. At least those were not forgotten behind during my late packing! As I said before, all is about priorities!
The city, though bustling, has welcomed us with smiles and warmth. If the subway and the train to the airport become reality, we could see ourselves live there for a few years. It is time now to hit the road and jump on an Indonesian train. Next stop: Yogyakarta