Jalan jalan in Jakarta

The phrase jalan jalan is the Indonesian equivalent for “hanging out”. As a visitor to Jakarta, most of my jalan jalan was done in one its many traffic jams. The entire city seems to be stuck in a constant state of gridlock, most likely because it has gone from a city that looks like this:

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to one that looks like this in just a relatively short time frame, and with very little planning:

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I spent my first 24 hours in the cramped backpacker enclave, right in the city center, trying to stay away from my hotel room. Not to sound like I’m whinging, but Jakarta is so massive that it has the reputation of being a shit tourist destination. Its “charm” consisting of the spectacular view of the infinite urban sprawl from the top of the national monument, and the quaint old city of Batavia, built by the still-resented Dutch.

Luckily, I know people. Conor and I attended the same CELTA course in 2006 in Prague, after which he moved to Jakarta to teach English. So, after a galloping taxi ride to his house (3 hours, 15 miles, and $12 later) it was great to see Conor’s and his fiancée Rini’s smiling faces.

The first night was full of catching up since CELTA, sampling some of Rini’s exquisite Javan chicken curry, and giggling at pirated back-episodes of South Park on Conor’s finicky DVD player. The following morning, they escorted me to a travel agent so that I could book my flights to Yogyakarta and Bali. Good thing Conor was there to help me choose the airline that doesn’t crash as much. Apparently, Indonesian airline companies are so prone to accidents that they are not allowed to fly to Europe…great news for the nervous flier.

Conor, in addition to working long hours as a teacher, is also using his DJ-ing talents to bring Jakarta into the 21st century. As a result, he knew slightly more than the Lonely Planet Guide (AKA “Lying Planet” by backpackers) about the Jakartan nightlife scene. So, off we went for some amazing Chinese food and some…time in the car? Yeah, we left at 6:00 PM, got home at 2:00 AM…and, between the Chinese restaurant, a swanky DJ bar, a coffee and chocolate bar, and the electronics store (more on this later), we only were out of the car for about 2 hours. In case you’re bad at math, that’s six hours in the car…and that’s precisely how massive, chaotic, and confusing Jakarta is…with locals driving. I understand now why they call it the Big Durian…because, like the fruit, you have to do some digging and put up with a lot of odor and bullshit to find the center…and even when you find the center of the Durian, it may still trigger your gag reflex.

In my case, I was lucky to have such wonderful hosts and would go through it all again to spend more time with Conor and Rini…except next time, Conor, I promise not to kick over a glass of water into your laptop power supply with my big bule feet.

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Off to Yogyakarta on the airline that doesn’t crash…as much.


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~ by parlatorepazzo on March 9, 2009.

One Response to “Jalan jalan in Jakarta”

  1. You are the new Anthony Bourdain, ya twat.

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