Friday, July 08, 2005


I just got back from Jakarta. Went for more than a week without internet connection. Was depressing to say the least, but as always Jakarta has never failed to entertain me in many ways. Since I'm too lazy to write properly I'll just type out in point forms some of my thoughts about The Great City.

1. There are lots of people in Jakarta. Damn, the whole city's packed almost all the time. I read somewhere that Jakarta has 12 million inhabitants during the day and 8 million at night. 12 million is A LOT OF PEOPLE. If you think KL is packed, experience Jakarta.

2. The traffic is freaking scary. Straight out of the airport you get the infamous Jakarta jam. Lanes don't exist in Indonesia, more so in Jakarta. Millions of cars and motorcycles cram the never expanding road network. The new busway system (more on this later) didn't help much, even caused worse jams cos they occuppy a dedicated lane that's taking a portion of the already insufficient road. If you haven't been drinking Indonesian water for a minimum of 5 years, don't bother driving there. You won't be insane enough.

3. There's a lot of rich people in Jakarta. Anywhere you look you'll see the latest imported cars. I didn't see the exotics, but Toyota Alphards, Merc S-Classes, VW Touaregs and Range Rovers (even the new RR Sport! Argh) were suffocating the road. Reading the classifieds on the paper I saw ads selling second hand Hummers and even one dealer promoting the newly arrived Lamborghini Murcielago. On the classifieds, just like that.

The houses I saw on some areas were just amazing. My hotel was in Menteng area, a very upscale neighborhood. I was walking around and I could find those huge mansions that sadly looked empty. Some rich Jakartans built houses just for investment or weekend retreats apparently.

The highlight of the trip is when I was exiting Plaza Indonesia through the connecting Grand Hyatt. Lo and behold, a 2005 Rolls-Royce Phantom was parked prettily near the entrance. I could never figure out why anyone would even dare to drive a Rp 10 billion (est. price) car on such chaotic traffic. But well, this is Indonesia.

4. Everyone has drivers. Whether the car is a Jag or a Jazz, car owners have their chauffeurs. Go to the parking lot of any office building or shopping mall, you're bound to see drivers (or supir as they're called here) lazing away under the tree or sleeping inside the car. Some buildings even have special resting and waiting place for these guys. I guess it's not that expensive to employ a personal driver. Hell my auntie's family has three drivers.

5. The busway is not as bad as it was predicted to be. Jakarta's current version of mass rapid transit uses buses instead of trains. These buses occupy a dedicated lane which was taken from a portion of the existing road. Great news for the buses cos they have a virtually jam free road, but bad news for the motorists since what's left of the road is taken away.

I took the busway from the station in front of Sarinah, planning to go Mangga Dua. No problems even if you don't know the way. Everyone's helpful in pointing you out, though sometimes people might give you wrong direction. The very nicely dressed bus conductor told me to get down at Stasiun Kota and take a short cab ride to Mangga Dua. Excellent. And did I tell you the bus driver was wearing a suit and tie?

6. Cabs are reliable. A note to would be traveler to Jakarta: Only take BLUE BIRD TAXIS. They're the most reliable and the drivers are very professional. You don't get picky cabbies like in KL. Sit first then tell the driver where you wanna go. He will not complain if it's too near/too far/he doesn't know where it is/etc. He'll radio the headquarters for direction if he doesn't know.
When I took the cab from my hotel to the World Trade Center, the fare was Rp 9,000 and the cabbie didn't have a change for my Rp 50,000 note. He actually waited for another Blue Bird cab to show up so he can ask for change from the colleague. When finally there's one that was dropping a passenger, he asked for change. Unfortunately the colleague didn't have change either since it was quite early in the morning (apparently they don't bring much money, maybe for safety purposes). So while apologizing profusely he rummaged through all his pockets and fished out Rp 35,000. Well since there's nothing else we can do I just accepted it. I just considered it a tip since he was very polite. He was still apologizing when I was exiting the car.

6. DVD's are cheap. The pirated ones of course. Rp 5000 or RM2 each. However the selection that I saw in Mangga Dua was so-so only. Friends told me to check out the infamous Glodok area for DVDs. They said price can go as low as 3 for RM4. Will definitely check it out next time I'm in Jakarta (which is about two weeks time, heh)

7. There are more beautiful girls per square km in Jakarta than anywhere else. Starting from the moment you touch down, there's plenty of girls to ogle at in the airport. Nearing the city it's even better. They're just everywhere. I've seen serious stunners working as cashiers in Dunkin' Donuts (btw Jakarta has Dunkin' Donuts on every corner) or as SPG's in dept stores like SOGO. But the best place to check out chicks is the mall. There are many malls in Jakarta but you gotta check out Mal Taman Anggrek (one big-ass mall), Plaza Indonesia (where the Indonesian equivalent of Mak Datins hang out) and of course, Plaza Senayan. The place is packed with them.

One thing I don't really dig about Indonesian girls is that they wear a ridiculous amount of make up. Some of the babes might have this beautiful natural look, but a lot of them put on crazy amount of whatever-its-called they look like ghosts. I guess it has something to do with the stupid Indonesian belief that fair is beautiful. The shallow whitening ads on tv don't help either.

But worry not. You won't regret coming to Jakarta. Just don't bring your girfriend.

8. Nightlife in Jakarta is happening. I didn't get to sample much of the nightlife though, only went to the newly relocated Hard Rock Cafe and the crazy Stadium Club with cousins.

Hard Rock was just like.. Hard Rock. Nothing special, the same expensive food and drinks. The band was okay, but the crowd was lousy to the max. They were having a 40 and above night maybe.

Bored at HRC, my cousin recommended Stadium. Being a newbie to the Jakarta scene, I agreed. So went there after picking up another cousin who worked at JW Marriott.

What a place that was! After passing the entrance which was guarded by a bunch of guys who look like presidential bodyguards, we took a lift to the 4th floor. Holy cow, definitely the craziest joint I've been to. Once we stepped in, we were greeted by this bunch of girls wearing skimpy black dresses. Some mama-san came and offered "Cewek, mas?" After we (quickly) said no, we then proceed to the dance floor. It was so packed and dark and the aircon was struggling to supply breathable air. Ayy, there's one thing my cousins didn't tell me; it was an ecstasy joint. People were getting high everywhere. People passing out in the loo. Apparently it was very easy to get E there. Just hold up up your lighter. Some guy will come and give you a price. If you agree then give him the money and he'll pass you the pill. Make sure you get a bottle of water first. Swallow pill and have fun.

I didn't really enjoy the place because of several things:

1. The music was crap. It's designed to enhance the whole E experience, not for the actual trance aficionado,
2. The crowd was like 70% male, and from that number 50% was gay,
3. The fear that in the event of a fire, I have no idea how to escape. Somemore it's on the 4th floor,
4. The smoke was suffocating.

Around 4am I went down, lepaking near the entrance looking at some young punks still trying to get in but kena stopped by the guards. Later cousins came down and we went back, smelling like garbage dump.

My JW Marriott cousin commented that the place sucked cos too many gays groping around and drug dealers were everywhere. He said we should've gone to this more upscale joint called Retro. Ah well, there's always next time.

9. The cinema was loud. As it should be. I watched the premiere of War Of The Worlds with friends in Jakarta Theater. The seating is about the same as TGV or GSC although the comfort level is more like GSC. TGV seat sucks.

What stood out was the fact that the sound system was LOUD. It greatly enhanced the effects on the movie. I've always felt that the sound level in Malaysian cinemas is way too tame. It just didn't feel good watching the action scenes on Police Story 3 and at the same time being able to hear some dad behind scolding his small kid for running around (what the hell was the kid doing there anyway?). C'mon GSC, crank it up!!

10. The food was great! Had the famous Nasi Goreng Kambing (always forget the name of the area the stall was in) and tried out the steak at Abuba Kelapa Gading. Glorious food at low prices. Gotta love the place.

11. Tight security is everywhere. Better get used to it. Cars will have their boot opened when entering a mall or office or hotel. Sometimes the guards will ask to open the passenger door as well so don't be surprised when some guard pops in to check inside the car. They're very professional and polite though, so it shouldn't be a problem. With all the bombings that happened, it's always better to be alert.

So there it is. I must say I enjoyed my stay there, although I can safely say I don't think I can actually LIVE there. Go book that AirAsia flight and experience Jakarta!

Listening to: John Patitucci - Growing