Surprise visits to new shores are always a welcome respite.
Last week I had the opportunity to do a short and sweet trip to Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta. In the 30 hours I had, I managed to cover quite a bit of the city. The old Dutch Port, the bustling CBD, the Indonesia theme park, the National monument and the anticipated trip the the country’s grandest mall.
With a camera and a sketchbook in tow I started the day from the Hyatt hotel. The hotel tower is located bang in the Central Business District and overlooks a very grand city junction. The roads are massive and well laid out, I was so surprised then to have heard of the terrible traffic snarls. Skipping across my first stop was the TransJakarta bus station. Every big city has adopted the very much accepted Metro Rail system as a means of major public transportation apart from the bus. However Jakarta decided to adopt the Bus Rapid Transport system, that uses a lane specific for the Rapid transport. Its way cheaper to construct and going by what is needed to run the system highly sustainable. Curitiba is another such city. The stations of the BRT system are tiny! And on the middle of the road. The interval of buses is quite less and overall the experience is quite good. Just that in the old town some buffoons use the Rapid Transit bus lanes striking of a chaos!
My first stop was the National Memorial. It is the greenest and most organized part of the city I must say and boasted of its Capital stature. Many old Dutch buildings are converted to government houses or museums. The Obelisk of the National monument is gilded in parts and the sprawling lawns and gardens offer a respite from the heat.
Again getting back onto the BRT I headed to Kota or the old Dutch Batavia town. This was chaos reinstated! But under all the dirt, bollywood music (!) and the traffic, several old buildings stand tall and boast of an imminent past. At the National Museum Plaza I could almost imagine what the life would have been like. Crossing the Batavia town was the hardest part of the trip, fuming traffic and jams everywhere! But on the other side is the still functioning Dutch port. Old ships that sail even today dot the harbour of the Java Sea. As the ships are being loaded through wooden platforms, tourists can still get gung-ho upon the deck. The ships are just like how we would draw them, or see them in lets say the Pirates of the Carribbean. The bearings are still so ancient.
Instead of walking back I took the tuk-tuk and faced the much dreaded traffic snarl. And yes I lost a considerable time there. Tch tch.
Next on the itinerary was the trip to the mini-Indonesia theme park. Arranged by the hotel, the trip bundled up a group of tourists with a guide to head to the Mini-Indonesia theme park. My fellow travelers were a group of cabin-crew from Egypt, Macedonia and India! The museum at the park in Balinese style is absolutely stunning. Indonesia’s rich art and cultural heritage are showcased with much splendor. Spanning across three time zones, the range of diversity from the Sumatran islands in the Indian Ocean to Papua Guinea islands in the Pacific Ocean is remarkable. The theme park showcases architecture, to scale and the Sumatran and Javan Islands are absolutely mystifying. A man from the Papua Guinea islands sits much like the aborigines from Australia. The cable car gives an overview of the theme park.
Returning to the hotel, I stepped into the grand mall for a late lunch. Obviously as a vegetarian my options were slim on the local fare. Nevertheless unperturbed I asked for a vegetarian Mee Roreng (or fried noodle with Kavlan leaf, egg). For one, I didnt see the chilli coming. At Indonesia I should have expected it. After half my meal, I had to run to the nearest ice-cream store!!
Walking along the mall, in the globalized part of Jakarta, the coordinates didnt seem to matter. It could have been any mall, in Singapore, New Delhi or London. Even though globalization looks to grip the city, the Indonesians have thus far been able to keep distance. The airport too negotiates its way and draws a fine balance between the local and the global. The charm of the people and the city is overwhelming. The guide at the museum pointed out to the Petroleum Center and said that, ‘children are being taught to operate oil rigs so that they can be employed by big corporations who will draw out oil from the Indonesian isles’. So much for ambition.