On my first trip to Indonesia, I decided to start it in the capital city Jakarta. I was nervous because I knew very little about the country, people, and the culture there. I’ve heard Bali being an amazing place to visit, but my prospects of wanting to visit there died slowly when I found out it’s mainly a tourist trap.
Besides, the capital city of Jakarta and surrounding areas were interesting enough to keep me intrigued on exploring.
When I got off the plane in Jakarta I had a gut feeling I was in for an adventure. Usually I can get a feel for the city by observing the airport and counting the extra amenities it holds, because generally it’s an indication of economic wealth for the place.
If a city is better off, they will most likely have a state-of-the-art airport facility to impress international travellers (think Tokyo’s or Singapore’s airport). So when a city has a lot of wealth it would also usually entail established city amenities for people to use such as a good public transportation system, drinkable water from the pipes, cleanliness on the street, etc.
My first impressions of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta’s main international airport, was difficult to navigate and the appearance looked dated. There were not many amenities, decor or lounges to stay in so this gave me a clue that Jakarta was going to be somewhat challenging to travel (turned out to be true).
Adventure makes my heart flutter and I love traveling in places that will give me a good challenge. An exposure to a lifestyle that is contrasting to our own is the reason why we all decide to backpack, isn’t it?
Finally making it into Jakarta and walking through part of the northern neighbourhoods, it was clear that there is poverty here. If I could place Jakarta on a scale ranking its country’s development compared to other South East Asian countries, I would put it with Vietnam where both have a similar feel to it. Tons of motorbikes everwhere, but at least Jakarta has a subway system.
One thing you’ll notice in Jakarta is there is a huge presence of Grab motorbike drivers. Just look at this photo I took at a train station.
It quickly became apparent that Jakarta was going to be easier to travel around than I initially thought and for a lot cheaper. You know, supply and demand.
I did end up using Grab Food a lot for the convenience and for the variety at my fingertips. The crazy cheap delivery prices were insane. On average it only costs 3000 Rupiahs (30 Canadian cents) for delivery and food prices were relatively cheap too!
A copy of one of my e-receipt is below to prove it.
Indonesia is predominately an Islamic country where many of the rules are observed in everything ranging from the culture to social activities. Kissing or holding hands in public is not very common and considered indecent behaviour. Modern times begets modern behaviour as young people who are influenced by western culture find it ok to show public displays of affection. Seldomly strolling around in the malls where the younger generation hangs out, you’re able to catch a glimpse of some progressive couples.
If you have enough time in Jakarta, I suggest you explore each direction of the city at least once.
What you’ll discover are drastic differences in living conditions in each parts of the city. Some are very nice with residential neighbourhoods that look like they belong in a developed country and some will expose you to the not so nice areas like the slums. These are mainly up in the northern side of the city.
I had a chance to walk through the slums just to see what it was like and the impressions it left on me made me feel sad. There are families who literally are living in shacks made of tin sheets, and their children play in fields scattered with garbage.
Regardless of the surrounding I noticed was everyone appeared to be happy. People were smiling as I was walking through the area and kids were laughing and playing on their bikes and rollerblades.
Being in the slums was a grounding experience to say the least.
Wandering around the city during the weekends it’s evident that citizens of Jakarta love to have fun. Streets, parks, and public squares fill up with happy people and festivals are in full swing in many parts of the city.
Public squares are popular places to hang out during the day and even more so during the night when the temperature is cooler. It’s in the evenings when people gather with their friends and families spending hours socializing, playing games and sharing food.
Going to visit the mosque was a hit and miss experience. Many of the locals didn’t like foreigners entering the mosque and I’ve personally experienced being shooed away by the locals at the entrance. But I managed to eventually get inside of one to experience what prayer sessions look like.
If you are looking to experience a mosque, I would say that doing so in Malaysia was a lot easier to do as a foreigner, with some places even offering guided tours.
The vibe I got from Muslims in Malaysia felt more relaxed than in Indonesia, where I think Indonesians were more strict with observance of the Quran. Of course I could be wrong, but it was just my experience when I was there.
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