January 29, 2012

Last week a private extension to a business trip allowed me to rediscover Jakarta’s charms from my last visit 10 years ago.  As a city like any other city in the world it has its fair share of frustrations and angst. My visit coincided with labor unrest which threatened to derail some of my plans. Even with a driver we’d arrive late for meetings 30 kms away when we left for it 2 hours prior.

But as my work was done I started to explore on the Jakarta Busway, a dedicated throughfare not unlike the one in Curitiba(Brazil), with elevated platforms making embarkation & disembarkation flush with the bus door.  Buses would wedge through traffic like a slippery knife, probably the best MRT this city could have without the foresight of having built a subway system. Interestingly,  a conductor makes sure only around 10 people could get on a bus at anyone time, even with the bus half-filled, which I suppose it is to enable more people at the next stations to get on as well.
















I saw a petite schoolgirl at an alley noodle stall waiting for her order. Patrons would eat on a hastily built narrow table propped up against the wall, and would pile on the various chilli condiments to their noodles.  The teenagers manning the stall looked as if they had spent the night rempiting through the streets of Jakarta, and were in daylight responsible members of society. I did not spot anything anywhere around the stall resembling fresh running water.  I thought, if this girl can eat these, I must too test my bowels of steel.    

It turned out to be an excellent breakfast.

I would meet random people on the streets, when borrowing a lighter or asking for directions open up friendly smiles & curious inquisition.   As always, perhaps also because encounters are so fleeting, you tend to meet the nicest of people in your travels.


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