Two Faces of Jakarta

When I was thinking about Indonesia I always had active volcanoes, tropical rain forests, millions of dreamy islands and exotic animals in my mind. But there is one thing I never used to wonder about: the capital – Jakarta. On our broommate (a combination of bro and roommate) trip around Asia, Jacek and I discovered the many faces of Jakarta, which are two in total.

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The poor face

We went to the Indonesian capital because I never heard anyone saying he/she went to Jakarta for sightseeing, and we got the explanation why. We had been two out of approximately ten tourists visiting the multi-million residents’ city – I don’t know whether there had been so many or not, besides us. Due to the lack of tourism, there is no need for extraordinary infrastructure or architectural competition to show off. Due to the lack of things to see and bad infrastructure, there is no tourism. That vicious circle won’t break – I guess – as long as Indonesia can offer lots of other, natural attractions.

Problems with the infrastructure are also shown in the private transport sector. A little traffic jam is natural, when cities have to cope with millions of people going home from or to work. But even with scooters, which should help you to avoid traffic jams, you have to wait in the own motorcycle traffic jam. There are really too many people on the road.

The wealth of city is also shown by amount of people being on the street. Thereby, I do not mean walking from A to B, but rather sitting there, selling small fruits or cigarettes, or just lying on an ornament near the pavement to take a nap or sleep at all. When we first saw that we were shocked, but after we met with a friend of Jacek who showed us how to survive in Jakarta, we looked at the people on the street with different eyes.

Sure, the streets where full and dirty, but the people are as friendly as Taiwanese. Everyone greeted us, wanted to know where we come from, took one or two pictures with us and wished us a pleasant stay – which we had then.

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I saw the poorest face of Jakarta – for me personally – at the Ragunan Zoo. Endangered animals kept in captivity is a controversial topic even in Austria, but as long as the animals have space and a nice artificial natural habitat to fit their needs, I like to stroll through a zoo once in two years – for example “Beautywell”, Austria – it’s called Schönbrunn, even in English – to feed some penguins.

The Ragunan zoo was amazingly huge and we needed 4 hours to walk all through it, but looking at certain cages I felt pity. For example: Jakarta’s zoo has a really good primate and monkey sanctuary and research centre, which looks all in all pretty nice for the little fellas. Not so lucky animals such as tigers, bears and elephants do not have such a comfortable housing. Although it was really hot, there was no water for the animals to cool them down, and laying in the shadow all the time is very boring, I guess.

The rich face

With the first part, I didn’t want to make you think bad about this city and as you will see now, Jakarta has a rich face too.

Looking at TripAdvisor, the #1 attraction to see in the 490-year-old city is a shopping mall. No joke. It is a nice shopping centre, filled with flagship stores of every luxurious fashion brand and jewellery but people. For real, I could almost hear my echo in there. So there have to be rich people in Jakarta and got a glimpse of their living area while walking from a park back to the city centre. There we passed the embassy area, where one private villa is nicer than the other.

Another thing the city is rich of is the presence of religion. The majority of people are Muslim, therefore there are a lot of beautiful mosques. Because I had never been inside an Islamic temple, Jacek, his friend and I visited the second biggest near city centre. We had to wear robes to cover our knees and I was almost tempted to take it home with me, because the silk was awesome to wear. We could take a look at the praying hall, but could not enter. However, I got a new house of god(s) checked on my list of different religions.

Besides the mosque the national monument is monumental. It was built after Indonesia became independent to show the Asian neighbours and the world that the country is worth to be remembered. In the basement you can see the history of the country and the many important moments of its being. Going upstairs you can find the elevator elevating you to the observation deck, where you can see the beauty of this city – people asking to take photos with them, and the view of course.

This chaotic metropolitan has its problems with infrastructure and lack of tourism, but what counts is the way you feel in the city. Due to the hospitality of its residents I would consider this city being rich. But hey, make an image by yourself and visit the jungle of Jakarta.

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