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Jakarta - the Big Durian

Opulence, cheap beers and rock star status!

semi-overcast 32 °C
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Jakarta – big, loud, smelly, hot, incredible displays of wealth intertwined with abject poverty. Known as the Big Durian to the locals it certainly is a city of contrasts.

Worried about the extensive flooding from the previous week we arrive to find it hasn’t rained for a couple of days and Jakarta has dried out nicely. A big relief! Having flown in late the night before, we’re up very early on day one and hit the streets. Our hotel is a block away from the Welcome Monument roundabout which is home to a couple of five star hotels and a couple of Jakarta’s ubiquitous shopping malls. This roundabout was knee deep in water just a week ago.

Welcome Monument

Welcome Monument

Jakarta skyline from Grand Plaza Indonesia

Jakarta skyline from Grand Plaza Indonesia

The shopping malls are enormous – multi-storied, multi-winged and often joined to a luxury hotel. These dwarf any shopping centre in Australia. Home to all the top Western fashion labels they epitomise the wealth disparity evident in Jakarta. We had a coffee at a Starbucks and paid pretty much Australian prices (and it was terrible coffee). These malls are only for the well off - there is obviously a lot of money in this city and it's on display. It's just a shame it's not shared around a lot more.

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By now it's a stinking hot day and we wander up to the backpacker district. The area around our hotel is a bit sterile so we plan to suss out a possible change of accom. The Lonely Planet says this area is a bit rundown - and they're right. But it's certainly got some atmosphere and we find a dodgy backpacker bar that sells cheap Bintang! Two dollar tallies – giddyup!

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This is more our style of location so we find an okay hotel around the corner and book in for the following day. Time for some street food on the way home. A spicy rice based omelette – superb! Poonki was the lady served before us - a lovely local happy to chat for a while.

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I have to show at least one traffic photo. It’s not too bad in the morning but the afternoon and evening is nuts! Entrepreneurial locals take it upon themselves to jump into intersections and direct traffic for tips - some even have whistles. It's the Indonesian version of washing windows at traffic lights.

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Day two we head down to the old town. This is the docks area of Batavia (the Dutch colonial name for Jakarta) and is full of old colonial buildings from the heyday of the Dutch East Indies Company and Dutch colonial rule. Some buildings have been renewed but unfortunately most are in a sad state of disrepair. Although mooted for redevelopment the whole area is prone to flooding which I think deters any substantial investment. This area copped the worst of the recent flooding and people are doing it hard down here as shown in the photo of shanty life below.

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We do, however, make an impression on the locals and are treated as rock stars. Everyone wants a photo with us!

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Another stinking hot day, we've done a lot of walking by now and we're dusty and sweaty. Bali Hai time at an old Batavian colonial building. The Dutch certainly didn’t rough it.

Chilling at the VOC Galangan Cafe, Old Batavia

Chilling at the VOC Galangan Cafe, Old Batavia

In closing here is one very important travel tip. On your last day of work before you fly out overseas DO NOT throw your passport into the office recycle bin with your old newspapers while cleaning up your desk. That will ensure that when you can't find your passport on the weekend you’re leaving and realise what you've done you don't have to contact a work buddy with 24 hour building access and meet him at the office, all the while stressing that the cleaners have already cleared the bin. A big thank you to my good friend, Manoj.

Manoj saves the day!

Manoj saves the day!

Posted by Shaman Wanderer 31.01.2013 20:27 Archived in Indonesia

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