I was born and lived in Jakarta (Indonesia) for nearly 25 years. Having been away from Jakarta for years and now living in its sister city, Rotterdam (the Netherlands), sadly, I see Jakarta is still facing the same problem it had when I left the city. In fact, the problems are getting worse. I see three main city problems that make me reluctant to visit my family in Jakarta.
First problem is traffic jams. This year, Jakarta is crowned by Castrol’s Magnatec index as the city in the world with the worst traffic jams. Manila and Bangkok, you can be relieved, Jakarta is the king of traffic jams in the South East Asia region. When asked by my Dutch friends how I survived driving to work through Rotterdam’s traffic during peak hours, I responded it was because I was used driving in the worst traffic jams in the world! Rotterdam is ranked number two as the best city for traffic jam by the same index. The traffic jam in Rotterdam is nothing compared to Jakarta.
The second problem is flooding. Flooding is an annual event (disaster) in Jakarta. Since it happens every year I cannot remember a year known for having the worst flooding. Perhaps it was in 2007 when my parent’s house was flooded up to 1.5 meter. The flooding is widespread, not only in the residential area, school and public roads but also reaching to the Indonesian’s Presidential Palace. Jakarta lost millions of dollars due to flooding. The flooding is so bad, Jakarta residents just start making fun of it. Someone distributed a movie via social media of how fun it was driving on the flood. Meanwhile others created a meme of how Jakarta’s flooding was actually initiated by a Godzilla and finally a Japanese comic hero, Ultraman came to the rescue.
The third problem is inequality. Sha from Life to My Fullest in her post noted Jakarta as a city of contrast. Jakarta has numerous luxurious apartment towers, malls and office buildings but with the slums at their backyard. The economic and social gap in Jakarta is tragic and sad.
These three are classic problems of big cities in developing countries. Compared to Rotterdam, Jakarta is certainly a bigger city with its metro population of 28 million people and the city itself has 10 million people. It’s not easy to “fix” Jakarta.
Despite of the mentioned problems, there are several things that I like about Jakarta.
- Jakarta has numerous shopping malls. If you love to shop, Jakarta offers variety of shopping and they are available from luxurious to budget. One thing that I like about the shopping malls in Jakarta is they have everything from groceries to cinema. These type of shopping malls do not exist in the Netherlands.
- The city has unique history. Harindabama wrote an interesting post about it on Tracing Jakarta’s History. The place that he mentions are my favorite places in Jakarta for photography.
- Jakarta has delicious local dishes. I love Soto Betawi, the soto (soup) broth is made from lemongrass, beef broth, coconut milk with ginger and galangal. Delicious! Additionally, the best snack in Jakarta is Kerak Telor. You cannot find Kerak Telor in other islands except in Java! Backpacker Lee who has tasted this food agrees with me 😉 Please check his post on Jakarta’s Kerak Telor. Kerak telor is also available at the cafes in the shopping malls if you don’t like buying food from the street food stalls. Some pictures of Kerak Telor by Backpacker Lee.
If you are going to visit Jakarta, then the following tips can help make your visit in Jakarta a more comfortable…
- Avoid visiting Jakarta in early January to early March. These months are the heavy rainy season thus Jakarta mostly is under water.
- Avoid traveling around Jakarta during the peak hours and rainy days. Rains means longer traffic jam than usual and to make it worse, taxis are usually rare to find. I talked to several taxi drivers and they admitted that they avoid driving during rainy days because the traffic is worse than usual.
- Best travel time to be in Jakarta is by the end of Ramadan month (fasting month for Muslims), the week of Ied Fitr (the Muslim’s festive after the Ramadan) and the Christmas week. Shopping malls are still open but most Jakarta’s residents being majority immigrants, are away to visit their families outside of Jakarta. That leaves the city half empty during those weeks – less cars and motorbikes!
- Choose a hotel that is close to the places of your travel interests so you can just walk or take auto rickshaw (called as “Bajaj” locally). Bajaj in Jakarta ran by electricity or natural gas, at least they are environment friendly unlike most cars in Jakarta. Morrissey Hotel in the Central of Jakarta has a special bajaj with driver to bring you to the nearby tourist attractions, just check this hotel if you are planning to stick around in the center of Jakarta.
Also please read these interesting posts and photos by WordPress Bloggers for more information about Jakarta and what the city looked like.
Would I recommend travelers to visit Jakarta for holiday?
I wish I could say : “Yes, do visit Jakarta! It is my hometown and I am proud of it!”, but the answer is: “If you don’t have to, then no, do not visit Jakarta.” Skip Jakarta, go travel and visit other islands in Indonesia. I don’t see Jakarta as an excellent choice for city trip holiday destination. Maybe five years from now Jakarta is improving. But yeah, maybe.