Monday, 21 July 2008

My first visit to Indonesia! Jakarta (Day 1)

A gust of wind blew, and I landed in Jakarta.

This is my first visit to Jakarta, first time in Indonesia in fact. And no, I have never been to Bali, Bintan and not even Batam.

There is a weird excitement inside me. Coming to a place that I have little pre-conception on, armed with only S$100 equivalent in Rupiah and a bunch of credit cards; hmm... seems like I can expect lots of the unexpected to happen.

And it's true. Everything since my arrival in Jakarta has been beyond my expectations. When I heard the pilot announced that our landing time would be delayed for another 10 mins as there was only 1 runway at the Soekarno Hatta International Airport, I was puzzled. How do they cope with the volume of air traffic these days? Then, instead of finding dull looking, flat and squarish terminals at the airport, I was surprised to see structures resembling little "huts" where I would be arriving at. Wow... should I be expecting some tropical resort-style fun in Jakarta?

Soekarno Hatta International Airport terminal

Uh, uh... not quite. The pollution in Jakarta is bad, one of the worst I have experienced. It is as if the whole city is wrapped around in a thin layer of smog, and this time, with me inside. Everything in my vision is brightly grey in an uncomfortable manner. If you know what I mean, it's like a photograph that is over-exposed.

People say that they are "feeling blue" when they are down and we often refer to the depressed feeling on the first day of the week as "Monday blues"... but wait till you see one in grey, utterly depressing.

Me and my limousine driver lost our way today. We stopped to asked for directions almost 10 times! It got my local colleague real worried and called twice to find out what happened to us both.

But it was great fun chatting with the driver along the way, communicating in the little English that he knows. I love talking to the drivers, they are often my first guides to a new city. When I was asked how different are the streets of Singapore compared to Jakarta, I could only answer, "we have fewer motorcycles". I didn't know how I could explain that I have never seen 6 cars squeezing through a 3-lane road at the same time, or big buses moving along side my car just less than 30 cm apart, and the tall buildings covering every inch of land back home (which my driver refered to as "malls")... it's going to take at least half a day to get these messages across.

Look, someone swimming in the river!

The traffic conditions in Jakarta is unpredictable. But one thing for sure is that you'll need at least 40 mins to travel from one place to another. Should our traffic back home deterriorate to this level, our government can consider imposing toll fee that few can afford. How about $8,000 for a start?

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