Jakarta: General Notes

I’ve been in Jakarta for about two days now (not counting the weekend trip to Yogyakarta) and I’m not particularly impressed. My main problem with the city is that it is not walkable – roads are so wide and traffic so fast-moving that they are impossible to cross; there are absolutely no pavements to walk on (forcing you to take shelter from parked cars while walking) and there are no zebra crossings at all in some places!

A side effect of this unwalkable-ness is that it is impossible for you to explore – I haven’t seen any bus stops or buses nearby, too. So if I’ve to go somewhere it has to be by taxi, and with a purpose. This has led to my not going out anywhere at all, save for two malls that are close to my hotel and which can be reached without crossing any major roads (though you need to walk through a shady-looking alley to get there).

In some ways this city is like Gurgaon on steroids – massive roads, massive malls, massive traffic jams and massive freeways. To its credit the city is quite clean (much cleaner than any Indian city I’ve been to) and there is a functioning and efficient taxi system, so you can get around if there’s someplace you want to get around to.

But if you just want to spend some time here, “take in the city”, have a look around and so on, it is surely not the place.

The other day the wife and I were having a conversation on where we want to live, and one thing we agreed upon is that we want to live in a place where the commute doesn’t drive your life. Of course, rather ironically, the only time that has been true for me was in Gurgaon in 2008-09, when I had a commute which took less than 20 minutes at any point of time, because of which I didn’t have to base my schedule on when traffic would be smooth. A later visit to Gurgaon has shown that this is not true of Gurgaon any more (the same 20 minute commute from 2009 took 40 minutes on a rather empty Saturday morning in 2014).

I think I’m too much of a sucker for walking and public transport to be able to survive in a place like Jakarta.

5 thoughts on “Jakarta: General Notes”

  1. You have europe level expectations from a SE Asian city, dude. Almost no SE Asian city is easily walkable. That’s why they had to invent the massage to attract tourists. 😀

    1. Hahaha! That’s true. But the wife tells me that the massage in Jakarta is nothing compared to that at Bangkok (I haven’t tried here). And maybe the area I was staying in, but managed to get around Bangkok a fair bit through public transport and walking. Maybe because unlike Jakarta, it’s a tourist city.

  2. London, Barca, and NYC (the only North American city that I know fits those walking/public transport constraints).

    I think the America’s global cultural dominance over last 60-70 years has driven most emerging economies to copy their city model of large roads, little walking infrastructure, and little, if any, mass public transport.

    1. Agree, and it’s sad. Other European cities also seem to have decent urban infrastructure in terms of pavements and public transport.

      Maybe the part I was staying, but Bangkok seemed pretty okay to me. Got around a fair bit through the Metros and the occasional ferry. Though the taxi infrastructure there sucks, with drivers being very rude, asking for extra money, etc. And they’ve managed to ban Uber on top of this.

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