back from jkt. summary of my trip. details and pics to follow in subsequent posts

Jakarta Travel Blog

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it's been an eye opener trip for me. some good, some bad.

easy peasy getting flight from SG to JKT on Emirates. nice big plane. personal entertainment systems. no alcohol but that's fine. its just a 1 hr flight. so every once in a while, my movie would freeze while they make some public announcements. never finished watching the movie. anyway that was just a time filler. what bugged me was the landing. bump bump bump. you'd think the pilot would be a pro at landing by now.

first, the airport. still a hassle with the taxi and hotel touts. but just brush them off if you know where you are going. so it helps to plan ahead. i didnt. i flew in Sunday night, one day ahead of my hotel reservation, and couldnt get a room at the airport hotel (Transit Hotel) cos it was fully booked. waddaya know, right? then i tried to get a room at the next nearest airport hotel. same. so i called my intended hotel in town from the public pay phone (500 rp coin). might as well head down there, even though its like midnight already. ok. whew. they have like 2 rooms left. so i booked one, then got a silver bird limo cab and headed into jkt. if you ever fly into jkt, midnight is the best time to travel by car. zero traffic jams all the way. according to a taxi driver during my stay, he told me the jams are between 8-10 am and 4-9pm. but i think there's a bit more of a stretch both ways.

the hotel is all good, except, beware of their special promotion periods. cos of Indonesia Independence Day or maybe cos its a weekend deal, Monday hotel breakfast was kinda bare at 9:30am. all the bread and pastry were gone, as were most of the other edibles. replenishment was slow and only for certain items.

since i was in jkt for relaxation, i didnt plan to do too much touristy stuff. just sleep a lot, eat and shop. and watch local tv. even if i dont understand bahasa indonesian. drama is drama. heh heh

even so, a good start to a short stay is always orientation first. get your bearings right. so i went to monas. to the top. so i can see the city 360 degrees.

then i ate a lot of local food (wow, i totally didnt eat fast food, my usual staple when i travel) and checked out a lot of shopping centres. including the FX one with the 5 storey slide. Now that is something even SG dont have, yet. looked at pirate dvd and computer stuff, but never buy. jkt is pretty clean in the tourist zones. i can even walk along the streets after midnight. well, they have some beggars. and the canal does need a serious cleanup. but i dont walk too often next to a canal so i dont care. there is no good public transport. the monorail system never got built. i avoid buses, so there's just blue bird metered taxis to get from point to point. more about the taxi and transport stuff later.

at the end of my trip, returned home safe and sound. and had a wonderful time in jkt.

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This is the amazing thing about this city. NO SUBWAY. ive been to many cities, and there is usually some form of cheap and fast and clean inner city train service. call it MASS TRANSIT or UNDERGROUND or METRO or some light rail thingy. even KL and Bangkok has it. why not jakarta? i could see some sort of aircon buildings along the side of roads, which seems like they are connected to some underground transport system. checking with the taxi driver, it turned out to be bus stops for an aircon bus service. of course, there are also the usual non-aircon buses.

i dont know about taking buses. i heard some scare stories from indo friends who say they've been robbed on the buses. cos they're chinese. dunno if they rob tourists but im not taking the chance. i look chinese! wait a min. i AM chinese.

so throughout the trip, if im not walking, im taking the taxi. there's no other transport, unless you're with a tour group and travel by tour bus. now that's about the only safe buses. ok, im wrong, there's also some 3-wheeled motor passenger vehicles but i never took them. same reason i dont take just any taxi. no meter. only the Blue Bird taxis have meters and USE THEM. the company policy is very strict. if the driver gets a customer complaint, he can be suspended for weeks, and that is a major financial disaster for the driver. even so, pay attention. the driver should start the meter once you have given him your destination. they can occasionally 'forget' and then it becomes a 'no meter' situation. and at then end of the journey, tip the driver. usually, that means 'keep the change'. so try not to give too big a note and expect the driver to give you the change back. for example, if the trip costs 27,500 rp, give 30,000 rp. if it costs 9,700 rp, do give a few more 1,000 rp instead of a measy flat 10,000 rp cos the poor chap probably had to wait for a fare for a while and only picked up a short trip with you.

if i never said anything about car rental, its cos the roads and traffic in jakarta can be HELL. trust me, you dont want to drive. unless you hire a local driver as well. they have local rules you may not be aware of. let me give you a few examples.

1. You are going back to your hotel. the taxi will need to make a U-turn to get to your hotel. the U-turn circle is just a few hundred meters ahead. Do you:
A) stop the taxi opposite your hotel and cross the road?
B) tell the taxi to drop you off at your hotel?

Answer: if it is traffic jam period, choose A. otherwise, you are welcome to choose B.

During the peak traffic hours, the U-turn circle may not be permitted to allow for U-turn. so the taxi has to go straight on, to another turning point. which can now be 1 km or more away. This may not seem like very far, but dont forget, both sides of the road are now packed with cars. what can take a minute or two, now takes 15 min to half an hour. and a lot of it depends on the ingenuity of your driver in squeezing his way through the jam.

2. Crossroad without traffic lights. You need to make a right turn. However, the traffic jam is in the cross traffic from both directions. What do you do?

Answer: You weave a little to the right, spy a gap between 2 cars, and drive into it. then get stuck there for a few minutes, until the next opening presents itself. then you inch up a bit more, and so on, right in the middle of the crossroads with all the other cars trying to turn right, until you are free to make the right turn and continue on your way.

3. Road has 3 or 4 separate lanes. the lanes closest to the center of the road are the highway lanes. each one will lead to a different destination. to make sure you are not tempted to change lane, they put up a separator between each of the lanes. so once you get on the wrong highway lane, you may never get off it until some distance away. and if you missed your exit, good luck!

There may be more, but these are the ones that i observed first hand and found useful to comment on.
when i travel, i like to keep the surprises to a minimum. especially the nasty ones. so yes, ive read up on the taxis, the traffic, the food, the climate, the people, the attractions, and compared the rates for money, flights and hotels.

booked my flight and hotel. now its just counting down to the actual trip.

and packing. i like to travel light. so i wont be lugging much stuff around, and whatever i bring is gonna be mostly clothing anyway. and some medicine. you can never know with foreign food.

i dont think i will buy much stuff. i just like to look around take some pics, eat some food, have some fun, and then its back home and life as per normal.

this blog is gonna be a detailed observation of stuff i see on this trip. hope it will be of some use to other travellers when its done.

photo by: cicie