Jakarta to Singapore

Singapore Travel Blog

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Indonesia was fantastic!

After some difficulties finding the actual train station in Bogor in the middle of an endless number of stalls that had sprung up in the streets around it, we finally boarded the train to jakarta.  Still being 50 Km from the capital and with the chaos and traffic already fairly large, the train seemed a good idea in order to avoid the inevitable city slums.

To our surprise Gambier station was empty. No one was trying to sell something, no one said "hello mister" to me (This hapens about 300 times daily anywhere in Indonesia) and no one was sleeping under the flyovers. We rode the short distance to Jalan jaksa, Jakartas tourist hub, which also was fairly quiet. Only when we ventured out of this tourist bubble the real jakarta unravelld:

The city doesn't seem to have a center as such but more gatherings of certain shops and malls.

Roxy square, about 6 km from jalan jaksa, was where the bikeshops lived. The main mode of public transport is importet from india and is a tuc tuc:  It sounds and behaves like a tractor but is infact a threewheeled motorbike with 2 seats at the back. As we haggled for the price we realized our drivers only english was 'slow down, slow down!' but all set, we pushed our way to the front of the cars with about 20 other tuc tucs and waited for the lights to change. Everybody was reving the small spluttering engines and inspite of nearly choking on diesel fumes it was good fun. As the lights changed we were all of over the wide road, buses and taxis pushing passt us, beeping and coughing. Nevermind though, because we overtook them all on a bit downhill with me and daren pushing firmy on imaginay brakes, chanting "Slow down! slow down!" to ourselves. 

As the main roads were to congested our driver choose the small paralell roads and the greyness of the city closed in around us. Dirty buildings looming over dirty tuc tucs. Past mechanics, under and over bridges, everywhere full of people and traffic. Small makeshift homes were dotted inbetween the roads and warehouses and their families went about their daily tasks, seemingly deaf to the noises and  indifferent to the thick fumes. As we neared Roxy these homes became like a frame around or along everything; Terraced sheds along roadsides, the channel, the trainlines and the malls. Whatever the government had imposed on gambier it showed no true reflektion of the peoples jakarta. As we left our tuc tuc we found everybody was friendly, helping us through their maze, past the shantihouses to quiet streets, indeed full of bikeshops. Here we had lunch before heading out to the colonial area in another end of town which wasn't much different. Dirty and broken and shantihouses working their way over jakartas only drawbridge and supposedly tourist attraction. We gave up walking to the scooner harbour as the channel is an open sewage and people on the streets seemed less happy with us being there. But on the channel was a little boat, full of gathered plastic bottles. A man sat at the front, paddeling through the thick water. And this man gave us the most cheerfull and genuine smile and wave...

And then we bowed our bikes up and flew to singapore. the land of rules! After the freedom of life in Indonesia i felt apprehensive.

"You can't go on the airportbus with those!" said a lady who probably never smiled. But was there no luggage compartment I enqured? "Yes offcourse, but it's not allowed!" Oh well...

With little choice we decided to ride the 25 km into singapore although it was about to get dark and our only option seemed to be an expressway. But then Singpore surprised me. Next to the road a large park began, witha wide lit up cyclelane and an equally lit up lane for joggers etc. It ran along a palmlined white beach full of excercise equipment and snackbars. Al roads were lined with purple and pink flowers and neat lawns. The sewage smell of jakarta exchanged with strong flower smells. And then something even more unusual in a country full of rules happened: People were free camping on the beach next to all the jogging and cycling lanes. I thought of Denmark, which is also full of rules, but for a long time allowed Christiania with its own laws and rules, to exist in the center of Copenhagen. Now here, where the list of what's forbidden and discourraged is endless, camping without paying was apparently allowed. So we did.

In the morning we woke up to tinkeling thai chi music and a man saying: "eeeeeeeh, uuuuuuuuuh eeeeeeeeeeh, uuuuuuuuuh" outside our tent. First we thought he sold the. ("teeeeea") but it turned out he was leading another excersise group. Nevermind because the evening spent watching a city of boats offshore, the free night, the white sand, the palm trees and knowledge of a famous city 10 km along made it all fine and  we didn't really need a cup of tea. 

Why is it then that I preferred being in jakarta? Is it the lush coffees served from the back of a pushbike, or soups on any streetcorner? The fact that bikes can go on busses, on anything actually -also other bikes? That no one feels the need to point out to you that cycling with a large bikebox is a bit obstructive to the traffic? All of those, but more so the fact that the man on the channel had the spirit to smile and wave so genuinly. Inspite of all the crap, you encounter smiles everywhere.

But fact is that whilst Singapore has parks and everybody seems to have a home, Jakarta is dirty, full of mindnumbing poverty, fumes and to much traffic. And no matter how positive the people are, both daren and I find it more hard and disturbing now, to see poverty like jakartas, than we did years ago in manila for example. For me I believe it's because i've realised that im not going to grow up and be able to change places like this. Althugh  was lucky enough to see the man on the channel smiling a brighter smile than I ever saw in singapore, he's still there today, paddeling along, whilst we're in a netcaff in malaysia, sheltering from torrential rain!  

If some of the Jakartans indeed did have a chance to move to Singapore it would be nice as they could maybee teach one of the many peole we encoutered in the shops to smile a little. Or they could tell the scout mutant police groups that came and moved us and all the other campers the second night because we hadn't obtained a free permit, that it's not that important. 

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Indonesia was fantastic!
Indonesia was fantastic!