I had little to do in Jakarta but walk through the streets talking with people. These are some photos of interactions that won’t make it into their own blog posts.
I rate places based on how easy it is to meet and talk to people [who are not trying to scam money out of me or sell me shit]. For a capital city, Jakarta ranks extremely highly. There are people in the streets, and they satisfy the three requirements of conversation:
They seem to have nothing better to do.
They are generally happy to talk with you.
They generally don’t expect anything more than conversation.
It’s sometimes tiring traveling around Southeast Asia where a huge percentage of the people you meet are either trying to get money out of you, deal you drugs, or peddle you another person’s pussy. Feeling that you need to keep the people in the streets at a distance completely obliterates one of the prime reason of traveling to begin with, and pretty much makes the practice altogether a wasted act. What’s the value of looking at places when you can’t have a conversation with the people in them? I’ve never been taught anything by gawking at an old pile of stones.
Jakarta wasn’t like this.
I had no real purpose, no pressing objective in Indonesia. I had no assignments from editors, no book research to be doing. I originally planned to go out and learn more about palm oil then freelance-out the stories, but I didn’t properly set up the project in time. So I found myself with two weeks in a country with nothing to do but walk around, talk to people, and look for topics to fill single-contact blog posts. Just like in the old days . . .
Jakarta’s metro system is probably the cleanest, tidiest, most well organized thing in the entire city. You ride into town and think, “Man, this city has it together,” then you go outside in the streets and say, “Oh . . . ”
In the Penjaringan sub-district in North Jakarta, in the old Dutch colonial center that was once known as Batavia, there is an extreme mix of architecture which show various styles of adaption and modification. This street is lined with corrugated steel shanty houses that have been attached to the crumbling facades of old Dutch ruins and extend out over the sidewalk.
A group of teenagers who live in this “sidewalk neighborhood.” Though technically a shanty town these houses still have many of the amenities of a modern home: electricity, clothes washers, makeshift kitchens, etc . . .
A vendor who sells exotic birds out of a shed. I asked him where he gets the birds from, he replied from the forest — where else?
The assembling of vinyl cloth is a main industry in North Jakarta. The streets are lined with typically young men hanging out and sewing lengths of vinyl tarps together which are often used for roofing.
They do some pretty dirty work, and I imagine that they are probably not completely decked out in black clothing just because they are metal fans.
Dock workers in Jakarta’s traditional port, Sunda Kelapa.
A dock worker teaching me how to walk up the plank.
For a few dollars I got this boatman to give me a ride into the sea out beyond the port and back.
This is an area between the old colonial city and Chinatown. Many of the Dutch mansions and public buildings of Batavia still stand, but most appear very run down — some are on the verge of crumbling. This tree lined, canal side promenade must have been incredibly beautiful at one time.
Jakarta probably has the most treacherous streets on the planet. During the rainy season each year the sewers overflow and the streets flood, which breaks up the sidewalks and leaves them in disarray. At some point the city seems to have grown tired of fixing them and no longer bothers — leaving large open gaps everywhere. A fall would more than likely mean at least a moderate injury — which is perhaps one of the reasons why very few people in this city seem willing to walk very far.
This street has dozens of mobile sex shops lined up one after the other. They are little, identical booths with wheels that are positioned roughly one per block for kilometers.
This is a petrol station.
It appears that this guy rides around collecting vinyl scrap to resell. He seemed very pleased that I wanted to take his photo.
Street vendor selling fruit.
A luxury shopping mall.
Another luxury shopping mall. Jakarta seems to be filling up with them as some sects of the population become wealthier.
A shop selling taqiyah, a traditional Muslim prayer cap.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii
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