We have been staying for 5 days in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, on Java island. First of all, Jakarta is noisy ! This is the first thing that surprises you when you arrive in the city. Secondly, the people are very nice and friendly. They are not so used to seeing tourists, let alone a mixed couple, so they are very curious and interested in you as much as you are in them. Some backpackers hated the city for good reasons, but we managed to spend a pleasant time in Jakarta.
Jakarta, the city of noise and traffic jam
Jakarta is a city definitely built for cars. Crossing the streets is honestly playing with your life at any moment. It is actually part of the fun in the city, but it is also very stressing sometimes. There are no rules and no priorities between cars and pedestrians. Cars honk all the time, and you have to deal with them, the tuk-tuk and the motorcycles at same time. You have very few pedestrian crossing and even when there are, cars do not care about it. At first, we were totally anxious every time we had to cross a street. Then, we started to have our techniques : cross at the same time than a native, cross at the blessed moment when no car is coming soon or just cross and raising your hand to tell the cars to stop, no matter what ! As you can guess, the air is not so pure here. You breathe pollution at every moment during the day. Added to high temperatures, it is definitely not a healthy mix.
Jakarta, the city of friendly people
People of Jakarta are very kind people. Notice that Indonesia has six official religions : Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Islam being the majority religion (87,2%). All religions apparently cohabit well together in Jakarta. Some women wear veils, others don’t and no one cares (unless you enter a place of worship of course). As a tourist, you can also dress as you like.
We stayed at two different hostels in the city, which are at 1-min-walk of distance from each other. We booked our first night at Six Degrees. This is a very chill hostel with a lot of services to entertain the backpackers : game console, TV, magazines… and a rooftop where you can order some beers and chill out with the others. We booked a private room there. Even though there were no windows (same in Singapore), the room was rather fine. We had to shower in common bathrooms but they offered the towels. The staff at Six Degrees is very friendly and laid-back. They even proposed us to come back the night after to enjoy a party on their rooftop, even though we had booked our nights left in the other hostel due to lack of rooms available. We spent most of our trip in Jakarta at Old Batavia hostel. This hostel is very pristine and the staff is also very friendly here. We also had a private room there, which was even better than in Six Degrees, with a private bathroom, a TV and towels offered. The staff was always doing their best to help backpackers and give advices on where to go out, how much should we pay for tuk-tuk and so on. There is also a rooftop at Old Batavia hostel (with a less “rooty” style) and you can enjoy a terrace at the entrance of the hostel. We particularly appreciated to speak with the indonesian people/staff at the hostel and had a very enjoyable time with our new friend Herman. If you go to Jakarta, we highly recommend to stay at those hostels. The quality of the hostels really made the trip enjoyable as the city has not so much fun to offer.
When walking in the city, a lot of people were obviously staring at us with curiosity and amusement. Many of them would interpellate us with “Hello ! How are you ?”, while others would dare asking to take pictures with us. Once we said yes to a group of people, generally another bunch of people would follow to ask pictures too. This is a very funny experience ! Let’s say that for some minutes, you feel like being in the shoes of celebrity. You also share a good moment with people. We met that young couple who just came to us, and introduced themselves by saying “Can we ask you some questions please ?” We accepted and they just started to interview us. We had a nice talk for 10 minutes, took selfies all together and it was a very cool moment.
There was also that funny moment when we stumbled upon a “modeling event” in the streets. There were several girls posing in the streets. They had a lot of make-up and were acting it sexy. It was a bit strange to watch them given that many women are wearing veils in the country, and we basically never met many girls dressed or acting sexy in the city. Added to that, they were surrounded by a lot of men photographers. One of them came to us and explained us that this event usually happened before Ramadan. They are not especially professional models, it just happens for fun. Some photographers may win some prize if they make an amazing picture.
We were about to leave after this discussion with him, when he asked me if he could take a picture of me. I accepted and few seconds after, I had dozens of other photographers around me. They all started to shoot me and even asked me to pose for the photo : “please, take your umbrella this way”, “put your hand on your hip like this please”…. I felt like I was making a guest appearance at the Cannes film festival. That was highly unlikely and funny !
Notice : Be careful with ATMs in Indonesia !
You should have in mind that in Indonesia, your money comes out first before your credit card at ATMs. It is easy to forget your credit card if you don’t pay attention. Also, we have decided to withdraw money only with ATMs which highlights international credit cards. Indeed, on our first day in Jakarta, Pierre’s credit card has been swallowed by Mandiri Bank’s machine. When we went to this local bank to complain about it, they told us that it often happens and there is nothing they can do about it. We called his bank in France (ING) and they managed to send us a new credit card in emergency 13 days later when we were staying in Batu Karas.