Tuesday, May 16, 2006

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Jakarta

Jakarta has had a bad press: bomb explosions (13/9/00) and people having their heads cut off (1999); army barracks and millionaire generals; drugs and gambling; murderous schoolboy gang fights; unsafe buses and taxis; few pavements; fundamentalist Moslems calling for jihad against Christians (fundamentalists got virtually no votes in the election and most Moslems are extremely moderate, hospitable and kind); people mysteriously disappearing (Jakarta Post 16/8/00)-allegedly the work of the army's special forces KOSTRAD; Chinese women raped and many hundreds slaughtered in the May '98 riots; groups of para-militaries and gangsters....

BUT,

1. Jakarta is probably no more dangerous than London, Colombo or New York. And it's safer than Mexico City or Sao Paulo. An Asiaweek reporter (25 Aug 2000) stated how surprised he was at the pleasant atmosphere in Jakarta during a recent trip.

2. The people (most of them) are incredibly friendly.

3.Jakarta is the BIGGEST CITY IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE; it's the capital of the FOURTH BIGGEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD in terms of population; it's the capital of the world's largest Moslem country.

4. The bombs and riots are reportedly orchestrated by one faction of the military or another.

HOW TO GET THERE -

Jakarta has disappeared from travel brochures.

However, you can fly QANTAS or SINGAPORE AIRLINES (and many other airlines) from Europe to Jakarta via Singapore.

British Airways take you as far as Singapore where you switch airlines to Qantas. Avoid Garuda.

Note that some airlines take very indirect routes.

Jakarta airport is modern.

BLUEBIRD taxis are generally OK. (Some taxi drivers have kidnapped passengers).

HOTELS - there are loads of cheap 3 star hotels like Hotel Garden (South Jakarta) and Ibis Kemayoran ($35 a night according to asiatravel.com but beware of street crime in Kemayoran).

You could try Marco Polo Hotel in Menteng or Hotel Indonesia, made famous by the film "Year of Living Dangerously."

HOW TO GET AROUND -

the best way to get around is with a Falkplan street atlas and a taxi rented from Bluebird taxis.

You should try OJEKS (motorcycle taxis) or BAJAJ (3 wheel taxis) - good at nipping in and out of traffic.

PLACES TO VISIT-

1.Palatial Shopping Malls with cheap designer goods (Chanel, Armani...) and ritzy cafes.

2.Nightlife is relaxed (try the Sportsman's bar in Blok M or BATS at the Shangri La)

Be aware that Tanamur Disco seems to have few fire exits and mobs occasionally burn down places of entertainment.

Visitors to one very seedy Blok M bar were kidnapped in a taxi and later found in a river.

3.The slums next to the sea -people living in flooded shacks/ kids dying of typhoid/ houses on stilts.

4. Various old Dutch buildings. Indonesia was a Dutch colony famous for spices.

5.Ancol amusement park is a bit like DISNEY WORLD, BUT THE PRICES ARE LOWER AND YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO QUEUE. Most of the people you'll see around there will be army wives and their children (the elite).

6. Ragunan zoo - big, dark and tropical and containing Komodo dragons and Orang Utans...

7.Pondok Indah - see the palatial homes of crooked bankers, gangsters, civil servants, and multi-millionaire generals; and there is a posh mall.

8.Pasar Majestic - a typical market with fabrics, clothing and most other things; and massage parlours.

9.The Oasis Restaurant (if still open?) - a wonderful old colonial house with Italian statues in the garden.

10.Taman Mini Park - A huge park with boating, amusements and houses from all parts of Indonesia.

11.The third class children's ward of Rumah Sakit Cipto hospital where kids dying of TB etc may not be getting any medicine.

12.The Istiqlal Mosque (enormous and modern) and the Catholic Cathedral.

13.The Army HQ where Indonesia's real rulers are based.

14.China Town - scene of riots, burning and looting in May 1998.

15.The Pondok Indah Hospital - a good private hospital if you get Dengue fever (from mosquitoes) and start vomiting blood; or if you get typhoid (present in Jakarta all year round).

16. Above all the KAMPUNGS (poor housing areas) with their red tile roof houses, little fields of bananas and corn, chickens and goats, kids flying kites, tiny mosques, and friendly smiling people (most of them). Jakarta is still a collection of villages (once you get away from the horrid main roads).

~

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