In the last 12 months, I must have been to Indonesia about 12-15 times. Most of these trips have been for work and to Jakarta. When I first visited Jakarta, I was intimidated and captivated. Everyone complains about the traffic, the pollution and the hard grind of daily living - on my 2-3 visits I could not wait to leave and come back to comfortable Singapore. Around visit 4, something began to change. I started to tolerate the city and secretly enjoyed going there. A few months later and now I find myself genuinely excited when I type in my Garuda Frequent Flyer number and prepare to go.
Here are some things I love about the city that everyone seems to love to hate....
1/ The people have strong smiles and make generous eye contact when they speak to you. They are generally warm to strangers.
2/ Waiting in traffic and learning to live with relaxed schedules has taught me how to be a patient person again
3/ There is food available. All the time. Everywhere.
4/ You can negotiate prices when you buy things (especially at Mangga Dua). It is possible to haggle even where the surroundings look haggle-unfriendly.
5/ There are cheap and relaxing massages available throughout the city
6/ Daily life takes place on the street. There are hundreds of transactions going on in the street every minute of the day.
7/ The amusement factor of riding in a taxi or with ojeks
8/ The clove smell from Kretek
9/ The fact that Bahasa words come from Sanskrit so are similar to Gujarati (my mothertongue) - eg. Kursi, Maaf, Nasib, Raja...
10/ The Java Jazz Festival (have yet to go but have heard a lot of great things..!)
11/ The obsession of the people with technology and media
12/ The self-elected traffic helpers found at large intersections and roundabouts
13/ A creative and entrepreneurial generation of young people
14/ A visit to Cafe Batavia