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Eindhoven - After four years of Indonesia holidays, I have learned several things. A little bit of language ( Iím far from happy with the current results indeed ), a little culture, food, climate and environment. But the thing I would like to tell you about this time is public transport in a variety of different Ďproductsí as I call it. In fact it should not be that different from your own means of transport, but remember that you have to give up your bike and car for your transport. A car was not my problem yet, I used to do everything by bike, because the city life in a small city like Eindhoven ( pop. 200,000 ) in the Netherlands is about the same mess as the daily Jakarta life. No harm done, by bike you can enjoy special routes and roads for bikers only. Imagine that..

Jakarta is the vast metropolitan city of Indonesia, the mothercity of the country, the biggest city in Southeastern Asia, the biggest urban area of Indonesia, the place where there is the most pollution and where every day, thousands of Indonesians gather from all over the archipelago in the hope of a better life in the big city. But with unemployment rates hitting 20 to 25 per cent in Indonesia, there is not much chance of succeeding in getting a job, not even a small one. But for those who have a job, they faec another problem: getting to work, usually six days a week.
Public transport used to be a reasonably well-organised thing in the capital. Several vast bus-stations connect different parts of the city with eachother. The main throughfares all serve to the buses as well, and you can get in and out everywhere as long as you sign the driver or his helping hand, the guy with the money. The coin in his hand hits the window when a hand raises. The bus turns to the left and stops. Getting in is easy because of the open door. ( All non-airconditioned buses feature open doors and windows for no extra fee ).
Take a seat ( small for me usually ) in the damp and humid bus. The money guy screams the destination of the bus several times. If you know the bus-numbers and corresponding routes, you know where you are heading. Most buses also have their schedule printed on the top of the front window. Small characters, so read it when it stops is most easy. The guy yells again. Letís go to Blok M ( located along Jl. Panglima Polim ). This bus stop is situated just off the main road behind the pedestrian bridge to Blok M Plaza. The guy shouts: ďBlok M blok M, blo m, blom om om em em emĒÖ We are off from Jalan Fatmawati ( Pondok Labu near Rumah Sakit Umum Fatmawati ) to the Blok M bus station.
As soon as you have found a seat, usually itís just no sitting but hanging in the middle of the bus along one of two tubes connected to the ceiling. The diesel-fumes from the bus or truck in front of your bus will almost force you to choke, while your bus does the same to the people behind you. Maybe thatís why the hundreds of motor-cycles are trying to pass you. Donít expect fresh air in non-AC buses, there is no fresh air. Itís not stupid at all to bring a small towel or a bag of tissues with you when you are experiencing public transport. You will finally discover what sweat is.

Prices of the public transport are low for the average tourist. But most people hate paying that much, because they always end up in traffic jams. Itís of no use to use public transport if you need to go around the block, because walking is much faster. But as soon as you have to travel some distance, there is the choice between being in the smelly, humid bus, or being outside the smelly, humid bus, in the open air, smelly, humid and a bright sun on your head.
Normally prices should be made public in buses somewhere near the driver. If you canít find it, you can ask someone if you really want to know. Most of the times they will tell you. But if you donít want to ask, you can just give enough money, they will change it for you. Donít be scared if the guy goes along, he will eventually return to you for your change. If you donít want to make the entire trip to the final destination, tell the money guy and a proper discount is agreed upon.
I never asked for a discount. Itís already so cheap and I donít want to act Dutch when Iím on holiday for onceÖ Am I right or not?? But if you really want to, you can sort of bargain on your extraordinary cheap public transport as well. Hey what, itís Indonesia!

Since the city is so large, itís normal that you have to take several buses to reach your final destination. Donít worry about long waiting times for the next bus, because it will usually appear in several minutes. Itís possible that itís very crowded at specific routes. You better skip the buses where people are hanging out. Even if the money guy shouts that there still is a place for you. I was fooled once, and was put inside, no window to see and even the heavy smell of diesel could not overwin the smell of people. Like they didnít wash themselves for a week. ( Maybe it is that way, but normally you will not notice that ).
When I went to Blok M bus station, that was just a one-leg trip from Pondok Labu, the bus serves the route for almost the entire distance I use it. At Blok M you can go to many parts of the city including the central business district around Jalan Thamrin, Sudirman and Monas. But for now I only went to Blok M. Most of the times that went very well. Usually I could see the shopping mall from the bus, and then it was time to get out.
Only one time they fooled me, probably, because I never discovered wheter I took the wrong bus, or I got out too late, or on the wrong spot. They got me out the bus with scores of other people and I was sure I was very close to Blok M Plaza. Unfortunately this prooved to be wrong. Not very wrong actually, because I got to know a little more of Jakarta. I wandered around for about half an hours, following the green road sings to the main road. Every road looked like a main road, but there wasnít as much traffic. Instead of getting out at the bus terminal at Jl Melawai I, I probably got out a little earlier, in the neighborhood of the smaller Panglima Polim streets, as there are several, just south of the bus station.

After that long walk, but usually after a short walk over the dangerous pedestrian bridge over Jalan Panglima Polim, I enjoyed my stay at Blok M Plaza. Itís a fair shopping mall where you can get what you need. Itís not the biggest, but itís okay. After having made a walk around the 6 storey mall, I end up drinking fresh cold milk in the basement. Gosh, that they even sell it here, probably only for me, because I donít see much people buying milk, wether itís in the mall or in the supermarket.
On the way back, the only thing I had to remember is to get out when the bus passes the Hero supermarket. Itís just besides the street I have to enter to get home. I call the place home because it was my stay for three years. Only once I forgot to get out because I was almost sleeping. It took me 30 minutes to reach the Hero supermarket again.. Ooh well, All those Ďmistakesí make it a pretty interesting experience to be in Indonesia. Try to make some of those Ďmistakesí yourself, or at least do something that you didnít expect to do or donít really want to do. Probably it will turn out to be very exciting. Try the public transport as well...

Posted in Travel @ 28 August 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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