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Straight through the 'Big Durian' by car JAKARTA - What is the fastest way to get from the north of Jakarta to somewhere in the southern part of the city? That is a question which is hard to answer for a city like Jakarta. With some 15 million residents and several hundreds of square kilometers of city it often is such a big unorganized situation that you will not be able to just go somewhere to buy groceries or to pick someone up.

It is just not possible with a road system that hasn't been extended since the 1970's, but which is used by millions of vehicles every single day now. Somewhere that will go terribly wrong of course, and that is exactly what will become very clear when you have to go somewhere that can not be reached on foot, by becak (pedicab) or bajaj (three-wheeled orange noise factories).

A so-called 'bajaj', three-wheeled orange public transport vehicle which are a 1970's part of history in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

You will have to surrender yourself completely to the very renowned traffic in the Greater Jakarta area, which is in fact nothing short of an ants nest for what traffic - and many other parts of life - concerned. In and around the 'city center' - Jakarta doesn't really have one central point, but does have a central financial district south of Medan Merdeka - are tens of thousands of buses, cars and motorcycles which seem to hang out there eternally.

All those buses have most likely never been replaced in those thirty years, so where a city has changed completely it is very well possible that you are able to board the very same bus as 'earlier', when Jakarta was much less of an incredible mess like it is today. There are new buses here now, but they have their own lanes, the TransJakarta, or simply 'Busway' because that is what is used in the daily life.

Outside that 'Busway' traveling is causing shortage of time for sure. I managed to use a normal weekday to travel from Pluit, in the far north of Jakarta, to Mal Blok M south of the business district together with my friends. It isn't even a big distance, but since we didn't have a helicopter, we had to travel it with use of the road system.

Somewhere around ten in the morning, so quite long after the morning rush our for as far they have distinguished rush hours here, we departed from one of the kos (boarding houses) in Pluit, at walking distance from the sea in an area what used to me green mangrove forests as little as twenty years ago, in the direction of Blok M, where we would meet with a long time friend early in the afternoon. The first few kilometers are via a main thoroughfare to the toll road which brings you to the south. A few kilometers only.

An image made from a driving range directly behind some of the most expensive real-estate in Asia; the central business district of Jakarta.

Because the distance to the south was much bigger - according to the driver of the car - to travel via the western toll road, she decided that we would travel through the heart of the business district. That would be faster for sure, said someone who had been living in Jakarta for quite some years now. However it is nice to speed up a little bit, I didn't really bother that day, we just had one meeting scheduled for that entire day. Outside that I don't even keep an agenda as well.

What use would an agenda be in Jakarta anyway? Business people can make only one appointment, because the rest of the day they are stuck in one of those Jakarta traffic jams, whatever the cause of that might be. Not amazingly that the idea of the 'mobile office' is starting to pick up here rather quickly nowadays. A car, wireless internet and a laptop is enough to use those otherwise lost hours to work. You can also sell your office building, since you are traveling around forever here.

However that was a story I just heard, it didn't sound all that unreasonable. When I am traveling over the island of Java, I always bring my laptop, which enables me to check the internet whenever I want to, providing that you have wireless internet of some sort and coverage by your provider. Of course the speed is not always that fast, but it is already quite amazing that you actually have coverage in the most rural of areas on the island. Too amazing sometimes so I forget to take some much needed rest sometimes.

Tags: travel, wheel, taxi, jakarta, transport, indonesian, indonesia

Posted in Travel @ 18 June 2008 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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