Travelling to Jakarta I was expecting us to find a huge, sprawling dirty mega metropolis brimming over with people, cars and rubbish. Of course like many huge cities in Asia, it is all of those things as well as being the most densely populated city on one of the most densely populated islands in the world. However parts of the city have a very different side to them, a side that is growing at a dramatic rate. For companies in the region, Jakarta is the place to be as the local economy booms and the city constructs for itself a new, bustling identity but keeps more than enough of rough and ready to keep it interesting for travellers.
We arrived into Gambir station after a very comfortable train ride from Yogyakarta and were greeted by a lovely big park directly opposite (one of very few in the city, but still) and decided to walk to the area we’d highlighted as having plenty of cheap guesthouses. We were both surprised by how up market the city was, by no means was it Kuala Lumpur or Singapore but the area was a far cry from the visions I had before arriving, and much to Sarah’s delight there was a blueberry pancake cafe right at the end of our road. We settled down and spent the evening tasting the street food on offer.
The next day we took the LRT to Kota, the old colonial part of Jakarta built by the Dutch. The main square and surrounding buildings have been preserved and are in various states of refurbishment. It’s a lovely place to walk around and juxtaposed with the rest of Jakarta especially the surrounding area which we got lost in on the way in, reminescent of walking through parts of Mumbai. We found an architecture exhibition held by a local university in a disused colonial building and spent the afternoon comparing and contrasting with the shows we’d been to and exhibited in at home. That night we gave in and dined at the pancake place, money well spent.
For the most part we spent out time relaxing in our guesthouses leafy courtyard, a small haven in the bustling city around us. We had planned to visit Krakatoa but with just a few days left on our visa we decided that our volcano quota had been filled and the neighbouring island of Sumatra beckoned as we fly to Medan in search of wild gibbons and orangtutan’s.