Duck under the tree, jump over the missing sidewalk slab, slide around the roving food cart and whatever you do, do not get run over by an ojek (motorcycle taxi) these are all things that are crashing around in my mind on a typical walk down the nonexistant sidewalks of Jakarta. The car exhaust and fumes in the city are noxious and many locals do not leave the house without a dusk mask wandering out into a cloud of black soot. We arrived safe and sound in Jakarta and pulled out a million rupiah, yes the conversion is 12,632 rupiah to 1$ (that is not going to be easy) after deplaning our AirAsia flight without incidence. We boarded the 40,000 rupiah (<4$) Damri bus straight to Jakarta's backpacker district, Jalan Jaksa. The food is cheap and we can find a room for the three of us for 100,000 rupiah a night (8$) not quite up to American 5 star standards but for a few nights it will certainly do. It is the peak month of rainy season, and as the streets begin to flood we head for a shopping mall, one of the most popular pastimes in Jakarta, shopping is practically a sport here with the modern mega malls and floor after floor of bargains to be had. I don't think we could have prepared ourselves for the 6 floors of wall to wall clothes if we had tried. Beautiful batik patterns and delicate flowing fabrics with trendy shapes all for, really cheap. Difficult to not lose yourself in a world of 3$ hippy pants and 10$ dresses with intricate patterns, but with our minds focused on our currently overweight backpacks we managed to keep it under control. Besides the shopping malls and traffic jams we have heard that Jakarta's nightlife is also renowned, curious to check it out Julie and I layered on mascara, put on our least backpacker-esque dresses and the three of us headed for the club. We were the only white people there and the music was okay but commercial as to be expected. The club had a really cool layout, and was only 150,000 rupiah with a drink, a bargain with a Bombay Sapphire cherry on the top. Meeting up with Mega the next day was a real treat, we haven't seen her since she hosted us in Italy where she was studying abroad, now we are in her turf, her home in Jakarta where she has grown up. She takes us for dinner to this awesome little row of two dozen or more local food carts, each with their own specialty dish, so many to choose from. We tried chicken satay with peanut sauce and the delectable ketoprak, a specialty originating in Jakarta, featuring two types of noodles slathered in spicy peanut sauce. The food is quite similar to what we ate in Malaysia, with a few less fishball and meatballs headlining the menus, less Indian and Chinese food and more peanut sauce, spice and goat. For dinner Mega took us to Pasar Santa, an old shopping center that was revamped 6 months ago by filling with modern food stalls such as; sloppy joes, fresh Italian pasta, fancy coffee and tea, ice cream by the gallons and ramen bunned hamburger (we had to try it), in between the gnoshing we passed by fixed gear bike shops, a tech deck fingerboard ramp company and even a Kendama retailer. This mall is a hipsters dream come true. We ended the night at one of the local parks where half of the city's youth turns out on a nightly basis to enjoy local music, street food and company of friends. Best of all we got to meet some luwaks! Historically the luwaks came into importance during Dutch colonization when local workers were not allowed to keep any of the valuable coffee for themselves. Realizing that the luwaks prefer to eat the creme de la creme of coffee beans before expelling them, the locals improvised by cleaning the indigested coffee beans and preparing their coffee from the luwak poo. It has become a huge fad throughout Indonesia and the rest of the world, especially on organized tours as a pit stop for overpriced coffee. Due to the popularity these animals are now being exploited; instead of collecting the feces of the wild animals they are caging and subjecting them to the abuses of factory farming in order to keep up with the demand. So say no to Civet/Luwak coffee, because they are cute critters! Wrapping up our time in Jakarta, it is time to head for the beach and to cough up some layers of exhaust out of my lungs. Most people travel directly through Jakarta without even stopping to try the Ketoprak. Jakarta may be busy and dirty, but for a city with 10 million people I found it quite fascinating and efficient, and the food was amazing!
An attendant on local bemo minibuses hangs out the door coaxing people on and collecting payment