Jakarta is indeed an enormous capital, population now over 20 million, with a constant layer of brown smog hovering over the city. Like Surabaya, it is clearly not designed for walking (Yogyakarta being a wonderful exception to this rule), so I took many buses and angkots, and used the efficient Transjakarta express bus system, to get around town.
I explored the Pelebuhan Sunda Kelapa, the old port to the north, and went for a walk through the tiny alleys in a small village of houses built on stilts, some no more than pieces of cartboard put together. Just about everyone greeted me and wanted to know where I was from. Small wooden bridges led me over the heavily polluted, oily water, kids swimming in between the floating rubbish, small boats bringing people to other parts of the harbour. Dark clouds were already releasing rain in the distance, a far away rumble of thunder sounded, and winds were picking up force as I talked to some kids, looking out over a polluted harbour with many enormous Macassar schooners and small boats navigating in between. On my way back into town, I stopped for shelter and a hot cup of coffee at a small warung, and watched the rains wash the dust off the streets. After the downpour had ended, I went for a walk again, admiring the many old Dutch warehouses, some with the logo of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie on it, the old Dutch trading company that flourished during Dutch rule of the former East Indies. I walked past a typical Dutch hanging bridge, such an unusual sight in this Asian capital. Some of the older people I talked to spoke a lot of Dutch, some had family living in towns or villages in Holland, and many reminded me of the Dutch occupation of Indonesia, always with a smile or a laugh. In retrospect, I am amazed and quite ashamed that I have never received any education at school about this dark period in Holland’s history, which went on until the late fourties of the previous century, almost as if this taboo subject is to be forgotten as soon as possible. Only now, here in Indonesia, I’m learning about our influence and our unfathomable naivety, once claiming this land as our own, partly out of commercial gain, partly out of the wish to ‘help’ and ‘educate’ the Indonesian people, no matter how honest those intentions may have been. However, a lot of Indonesians have told me that they believe that their country wouldn’t be nearly as developed as it is now, without the Dutch influence.
They love abbreviating words here. The everpresent Wartel stands for Warung Telekom, or Telecom Shop. A Warung Internet has the more ominous sounding name of Warnet. And one day, I went to the Monas, or Monumen Nasional, the enormous, socialist-style tower in the middle of Jakarta, with a big bronze flame on top. Locals with a sense of humour refer to it as “Sukarno’s Last Erection", and the top deck provides a grand yet very smoggy view of the city. In the big, dark, airconditioned room at the base of the tower, there was a relief map of Indonesia, in its original state, before the separation of some of its territory.
I explored some of Jakarta’s enormous shopping malls, walked on the huge boulevards with 6 lanes of traffic, gazed at the many skyscrapers in the central business district, and explored some of the nicer, greener areas with old Dutch mansions, where the constant noise of traffic would die down to a distant hum, and people ate at little foodstalls. When it was raining, and this was actually quite often, sometimes for only one hour, sometimes the entire evening, I would sip coffee at a small warung or cafe, or retreat to my air-conditioned hotelroom to watch some television.
The humidity, heat and pollution of the city is quite exhausting, so I was eager to leave Jakarta, which I did on the first day of December, by flying to Padang on the enormous island of Sumatra.
The URI to TrackBack this entry is: http://blog.fmkworld.org/wp-trackback.php/31
No comments yet.
Leave a comment
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.