Sunday, November 4, 2012

[JAKARTA] The Never Ending Macet

Macet. Traffic. This is probably the answer that you'd get if your question goes something like: "What is there to see in Jakarta"? I thought it was an exaggeration but after contending with what seemed to be half of the city's population just to get on a Transjakarta bus and reeking with the smell of public agony as a result, I realized that I simply cannot love Jakarta.

I hate crowded cities with inefficient public transportation systems. To think that I was in town during the weekend, although Sunday's traffic was not as hellish as Saturday's. I wonder how chaotic everything is on weekdays and how grumpy everyone is when they arrive at the office on Monday morning.

After seeing Borobudur and Prambanan, I really felt like my Indonesia trip has been completed. Mission accomplished. Congratulations. Whatever happened next, I could not care less. Jakarta is a very big Metro Manila, and when in Manila, I go malling! It seems that aside from traffic jams, that mall culture is what Filipinos and Indonesians have in common. Malling it is! At Plaza Senayan because they have Kinokuniya! We love Kinokuniya!

I wanted to take a cab as they are cheap here anyway. 6,000 rupiah flag down rate. Not bad! But a part of me wanted to take a walk and explore the city, and that is how I ended up at one of Transjakarta's stops. Jakarta has a train line, or is that an MRT? Regardless, there is just one line. Most of their trains are for long distance travel. They make up for this lack of rail transit through Transjakarta, a bus system that has its own dedicated lane and functions pretty much like a light rail system. The concept looks good on paper, but proper implementation is key to maximize its convenience. Unfortunately, implementation is poor.

Or perhaps they are just hopelessly overpopulated. My stupidity added some unlucky incidents like getting off at the wrong stop after waiting forever to get into one of the buses. I was annoyed with everything including myself. Still, I was frustrated with Jakarta for being not so tourist-friendly like Bangkok, for example. I surrendered after desperately trying to hail a cab. I had a break at McDonalds and found my own taxi in a not so crowded alley.

The traffic was still unbearable and we arrived in the vicinity of Plaza Senayan after what seemed to be an eternity. It was all fun after that. Again, malling! Our neighbors on this side of southeast Asia are just as obsessed with malls as we are and neither do they disappoint in terms of presentation. I could get used to this, but not the traffic. Although Makati also suffers from the same dilemma, I am somehow exempted from it given how my office is just a five-minute walk from where I live. I will not survive Jakarta with my sanity intact. Too bad for my plans to apply for a Darmasiswa scholarship!

After malling and finishing my meal, it was time to head back to the guest house. No taxis for now, I have to defeat Transjakarta by riding it without getting lost, and I did just that, but not after another intimate session with half the city's population, which came after a blockbuster standing room only queue that lasted for an hour or so. You can see the furor on the face of the guy next to you, along with beads of sweat flowing down his forehead. He is just as frustrated as you are, as eager to get home as you do. And yet you are both standing there, without movement. Stuck. That is the term. Stuck in Jakarta.

Jakarta also has several landmarks that play important roles or hold certain distinctions related to the country's sovereignty. I no longer bothered to check them out. Maybe you would like to, though. Perhaps it would be a way to appreciate the city, through a different lens.

[JAKARTA] The Never Ending Macet

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