Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Traveling to Jakarta, Indonesia

I have received some interesting e-mails from my blog readers few weeks ago. Thanks for writing me, I really appreciate it.

Today’s post I dedicate specially to Jenny in Queensland, Australia. She wrote me asking for my perspectives of Indonesia and especially Jakarta to get a feel for this wonderful country, since lots of websites are more concerned with negatives. Moreover, she told me that her husband will have been transferred to the Jakarta office for his work in January 2007 and apparently, he will take his family to go with him. I’m glad to hear her family good news.

As a mother of 3 young children, I really understand why she has such concern and excitement to get a feel and know more about Jakarta in particular. Frankly, I always do the same thing before traveling out of town or even overseas; getting information as much as possible about my destination! Most of time; I often seek for its shopping place and typical food of the city. *grin* Not to forget about common tourists destination as well.

Ok back to the topic…

Traveling to Jakarta is slightly a bit different than moving to stay for a period of time. It’s not just a matter of time, but it’s more about adaptation to make you enjoy your staying.

I’m not going to tell you about tourist destinations, since you can read them from books or websites. I’m going to tell you about the different things you will find here in Jakarta.

  1. Traffic Jam

…happens anytime, anywhere. “Car is a must-have item” may be the reason why Jakarta is full of private vehicles instead of public. You can’t find tram, subway, or monorail (coming soon though) here. In my opinion, most people are not comfortable using public transportation because of the lack of security using them, like pickpockets. In addition to that, most of public transports are dirty, full of graffiti, and nasty. Not to forget about the easiness to have a car or motorcycle with low-interest credits, no wonder you can always get trapped in a traffic jam for hours; anytime, anywhere. Take a deep breath and try to relax. Welcome to Jakarta! :-)

  1. Say Goodbye to (drinkable) Tap Water!

Why? Because there is no such tap water available in Jakarta. You ought to boil first the tap water here, and then you shall have –at least good water to be consumed. I realize it’s quite difficult to change a habit, but please keep it in mind; otherwise you may have a stomachache. In some areas in Jakarta, you may find yellowish tap water or even salty. I’m sure it’s all because there is sea nearby, or perhaps, the quality of its land. Tap water in Jakarta is commonly using air tanah. (Each house has a pump-well to get water from the soil.) However, in order to have better quality water, you can subscribe to PAM Jaya (a private institution) by paying bills every month. Yes, you have to spend more money on this, since water plays important role in our daily life.

  1. Food Hawkers

There are a lot of food hawkers you shall find here. Even in your neighborhood, you can always find some food hawkers. The common menu for breakfast is chicken porridge, complete with kerupuk. Along the day, you may see other food like gado-gado, ketoprak, mie ayam & bakso, gorengan, rujak, siomay, pempek-pempek Palembang, and many more. If you wish to have supper but no meals available in your fridge, no worries; there are also food hawkers in the evening! The choices may vary in other areas; sate ayam/kambing, nasi goreng tek-tek, etc. My advice; please take a TYPHUS VACCINE first (to prevent typhus) once you arrived here, since most of food hawkers don’t put much attention for their food hygiene.

  1. No shower, No tissue; No Cry!

Let’s have a look inside the bathroom. Err..bad news! No shower and no tissue there. If you spend nights at a hotel, you shall find those two. But not at home. Most Indonesians prefer to have bak mandi; a cube containing water, and gayung to take water from the bak mandi, instead of a shower. Bak mandi is not a bathtub, okay, so don’t put yourself into it. It’s smaller for a bathtub anyway. As for tissue stuff, well I have to admit most of bathrooms don’t provide it, except for those malls’, hotels’, or some houses’… I think you should try another way to clean it; the hints are hands, gayung, water, and soap bar.

  1. Public Places

What kind of public places we don’t have here (as far as I’m concern); playground, Dog Park, public library! *sigh* So if you wish to read some books for free, you have to go to malls and find a bookstore providing comfort just like home; e.g. QB World Books (you can find it at Jl. Sunda, Plaza Semanggi, Kemang, Arteri Pondok Indah, Plaza Senayan), (Kemang, Cilandak Town Square, Plaza Indonesia), or Kinokuniya (SOGO-Plaza Senayan, Debenhams-Plaza Indonesia). FYI, when you want to cross a street, besides watching Green Light for pedestrian, you have to watch carefully for cars! Don’t get confused if the sign tells you to walk meanwhile the cars still running fast, just wait up or you’ll get hit. In Jakarta, some people believe that rules are made to be broken. *sigh*

  1. Internet Access

Another bad news, our internet access is extremely SLOW, especially for dial-up connection. We do have cable connection (approximately US$80/month –unlimited) and ADSL (US$200/month –unlimited) though. But still, both of them are limited to some areas. Don’t be shocked and get cranky just because of this, okay, I’ve told you in advance. LOL.

Photos taken from:
Traffic Jam:
Tap Water:


  1. ADSL really cost that much? what's the connection speed? Over here, for 1MB unlimited is about USD21/mth and i thought it is already expensive. I'm currently using limited 60hrs/mth for US13 at 512K speed. Extra will be charge about US 0.17cents/hr. Btw, tell Jenny .. if she wants to drop by to Malaysia ... 2007 is Visit Malaysia Year.

  2. Internet connection is expensive, and it's really slow. I know some people who lives in a more "civilized world" complaining that their download speed is 20 KBps when that's actually my average download speed.

    Anyway Devi, what do you mean there's no such thing as tap water? There is tap water, only not drinkable. :P

    In case people wonder whats a gayung is, it's a small bucket with a handle to take some water and you pour the water on you when you take a bath. Is there's such a thing in the western world? I don't think so. :D

  3. @merapuman: ADSL of Telkom Speedy. Limited 2GB US$80/month, 700MB US$35/month.

    @dan: Ah yes, my bad! :( There is tap water, the problem is just not drinkable. You're damn right :D

  4. Ah yeah I forgot to mention, a lot of toilets in Indonesia still use squat toilet instead of toilet seats.

    I was listening to this American satellite radio show the other day (Howard Stern on Sirius), and one of the crew are just returning from Italy where in the country only have Turkish toilet (squat toilet similar to ours) and they are making a big deal about it, because some of the crew never even saw one!

  5. Devi, do you mean that for USD80/month u get to access the internet at the speed of 2GB per second ? The highest offered by TM is 2MB per second transfer rate.

  6. @dan: LOL. That's really funny indeed!

    @merapuman: nope, US$80/month is a limited package for 2GB-download user in a month. Overlimit will be charge US 7.6 cents per MB. The highest transfer rate is 512Kbps as far as I know

  7. I am officially not visiting you :P

    I'm sure there are a lot of great aspects from there, but after the whole bathroom bit, I can't seem to care about anything else the country offers... :P Sorry

    Very good post though

  8. The bathroom situation isn't so bad really. When I was in Athens paper was provided in all bathrooms but the sewage system was so old it could not be flushed. There were open bins provided for disposal. Just plain old small round rubbish bins. Imagine walking into a public bathroom to find all those bins full of USED paper......It wouldn't put me off Athens though, anymore than this would put me off Jakarta. Adapt and overcome as they say.

  9. Dear Devi
    What a great post, thank you.
    I hope we will be able to get adsl, I would be lost without my Internet.
    The bathroom situation will take some getting use to, LOL
    We might have to get a water cooler, as we all drink heaps of water, luckily here in Queensland we can drink it straight from the tap.
    All the different food you mentioned sounds SO exciting and delicious. I have never heard of Chicken porridge, its sounds great. My eldest daughter is fussy with food, but the 2 youngest love asian style food, their favourite is Indian butter chicken and mild green curry.
    I am going to be lost without a library, we all love books, I will just have to bring lots with me.
    Thank you again for helping me, we are so looking forward to coming to your wonderful country!

  10. @shawn 'planeswalker': thanks for visiting, anyway.

    @steve: yeap, different pond, different fish :D I'm impressed with your positive thinking mind-set. You should join SURVIVOR reality show, I think you can win the battle *grin*

    @jenny: hi Jen! I'm glad to help, no worries. Yeap, you should try those typical food, they are quite cheap. Less than AU$2 in average. Hmm I haven't tried two food you've mentioned, they seem to be great! As for books, I don't think you must bring all books from your library LOL. As I told you before, there also some bookstores providing service just like a public library e.g QB. You may visit their website @ My best regards to your kids :)

  11. In russia, the toilet sits on YOU!!!!

  12. postingnya lengkap! hehehe.. jakarta emang nggak banget buat hidup bahagia ya? :(

  13. untung gua udah biasa tinggal di jakarta....jadi pindah kesini makin nikmat aja rasanya idup ini...wakakakakak

    ka kalo kita ke us lebih nikmat lagi kale ya ??? wakkakakakkaka

  14. @hengky: ga juga lah, hidup itu mesti dibawa nyantaiii hehehe

    @andrew: maybe, ga tau juga, kan blm pernah :p LOL

  15. Don't forget to mention about the hot tropical weather. Air con. is a must! Bring out a hat, sun glasses, and the sun lotion! =P
    btw Dev, gw add ke friend list yah ^^

  16. Devi, what are you talking about... =P we have public libraries in Jakarta.. From memory I think there are five.. could be more though.. (for every kotamadya, aku masih ingat waktu menghafal satu bab PLKJ) and we even have a "perpustakaan keliling" or mobile library for some areas... I have seen one in the Monas Park. Or you could simply visit this complete and huge National Library.. the website is: here

  17. hi pengamat,

    I do realize that there are some libraries here, unfortunately, some of them are not accessible for everyone. That's why they call it "national library" instead of "public". Based on my friends' experience at National Library on Jl. Merdeka, they weren't allowed to look for their own references there. They had to give the title of books and authors so that the librarian would able to find it through the catalogue. Moreover, the books aren't allowed to borrow! We have to copy them. So silly. I'd rather stop by at malls to enjoy comfortable bookstores than those queer libraries.

    I haven't experienced myself to one on Salemba Raya, perhaps sometimes I'll take a visit :)

    Mobile libraries are not reliable, I suggest; time limitation, references, and the comfort of the readers. I think they are dedicated to enhance people awareness of reading.

    Thanks for your information, anyway, and your time to read my posting :)

  18. your story is really cool bgt.
    this make me missing jakarta so much.

  19. I hope you don't mind, but I've linked to this post on my blog.

    By the way, I live in N. Jakarta and use Uninet - 128kbs for 550rb rp/ month - unlimited use.

  20. @javajive: it's ok, I'm cool with that. :) Thanks for your info, but isn't it a dial-up connection? or is it a broadband connection? (cable or adsl)

  21. Just for your information, I think some of the QB book store branch has already closed down for some unknown reasons (probably more people come to read than buy their books there :) ) including its biggest branch at Jalan Arteri. That leaves us only Aksara for good foreign books.

    As for public transports, I think the new Busway is one big improvement in Jakarta transportation system. Let's hope they deliver people's expectations.

    Welcome to Jakarta.

  22. Devi - Nope, it's cable through uninet via kablevision. Not bad, but really wish I had faster options for that price.

    As far as what raiyen said about being the only good bookstore left - actually Kinokuniya in P. Senayan has probably the largest overall selection of foreign books in Indonesia. If anyone disagrees with that, I'd love to know where else! I'm always on the prowl for good books.

  23. @raiyen: oh really? I have no idea about it. That's too bad. Busway program is good but the implementation creates a lot of problems here. It's all because the narrow roads yet traffic jams all the time.

    @javajive: oic. Unfortunately, kabelvision doesn't coverage on my residence area.

    Well hopefully more good bookstores coming soon near future.

  24. Hi Dev, I really enjoyed rading your blog, particularly this one. It surely made me miss jakarta sooo much since I haven't been back for so long. I am starting to get so, for real, sick of australia. No matter how bad life in jakarta may sound, it is still the best place to live for me.. all the memories, I even miss the stale smell of air there, miss the batagor, all the good food, my friends n family, the malls and girls haha, miss being in air con-ed room while its stinking hot outside. Haah!! I hope I'll get a chance to be back soon.


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