“Seeing is believing”. I was bewildered at the seething atmosphere of the capital city of Jakarta, and my week-long discovery tour of the nation with the biggest number of Muslims in the world turned out to be very impressive.
The Soekarno Hatta Airport in Jakarta’s outskirts was, on the weekend, more crowded than usual. Jakarta, the gateway to Indonesia, is on the northwestern part of the island of Java, well-known for tourism. The capital city, with a population of about 12 million, is also an attractive tourism destination.
To get us out of the bewilderment, three local tour guides cheerfully briefed us on the capital city of Jakarta. It was strange that in the first introduction, they touched on the city’s traffic congestion. The streets full of slow-moving vehicles are the city’s disadvantage, but at the same time part of its typical character.
It is interesting to know that traffic congestion in Jakarta is not due to poor infrastructure. On the contrary, streets were scientifically built with considerable quality.
Agung Sudira, an employee of the Jakarta Department of Culture and Tourism, said that the population explosion and increasing wave of immigrants are the reason for the city’s traffic congestion, especially at rush hour.
As estimated, the number of vehicles in Jakarta alone accounts for 40% of the total number in Indonesia. “Urban residents prefer cars, along with motorbikes. Some families even have 3 or 4 cars,” said Dolly Hastojoedo, CEO of the Gemma Event Company. No wonder traffic jams are an everyday event, even on ten-lane roads!
We arrived in Jakarta late in the evening when local residents were enjoying a gala night, part of the month of festivities to celebrate Jakarta’s 486th anniversary. It is estimated that about 2 million people flocked to the city for this big event.
I found Jakarta friendlier as usual, with all roads to the National Monument (Mona) Square and the City Hall turned into pedestrian streets full of colourful flowers and flags and sparkling lights. Thamrin Street, a large and crowded street in central Jakarta, which is full of vehicles everyday, also featured outdoor stages.
Andrie Djarot, a reporter of Trans7 channel, said that this year’s event was more animated than the previous times because the new Jakarta Mayor Mr. Joko Widodo has just taken office. Many people believe that, although not a native here, he could still bring Jakarta to a new stage of development, added Andrie Djarot.
Jakarta in the festive season is the attractive destination for foreign tourists. Our group, including Ms. Ingan Malem, the First Secretary on Information and Social Culture of the Indonesian Embassy to Vietnam, and other employees of the Jakarta Department of Culture and Tourism, who headed to the roads for backpackers, similar to Ta Hien Street in Hanoi. Sabang Street is specialized in both Asian and European cuisine, while Jaksa is the main budget accommodation and low budget entertainment street. A good room costs only about 250,000 Rps (or VND 500,000).
One of the most attractive tourist areas in Jakarta is the Indonesia in Miniature Park (Taman Mini Indonesia Indah). Here we can see the beautiful island of Bali or enjoy a panorama of Indonesia through a big simulation map on the surface of a lake.
Jakarta is also an ideal place for those who want to learn about the culture and history of Indonesia, with dozens of museums featuring everything from traditional culture, garments and maritime history to puppetry.
Besides, Western tourists can find in Jakarta images of developed countries, with skyscrapers and busy high-level shops. The harmonious development helps Jakarta have both traditional and modern features that not many cities worldwide have.
I felt a twinge of regret on leaving Jakarta, after a lunch in Café Batavia at Batavia square, because I could not discover all the places in the beautiful city of Jakarta in less than two days. However other interesting things were awaiting us in Yogyakarta and Solo (the short name for Surakarta) cities with great tourism potential, especially hand-made Batik fabrics.