I’m going to be honest… I wasn’t really looking forward to this trip. We decided to visit Jakarta so we would have yet another experience of what could possibly be a future posting for us, so might as well knock them down and know how all SE Asian capitals compare to each other for bidding purposes, right? (Yes, we love SE Asia, and we would love to be posted in this area again in the future.)
But everyone told us that “Jakarta was just like Manila, but worse.” That the Indonesians were not as nice as the Filipinos, that traffic was just as bad, pollution much worse…
And you know what? If you don’t like Manila, I can guarantee you that Jakarta won’t be your cup of tea. But our opinion after visiting it? Jakarta is just like Manila, but BETTER! And we love Manila, but traffic in Jakarta was no where near as bad as it is here in Manila (probably because they have a lot more motorcycles and they have no jeepneys, so things move a bit faster). And sure, Indonesians aren’t as nice as Filipinos, but who is? Indonesians were SUPER nice too, and no one greeted us with less than a friendly smile.
This was also our first visit to a predominantly Muslim country, but for those of you who, like us, have never been outside of a predominantly Christian country, I believe Jakarta was Muslim-light. It really didn’t feel that much different than other places we’ve been to (aside from the occasional loud call to prayer coming from mosques), but people dressed the same as here, with the occasional head scarf thrown in (nothing different than what you see in a major US city like DC).
Jakarta was also lot more cosmopolitan than Manila – higher buildings, nicer malls, a lot more variety of nice neighborhoods. Personally? We loved it!
The neighborhoods are not as walking-friendly as Manila (but then again, Manila is not really walking friendly from one neighborhood to the next), but we still managed to walk a lot. We had to resort to taxis for the most part, however, as things are a lot more spread out (since you hop from neighborhood to neighborhood), but taxis were just as affordable as here. (Jakarta is much more expensive than Manila in general though, but not as expensive as Hong Kong or Singapore – it falls somewhere in the middle.)
We ate Indonesian food, and I also rekindled my love affair with Din Tai Fung (though they only served chicken dumplings, since pork is a no-no there, and it was just as good!).
Karl got to try the poop-coffee (you know, the one where this wild cat eat the beans, poops it out, and it’s the most expensive coffee in the world?), and the coffee is a lot less bitter than regular coffee (but at $10/cup, he didn’t drink another one). I also got to drink lots of fruit juices, such as red guava – one of my favorite fruits that I have yet to see in the Philippines (only white guava to be found here, and it’s always as hard as a rock).
There was a few weird things too, like the pickled egg below (that Karl said it wasn’t too bad – I didn’t try it, as I’m not nearly as adventurous as he is), and the soft boiled eggs at the bottom (he was not a fan, I again, was a wimp).
I didn’t go to the beach there, so no idea if people really dress like the mannequins below. And can you see the back of the seat rest of the taxi? Yes, a DVD playing while we were stuck in traffic! And the elevator of our hotel? It was magic! If only I looked that slim and tall in real life *sigh*
And the handicrafts, oh man, the handicrafts… I wanted to spend all my time there shopping and admiring the beautiful work, nothing like anything we’ve seen before. I should have taken pictures of the amazing variety of things, of the Batik stores with fabric as far as the eye can see, one more colorful than the next. Instead, I just got pictures of the crazy woodcarvings – that I admire the work, but there’s not way any of it is ever making its way into our home. But the bag below? I’m not sure if I hate it or love it!
Coming back to Manila on the red eye flight had only one good side: we got to see this beautiful sunrise at the airport. And my Starbucks collection? Is slowly growing…
Stay tuned for more pictures of Jakarta, and for the stuff I actually bought!