Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Busy Jakarta

Posted by Monica Johansen on March 5, 2009

Do you know the feeling when you collapse on the bed late at night after a busy day and you fall asleep as soon as you put your head on the pillow? And 5 minutes later you suddenly wake up by your alarm clock and you wonder why on earth it went off, but when you look at your watch you realize that in fact 5 hours has gone by and it is time to get up again to continue working. Well… that is how I have felt pretty much every morning this week.

Jakarta Skyline

Jakarta Skyline

When you wake up in the morning and feel like you have been run over by a train, the last thing you want to do is chat with 10-15 different strangers (read: hotel staff) and tell them how you feel and that you don’t drink coffee and tea. I know that it is considered polite and that the hotel staff is trained to wish you a good morning and ask you how you are doing, but it can actually get quite annoying after a while, especially when the waiters in the breakfast restaurant keep coming over to your table every 2 minutes to ask you if you want tea or coffee because everyone of them thinks nobody else has asked you yet, and apparently everyone else in the world wants tea or coffee in the morning so why wouldn’t you? Sometimes, when it gets too bad, I simply order a cup of tea just to get them to leave me alone, even if I don’t drink it. I have tried to order hot chocolate every now and then, but with time I have learned that only Scandinavians can make really good hot chocolate, and Asians have no clue.

Jakarta is one of these places you can love and hate at the same time. Like many large Asian cities it contains a mixture of extreme luxury and extreme poverty, and while you can enjoy the comfort of modern business hotels with their exceptionally friendly staff, fantastic restaurants and luxurious interior, you can’t help noticing the other side of the picture. I really enjoy traveling in a country with great service and nice people, and I usually look forward to getting off the plane, out of the airport, into a taxi and check into my “home” for the week. And because most people are so friendly it encourages me to be friendly back at them, but I sometimes find it really difficult to keep smiling. For instance, when taxi drivers are chasing you on your way out of the airport and they refuse to take no for an answer.

My "home" for the week

My "home" for the week

When I arrived in Jakarta on Monday I was immediately approached by a bunch of taxi drivers trying to convince me to buy their services, as usual. I politely declined and walked towards the Silver Bird stand where the executive taxi are located, and not because I feel too important to take a normal cab but simply because it is too risky and I don’t have time to get robbed or being taken for a huge detour so the driver can make more money or be dropped off at some dodgy neighborhood. Most business travelers will happily pay five times the normal price in order to reach their destination quickly, safely and without any hassle, and let’s face it, it doesn’t really cost that much for a person with a normal income level of Europe, North America and Australia.

Anyway, as I was walking out of the airport one of the taxi drivers kept following me, shoveling his identity card in my face and almost preventing me from getting out the door. After politely declining 6-7 times, without any luck, I stopped and looked at him with the angriest expression I could possibly make, and shouted “NO THANK YOU!”. Then he finally got it and left me alone.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly understand that in a country with a large population of working class with low income many people have no other choice than taking it to the extreme. But what they seem to forget it that pushiness does not give favorable conditions for trust, and they probably scare off more people than they attract. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind giving them 50,000 Rupiah for a meal or two, but I wouldn’t want to step into their cars, and especially not when they are aggressive and rude.

Anyway, I was hoping to get a chance to do a little bit of sightseeing during this visit, but every time I am here I seem to be too busy. Unless there are any last minute changes I will be flying back to Singapore tomorrow night after work, and right now I must admit that I am looking forward to getting home and getting some rest.

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One Response to “Busy Jakarta”

  1. Lars said

    Wow du lever med helt andre problemer enn mine – bortsett fra det med vekkeklokka…

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