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India

Busy Jakarta

Jakarta is a megalopolis, an octopus-city that spreads its tentacles across dozens of miles. At first, it can be daunting and intimidating, with its noises, smells and garbage. But the best way to discover Jakarta is to just go for it, dive right in.

It’s not the first time I come here, but it’s the first time I’ve really taken the time to discover it. For most tourists, Jakarta is just a transit point, a stop-off before hopping to the next island or city. But there is actually so much to see here!

I decided to discover the city on foot. In such a big city, this could be considered madness. But it’s only on foot you can really catch the details, those small things that give a place its soul and character. Jakarta is known for its unfathomable traffic, and you can easily spend a couple of hours in a taxi, just to get to that restaurant you read about in your guidebook. And things get worse when the floods hit!

So I set off on foot, ready to tackle any traffic coming my way. And it was a ball! So many cars, motorbikes, bicycles, trucks, buses and taxis, and they always seem to be coming for you…

When you need to cross the road, that’s when things get serious. Whether it’s a main thoroughfare or a small side road, forget about all those road safety rules your parents taught you: look both ways, yes, but also look behind, in front, and never forget to look down, there might just be a gaping hole that’ll take you straight to the sewers. Next, don’t wait for the to be no cars coming, you might still be there tomorrow. Oh, and the traffic light, forget about it. Even if it does work, no one on wheels will give a damn…

So, to cross, you just have to jump right into that flow of moving vehicles, and extend your hand out towards the oncoming traffic, signalling them to slow down. And, above all, do not stop walking. Just keep going, flapping your hand, and cars, bikes, buses and other unrecognisable-wheeled machines will just drive around you. If that seems like a suicidal technique, just keep an eye out for any locals trying to cross, follow them and watch and learn.

If you don’t really feel like walking around (it does get hot), you can always take a taxi, but this can be very time consuming, particularly at rush hour. You can also take the bus, the Transjakarta network being very useful. For more fun, but sometimes more nail biting, try the bajaï, the Indonesian tuk-tuk. Before jumping in, don’t forget to bargain! And I hope yours doesn’t break down!!!