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MONAS or National Monument at night.

MONAS or National Monument at night.

Okay, let me be clear . . . Jakarta, Indonesia is very, very hot and humid; the traffic is unbelievably congested; there is way too much poverty, which in fairness, is contrasted by an emerging middle class; and the population is a staggering 10,000,000 souls (28 million if you count the suburbs). Yikes! Not much to like in my opinion. Nevertheless, I did enjoy 5 things: 1. My friend Tia, who was my guide during this trip; 2. Indonesian food is delicious; 3. The plentiful shopping malls; 4. Seeing where Barack Obama went to elementary school; and, 5. The outsanding museums.  

I have known Tia for quite some time, first as an online friend, then later in person during this trip. In fact, she helped me out with a problem I was having with my phone (a part), while I was in Cambodia. Without her assistance and friendship, I would have had a more difficult time enjoying myself in Indonesia. With out a doubt, my experience was much more enjoyable due to her hanging out with me every day I was in Indonesia. We even took a weekend trip together to Bandung, a beautiful mountain retreat, which provided relief from the heat; and was as as beautiful as Jakarta was ugly. I’ll write a post about that experience in the future.

Perhaps, I am being harsh regarding Jakarta. This is only my opinion based upon my personal experience. My sourness toward the city is primarily directed at the significant air/water pollution and traffic congestion. With 28 million people in the metropolitan area, nearly 10 million vehicles in daily use, and limited rapid transit system, Jakarta is strained by transportation problems. The city suffers a lack of urban public transport services due to prioritized development of road networks, which were mostly designed to accommodate private vehicles. In short, getting around Jakarta is difficult at best (weekends), utter chaos (weekdays) at worse. Couple that with a lack of green space – less then 10% – you have issues with people having a place to recreate and picnic outdoors.

Regarding traffic congestion, my friend Tia is an advertising/sales department head at a national Indonesia television station, where her day begins well before 6am. After ensuring her children get to school, she rides her car to a commuter train station, then commutes by train to the city center. From there, she takes a taxi to work. Total time to work is frequently an hour and a half or more. She is a salaried employee working 8 hours a day, but she often puts in an 9-11 hour work day, with numerous scheduled and unscheduled meetings with her employees and advertising clients. Couple that with her commute time of 3 hours, she may get home at 8:30-10pm. “May” being the operative word. Ugh.

City skyline.

City skyline. Interesting shot due to the obvious poverty shown in the lower portion of the photo contrasted with the high rise financial sector skyline.

More shots of the city skyline. Smog was pretty heavy in the city.

More shots of the city skyline. Smog was pretty heavy in the city.

Best time to move around Jakarta is at night after the traffic eases and workers have left the city for the suburbs.

Best time to move around Jakarta is at night after the traffic eases and workers have left the city for the suburbs.

Motorcycles are the best way to get from Point A to Point B in the city. Occasionally, Tia will take a motorcycle taxi to work from the train station or to a client meeting, if she is running late

Motorcycles are the best way to get from Point A to Point B in the city. Occasionally, Tia will take a motorcycle taxi to work from the train station or to a client meeting, if she is running late.

Again, a night shot of a relatively light traffic moment in Jakarta. Another reason I liked moving around during the evening was because it was much cooler versus the day time. Less humidity too.

Again, a night shot of a relatively light traffic moment in Jakarta. Another reason I liked moving around during the evening was because it was much cooler versus the day time. Less humidity too.

However, you wont ever hear Tia complaining about her life or work schedule. In fact, she is a very happy person, raising two outstanding young children (daughter and son). For me, it’s exhausting thinking about it. For a lot of Indonesians, her work schedule is typical. All of them work hard to provide a better life for themselves and their families.

Tia. Yes, they start Christmas shopping early in Indonesia too. This was taken in early November, so that gives you a fairly good idea about the commericalization of Christmas in other parts of the world.

Tia. Yes, they start Christmas shopping early in Indonesia too. This was taken in early November, so that gives you a fairly good idea about the commericalization of Christmas in other parts of the world.

Related to the photo above, this is a video I took of an Indonesian Christmas tree, where snow was actually falling . . . umm, sort of. I hope my Colorado friends don’t hunt me down for saying this is better then what we get in Colorado. Grin.

So, what did I like about Jakarta? The food is simply delicious. My favortie dish was Satay. It is similar to shish kebob, with either chicken or lamb being the meat of choice. The sauces they use are distinctly different from what you might find with shish kebob barbeque. One of the best is a peanut sauce with a spicey bite. I also really enjoyed fried Tahu, which has sauteed vegetables inside. The Tahu is dipped in a spicey sauce called Sambal and is mana from heaven!

My first meal in Indonesia. Tia took me to an Indonesian restaurant, where I had Satay and Tahu.

My first meal in Indonesia. Tia took me to an Indonesian restaurant, where I had Satay, Tahu with Sambal sauce, and Tilapia.

Indonesia has some of the biggest malls in all of South East Asia. The biggest mall is called Grand Indonesia. If this mall doesn’t have it, then no one does. The Grand Indonesia is anchored by Seibu department store,. It also has a 13-auditoriums cineplex, and other high-end shops as well as children fun center and food courts at the top floors. Ironically, I found most of my Batik prints at another store in a smaller mall – the oldest one in Indonesia and the first to have air conditioning – called Sarinah. It is located in Central Jakarta, the main tourist hub and was within walking distance of the first hotel I stayed at in Jakarta. It offers a variety of great shops. Sarinah, the country’s unofficial national mall, has a dozen other outlets throughout the country. Here, you will find all the clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, housewares, artwork and souvenirs. As I alluded to earlier, a must visit is to level 4 where you can find batik creations and level 5 which specializes in Indonesian artwork and souvenirs. On both these levels, I found my Batik prints, which I wrote about in an earlier post:

https://aroundtheworldwithblade.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/indonesian-batik/

Jakarta has some amazing malls.

Jakarta has some amazing malls, including this small one called Dharmawangsa Square.

I found this fascinating. It was at Grand Indonesia Mall.

I found this fascinating. It was at Kota Kasablanka Mall.

This kept on transitioning to various underwater videos. At first, I actually thought there were actual divers swimming in her. Duh! Sometimes, I get fooled easily. Ha.

This kept on transitioning to various underwater videos. At first, I thought there were actual divers swimming in here. Duh! Sometimes, I get fooled easily. Ha.

Ceiling of Grand Indonesia Mall.

Ceiling of Kota Kasablanka mall.

I really wanted to purchase this, but no room in the back pack. Sigh.

I really wanted to purchase this, but no room in the back pack. Sigh.

More stuff I wanted to buy. Waaahhh!

More stuff I wanted to buy. Waaahhh!

. . . and more stuff I couldn't buy.

. . . and more stuff I couldn’t buy.

I really wanted the vase on the end.

I really wanted the vase on the end. Oh well . . .

As many of my followers on this blog know – I volunteered for President Barack Obama’s first campaign, doing phone bank work and canvassing neighborhoods – speaking to voters about why I supported Obama. Yes, I have not been totally satisfied with his performance or the gridlock in Washington. However, I still admire the man and believe he has a good heart. Perhaps, this is one of the many reasons I like to get out of the country and travel – the political dysfunction in our country is sad to see. Consequently, when I am away, I rarely read newspapers or watch television news shows, such as CNN or BBC. I’m happily ignorant about what is going on in the U.S. Ha.

However, I digress . . . I visited Barack Obama’s elementary school, called SDN Menteng 01 Pagi. I was genuinely excited to have been able to see the school and neighborhood where our President lived. The school even has a small statue of the President and a plaque which honors him. Wow! I took many photos of the school and the neighborhood. In many ways, this was the highlight of my trip. Here is the background info per Wikipedia about Obama’s early life in Indonesia:

“In October 1967 Obama and his mother moved to Jakarta to rejoin his stepfather. The family initially lived in a newly built neighborhood in the Menteng Dalam administrative village of the Tebet subdistrict in South Jakarta for two and a half years, while Soetoro worked on a topographic survey for the Indonesian government.[21][22] From January 1968 to December 1969, Obama’s mother taught English and served as an assistant director of the U.S. government-subsidized Indonesia-America Friendship Institute,[23] while Obama attended the Indonesian-language Santo Fransiskus Asisi (St. Francis of Assisi) Catholic School around the corner from their house for 1st, 2nd, and part of 3rd grade.[21]

In 1970 Soetoro took a new job at higher pay in Union Oil Company’s government relations office.[4][21][24][25][26][27] From January 1970 to August 1972, Obama’s mother taught English and was a department head and a director of the Institute of Management Education and Development.[23] Obama attended the Indonesian-language government-run Besuki School, one-and-half miles east in the exclusive Menteng administrative village, for part of 3rd grade and for 4th grade. By this time, he had picked up on some Indonesian in addition to his native English.[21] He also joined the Cub Scouts.[28] ”

Statue of Obama as a child.

Statue of Obama as a child.

School entrance.

School entrance. Would have been cool to have gone to school with Barack.

Obama plaque.

Obama plaque.

Obama number #1.

Obama number #1.

Who knows? This could have been actually used by Obama. OK, maybe another earlier model. Grin.

Who knows? This could have been used by Obama. OK, maybe another earlier model. Grin.

More recess stuff for Obama to play on. LOL.

More recess stuff for Obama. I have no doubt, he played on this. LOL.

Cross walk to school. Neighborhood was very quiet.

Cross walk to school. Neighborhood was very quiet.

Neighborhood where "Obama" school is located.

Neighborhood where “Obama” school is located.

Street Obama walked many times to get to school.

Street Obama walked many times to get to school.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent museums I visited in Jakarta. Tia took me to the most significant and famous one, Museum Nasional or National Museum of Indonesia – it is also recognized as Elephant Museum. It’s called the Elephant Museum because there’s an elephant sculpture made of bronze medal at the front entrance of the museum. The sculpture was a grant from King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) of Thailand who visited the museum in 1871. During the Museum National visit, which occurred on a Sunday, there was a musical event going on at the museum and I video taped some of the Indonesian music which was played there (see below).

The Prehistoric Age has long time frame, beginning from the presence of man until the emergence of writing differs in every part of the world. From the discovery of ancient human fossils in Indonesia, it is estimated that man lived here around one million years ago. Writing emerged before the 4th century. Paleontology, the study of Prehistoric periods, explains the lifestyles of prehistoric civilizations through research into their fossilized remains and the artifacts that they made. The Neolithic era emerged gradually between 2500 BC and 1500 BC when the vast number of people emigrated from the Asian mainland to the Malaysian peninsula, then to the island of Indonesia by sea. The immigrants built dwellings, planted rice on dry land or in irrigated fields and raised cattle. They formed agrarian village communities. This settled lifestyle enabled men to develop their skills in many areas, thus establishing a specific Neolithic culture, examples of which can be seen in this room.

This display at the National Museum really interested me. In fact, in the next series of photos I have included, fossilized remains of an Indonesian man (Java Man?) was on display. The Prehistoric Age has a long time frame, beginning from the presence of man until the emergence of writing differs in every part of the world. From the discovery of ancient human fossils in Indonesia, it is estimated that man lived here around one million years ago. Writing emerged before the 4th century. Paleontology, the study of Prehistoric periods, explains the lifestyles of prehistoric civilizations through research into their fossilized remains and the artifacts that they made. The Neolithic era emerged gradually between 2500 BC and 1500 BC when the vast number of people emigrated from the Asian mainland to the Malaysian peninsula, then to the island of Indonesia by sea. The immigrants built dwellings, planted rice on dry land or in irrigated fields and raised cattle. They formed agrarian village communities. This settled lifestyle enabled men to develop their skills in many areas, thus establishing a specific Neolithic culture, examples of which can be seen in this museum room.

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These are "Wayang" Indonesian puppets.

These are “Wayang” Indonesian puppets.

Wayang puppet show. I wrote a little bit about these puppets in a previous post about Batik.

Wayang puppet show. I wrote a little bit about these puppets in a previous post about Batik.

Prominent piece of art work near the front entrance to the National Museum.

Prominent piece of art work near the front entrance to the National Museum.

Scary Java islander mask.

Scary Java islander mask.

Statues located in the inner courtyard of the National Museum.

Statues located in the inner courtyard of the National Museum.

Batik print at the museum.

Batik print at the museum.

Clothing worn by a Java island child. This is made out vegetation (bamboo I think).

Clothing worn by a Dayak Borneo island child. This is made out of vegetation (bark according to my friend Tia).

Java islander clothing.

Dayak (Borneo) islander clothing.

Java island canoe.

Java island canoe.

Not certain what this is.

Not certain what this is.

Java island percussion musical instruments.

Java island percussion musical instruments.

Bust of a Java islander.

Bust of a Buddha.

I also visited the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum, which is located in “Old Town Jakarta,” a very interesting and historical place, with many significant buildings from Indonesia’s colonial Dutch historical past. The Dutch referred to Old Jakarta as Old Batavia. Near here, I visited an art gallery that was above the oldest post office in Jakarta. Although, I found the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum fascinating, the most significant thing that happened while at the museum was being mistaken for some sort of celebrity by school children. I was swarmed by over 40-50 children, who held out pen and paper, wanting me to autograph their notebooks. I AM SERIOUS! In fact, about an hour later, while outside taking photos of the surrounding area, the children ran after me, again wanting autographs. I was overwhelmed! This was an unbelievable experience that I will always treasure. 🙂

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“Yes, I am a Rock Star . . . Get in line if you want my autograph.”

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One at a time kids . . . You’ll all get a chance to touch me.

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This type of adulation rarely happens to me in Lakewood, Colorado.

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Oh Oh! They spotted me again.

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Old Jakarta square.

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This is how you get around at this museum. Yikes!

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Bust of a famous Thai artist. See the next photo.

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Display shows ceramics the way they were found in a shipwreck.

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Outside the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum.

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Artwork I found interesting at a gallery in Old Jakarta.

Artwork I found interesting at a gallery in Old Jakarta.

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This depicts a scene from the Dutch colonial era.

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I liked this painting very much. The art gallery was located on top of the Old Jakarta post office. I believe the post office was the oldest one in Jakarta.

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I’m surprised that some of these oil paintings were kept in this art gallery due to the extreme heat, i.e., no air temperature control or conditioning to preserve the art work. Ugh.

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Old Jakarta square. This building houses one of the oldest museums in Jakarta, if not the oldest. It is called Museum Sejarah Jakarta (Jakarta History Museum). Too bad it was closed the day I visited. Not to worry, there were other things to do in the square. 🙂

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I found this painting fascinating.

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This one too was interesting.

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Wayang puppets depicted.

Jakarta is a city of  many facets. I love the people of Indonesia and there are so many things to endorse it. As I said earlier, I’m responsible for having a good time. A place, thing, or person wont ever change that. I was able to have fun in Jakarta because of my attitude of seeing the glass half full. In short, my attitude was great and coupled with my friend, Tia showing me around the city, my time here was enjoyable and a lot of fun.

Yet, I would be remiss and less then honest, if I did not mention those things I did not like about Jakarta. First, and foremost, it was too crowded. I almost felt claustrophobic many times in the city. I also was appalled by the abject poverty of so many of Jakarta’s citizens. It was very disturbing seeing so many people going without and knowing that there were many, many rich people who could change this situation. Finally, the heat and humidity was often unbearable, without much relief, except at night.

I had a much better experience in Bandung, which I will write about in a later post. I wish I would have had time to visit some of the many, many beautiful islands which Indonesia is famous for. In fact, if I ever return to Indonesia, I want to visit Lombok and perhaps, Bali as well – both islands highly endorsed by Tia. Perhaps, on a future visit, I will be able to visit one or both of these islands. In conclusion, my post about Jakarta may be somewhat prejudiced and probably does not reflect other tourists experiences. For this reason alone, I recommend that you visit Jakarta and decide for yourself. Thank you for reading. 🙂

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