THE BIG DURIAN
The journey to Singapore's airport was a surprisingly straightforward ride on the metro. We had a bit of a sketch with airport security when they x-rayed my bag. I'd accidentally left my penknife inside and it was promptly confiscated. It is probably now sitting in one of those display cases where they display banned carry-on items - wedged between a machete and a pair of nunchucks. Jakarta is very disappointing. For some reason I had imagined Jakarta to be South East Asia's answer to Istanbul or Marrakesh with an old city full of ancient mosques and market places. In reality Jakarta is much like its national fruit: the Durian. Sounds exotic but it's a bit boring and smells bad. Jakarta is devoid of any architectural charm: it has all the visual charisma of the M25. They seem to construct buildings and then leave them to decay. There are simply more people in Jakarta that the city can cope with. Only 3% of the 9.3 million people that live here are connected to a sewer. The hygiene standards are the worst we've come across. We wandered up and down the main backpacker street looking for a room. We must have looked at about 8 places and they were all completely squalid. We finally found a reasonably tidy place which the owner claimed was only 3 months old; somewhat surprising when the place looked like it hadn't been cleaned for at least 8 months! Adding to our delightful room is the joy of having the speaker for the local mosque outside our window; providing us with a 4.30am wake up call every morning. Not ones to be easily defeated we decided to visit an old Dutch square that was allegedly the pinnacle of Jakarta's sight-seeing. Sadly it had little more appeal that John Frost Square. There were only about three nice buildings and the main attraction was a café called Batavia. It's a lovely place that's reminiscent of Casablanca - all vintage photos, wood paneling and 40's music. The café actually constitutes 4 of the 7 photos I've taken so far in Jakarta - yes it's that bad. In fact the journey to and from the square was more interesting. The traffic is mental. The tuk-tuks are the most decrepit we've ever seen and there seems to be a strange local custom of taking you car or van for a cheap road side re-spray on Sunday afternoons. In truth there is absolutely no reason to visit Jakarta. There really is nothing to do or see here. If, however, you do find yourself here the place has one enormous saving grace - its people. They are incredibly friendly and everywhere you go people will say hello as they pass you on the street.
Next stop Yogyakarta…