Jakarta has a nickname among foreigners, "The Big Durian," referring to the asian fruit that has a sweet taste, but a not-so-pleasant smell. Jakarta lives up to its nickname well. Everywhere in the city, whether indoors or out, has a distinctive smell that's a mixture of burning trash and exhaust fumes.
The pervasive exhaust fume smell is a consequence of the traffic in Jakarta, which is legendary. The city lacks any real mass transit, so motorcycles, bikes, and cars are the only way to get around for most people. There are almost no sidewalks, so walking is almost never an option.
|Motorcycles are pervasive on the streets.|
Whichever method of travel you choose, it is an adventure. Every type of traffic shares the road, and because there are very few traffic signals, every intersection becomes a free-for-all, though it is surprising how easily the locals navigate the chaos. Pedestrians run across the road, dodging cars and weaving through fast-moving motorcycles. Motorcyclists themselves weave through traffic, driving off the road frequently to pass gridlocked cars.
|Pedestrians crossing the road.|
|One of the auto-rickshaws, called bajaj.|
Despite all this, there is a vibrant street life, with vendors everywhere selling fruit, cigarettes, and random goods right along the side of the road. Each vendor seems to be a neighborhood attraction, with people gathered around each one, smoking and chatting.
A video of a common street scene, which I recorded earlier today: