09 November 2010

Trip to Indonesia, Part 4: The Streets of Jakarta

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:

1 comment:

Jarred, Angela, and Nathan said...

Hm, very interesting post about traffic. Actually, this makes Yerevan look quite civilized in comparison! There are sidewalks everywhere here (many are in poor condition, but at least they're there), and traffic lights at major intersections (though no stop signs anywhere). Public transportation is fair, and thank heavens we don't have all those motorbikes thrown into the already-crazy mix of marshrutkas, buses, and Soviet-era cars swerving every which way to avoid potholes, pedestrians, and any car/truck not going fast enough for the driver's taste. There are some people trying to start a bicycle-riding movement here, but I don't think Armenians are ready to share the road with bikes.