Jakarta: The Good, The Bad, and The Funny

June 12, 2010 at 16:36 | Posted in Singapore, Travel, Work | Leave a comment
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Dear friends, I’ve completed my tasks in Jakarta and will be in Singapore for a while…
Next will be a steering meeting on 24 June, where all stakeholders will be present to firm up on the software requirements… then will be my in-camp training (5 – 10 July), then I will continue with the internship from 12 July onwards…

Just going to write some reflections on Jakarta city… I must say Jakarta is a hard city to love; full of idiosyncrasies that many city dwellers (locals & foreigners) learn to live by… so I’ll call it: The Good, The Bad, and The Funny

The Good:
1) People are really friendly here; from my colleagues to the hotel staff, the food vendors, restaurant waiters, shop keepers, everyone is really friendly…
Case 1: My Colleagues
Even though I know nothing about the textile business at the start of the internship, still they patiently explain it to me, and also entertain my constant check back with them. My very very limited Bahasa Melayu is no match to the fast talking Indonesians, but still, they try their best to communicate with me… which really helps me a great deal… so a big TERIMA KASIH to all of them.
Case 2: Hotel Staff
For 3 weeks, I’ve been eating the hotel breakfast with no breakfast voucher; I’m supposed to collect my breakfast voucher from the reception every morning before breakfast. The restaurant staff have been too polite to offend me, and they allow me to eat without breakfast voucher. I have once checked with the reception, they told me that I can just go to the restaurant for breakfast without the breakfast voucher. During the last weekend, I finally checked with the restaurant, “What must I do to get the breakfast voucher?”… and I was told politely what I’m supposed to do … case of being too polite?
Case 3: The Company Driver
I was supposed to be pick up from the hotel at 4pm to the airport. Once I got everything ready, I waited at the lobby at about 3:50pm. The company car arrives at about 4:03pm.
The moment I saw him, I went out… he thought he was late and kept apologising… which I thought really wasn’t necessary
Then we were stuck in the heavy Jakarta traffic, and the engine overheated slightly, but the car was still okay, just that the aircon wasn’t cold…he went on apologising again, saying he had check the radiator and engine oil every morning and the aircon was still fine in the morning… even though I re-assure him that I’m fine with the temperature, it’s 28-29 degree Celsius during the afternoon, which is much cooler than Singapore…when the traffic smoothen, and the car cruised for a while, the aircon became okay again, which reassured him that everything was fine.

Maybe I’m someone with no complaints, or is easily contented, so I really enjoy the warm hospitality of the people here, at the same time, overwhelmed by it. If it’s my fault that I have to take the breakfast vouchers, just tell me straight in the face … if you have done everything you could for car maintenance, then it’s not your fault, and there’s no need to apologise … it’s in the culture maybe?

2) Safety; every building, hotels, offices are guarded by security guards. Even though most simply do a simple check on your bags or cars, it acts as a good enough deterrent to thugs, thieves, terrorists…

3) Low cost of living; affordable eating places are everywhere, not very hard to find.

The Bad:
1) The air is real bad… from the burning of rubbish and the traffic (which brings on to the second point)… but I have learned to get used to it

2) The traffic is in a constant state of jam, couldn’t blame as the public transport system isn’t as developed as Singapore
The main roads are multi-laned, think 6 lanes in each direction… making it a total of 12 lanes… City Planning 101: expanding lanes is never going to solve the city problem of traffic congestion, the focus should be on reducing car population & developing public transport.

3) Pavement for people to walk on is a luxury to come by… there is ZERO pedestrian crossing, which makes jaywalking necessary, a skill which you got to master if you do not want to depend on taxis for short distances.

4) Food: everything is goreng goreng goreng (meaning fried) … it’s probably in their food culture, not exactly healthy I think

The Funny:
1) My boss of German nationality requires a visa which he have to apply on entry… he got to queue to make the payment, and join another queue to get the stamp on his passport… why not just do it altogether?

2) The airport is still practicing airport tax payment on departure, while most airports would charge the airport tax to the air tickets… imagine someone having spent all his Rupiah having to pay 150,000 Rupiah for airport tax… thanks to my colleagues for the reminder which saves me from this embarrassing situation, the airports official website still states 100,000 Rupiah… I found a Jakarta Post article dated a few years ago of the adjustment in airport tax to 150,000 Rupiah

3) Everywhere is English, but no one really speaks it. Everywhere you go, shops are playing English songs, promotions written in English, but when you try to speak in English to the shops or restaurants, no one speaks English. Same for a fitness magazine I read, the titles and sub-titles are in English, but the contents is in Bahasa Indonesia… something which I found really funny

Overall, I enjoyed my stay here at Jakarta: friendly colleagues and comfortable hotel…  what more can I ask for?
Jakarta is not exactly a place for tourist, but if you learn to appreciate the idiosyncrasies of this funky metropolis, you will still be able to have a good time 🙂

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