Whilst not part of the HKU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes field trip, I have been fortunate to spend the last 48 hours acclimatising to Indonesia; in Jakarta. I knew little of this city before arriving; I certainly didn’t realise it was so large! Over 9.6million residents if you take Wikipedia’s word for it and according to a personal guide who walked me through Kota Tua (the ‘Old Town’), many more would travel to the city each day for work or to sell their wares.
The city’s charm crept up on me slowly and after this brief stay I was left wishing my time there was longer, if nothing else, in order to have the time to ride the lift to the top of the National Monument to take in the view as large crowds meant a several hour queue on day one, and unfortunately the lift was closed for maintenance when I returned early on day 2.
The city, that initially seemed intimidating, goes about its business with a cheerful smile; the blend of wealth and squalor, high-rise and shanty shacks merge into a chaotic acceptance of the others right to exist. I am quick to add that I only experienced a slice of Jakarta covering an area around 5.5km2 whilst (again, thanks Wikipedia) the metropolitan area of Jakarta is over 6,300km2. Though from what I could tell scanning the horizon from my 8th floor room or when travelling from/to the airport the densely populated city seems to recur in its juxtaposed culture, so there is no reason to think the sample I saw is not reflective of the wider city.
Spending half of my time as a pedestrian in a city seems that is constantly on the move, you become aware of the cultural acceptance of others. Pedestrians cross the road by waving the vehicles down to a slow allowing a gap to open up. Drivers toot horns to alert others of their presence and let merging traffic into their path (lane lines are rarely adhered to), and in this understanding the city keeps moving without incident.
Mopeds are everywhere, and by the end of the weekend they were my preferred choice of getting from A to B (the first 24 hours was by foot only).
Major sites that I visited were the National Monument and associated public park, across the road from Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in South East Asia, with facility for 120,000 worshipers. Another feature of the visit to Jakarta was the guided tour of the historic Dutch developed Kota Tua, where the guide shared much of the city’s colonial and trading history.
Overall, Jakarta gave me an appreciation for a populations ability in an extremely large city to self regulate and find a way to respect and accommodate each other in close quarters.