This metropolis is the largest city in the region and it is indeed an eye opener. It is a city where there is a love for statues and monuments of a grand scale and it is also a city that is also epic when it comes to motoring in and around it. It should be, as Jakarta has over twenty million people living in it.
When you have a city that has that many people and haphazard town planning (as the city has basically grown to enormous proportions and engulfed the surrounding areas where tiny roads cannot cope with the growth) traffic jams are the norm. When I first touched down I was ushered into a Toyota Kijang Innova – a MPV that is actually loved by most over there. In fact, MPVs and to some extent are the choice vehicles in Jakarta due to affordability and their robustness in tackling the road conditions there. Everywhere you turn there will be a MPV right beside you on the extremely jam packed streets (and tolled highways) throughout the city.
A trip that is only 10km long could take two hours from your precious life if you started your journey at the wrong time (meaning rush hour or around lunch time). You will be sharing the roads with MPVs, SUVs, cars, buses, bicycles, Bajaj 'tuk-tuks' taxis, mini buses, push carts and people who come up to your vehicle at almost every junction trying to sell you newspapers, cheap toys, drinks, sweets and anything they can think of doing to try earn a few Indonesian Rupiahs. All this while you will pass multi-storey buildings built right beside an area that looks like a slum (with badly built and designed renovated buildings) and right after that is another ultra modern building.
Everything is chaotic. Everything moves slowly with an average speed of 10-20km/h depending on where and when in Jakarta. If you want to compare the traffic of Jakarta to the heart of the Lion City during rush hour or the rush hour traffic in Kuala Lumpur, the two cities mentioned are incredibly blissful. Even Bangkok and Saigon isn't as chaotic as Jakarta. Although I would believe the worst would be a city like New Delhi where you should add people (and sometimes cows) crossing as and when they want to anywhere they want to in between lorries, cars, bicycles, tuk-tuks and motor cycles.
And so, with that short write up I have some advice to give any of you readers who aren't based in Jakarta and intend to visit, live or work over there any time soon.
The advice is simple - Do not attempt to drive at all in Jakarta. If you can afford it, hire a full time driver (with the car) for as long as you are there. This is not because it is dangerous to drive there, it is, but not because of getting into an accident. No one really gets into a fender bender as everyone there seems to have gotten used to the flow of traffic there (But you shouldn't, as things get complicated if you do) - and it may be too packed to even have someone speeding. But even if you can navigate the complexity of Jakarta's city streets why should you want to suffer having to drive through the massive traffic? Let someone else suffer. I surely didn't and I used every minute of the traffic jam to catch up on sleep.
And sleeping in the car is another bit of advice that I'd like to give too. You have to learn to catch forty-winks in the car you're been driven in while you're in Jakarta. I did basically that the whole time I was there and even on the final trip to the airport. Staying up is actually too tedious. I may sound utterly selfish and spoiled about needing a driver and all that but this folks, is indeed a necessity. Trust dear ol' me. I am giving very sound advice indeed.
Oh yes, even with all of the negativity written here I do have this to say. One should visit Jakarta as it is an eye opener indeed. Whether from the motoring sense or from viewing the megapolis from a social point of view, Jakarta is truly fascinating and truly massive in every scale.