The crest of the wave builds height and momentum, doubles up on itself, and then breaks. The top tumbles and then slides down the face of itself. Andrew and I are caught in its gurgling, bubbling, roll, but this wave is not made of water. A mass of humans are packed end to end, side to side in a corridor taking us from one Jakarta train line to the other. This is our third transfer of the day, and we are starving to death.
We spent only four days in Jakarta, hardly a blink of time to explore the world’s second largest city. I can’t say we really even tried because we were there to visit family, rather complete a full exploration of this place. Located on the island of Java - the island for which we Americans coined our slang term for coffee - we enjoyed a couple cafes and tasted a mug or two of coffee. I even tried my first mix of coffee and lemonade. It was...strangely good.
We jumped in the fray for one day to travel from our comfy air conditioned guest room, along train lines to reach Jakartakota - old Jakarta. Of course we got lost in the first ten minutes, but no matter. The people are as friendly in Jakarta as everywhere else in Indonesia and new friends helped us find some “GOjeks” (Like Uber, but on scooters) to take us to the train station. We zip through the City, weaving our way through stopped traffic, over sidewalks, and through back alleys. It was a quick ride.
Then, we negotiated the ticket machine (which did not speak English) using help of a train station security guard who also did not speak English. We should have reviewed “Train Station Bahasa” before starting off on this adventure.
On the train, we found everything to be extremely clean and filled with polite people. There is an order for things. Elderly, then pregnant women, then women, take the seats along the side, in that order. If there are any seats left over then able bodied men can sit, but only until someone who needs the chairs come along. It’s not negotiable. If you are an able bodied woman who is fine standing, but you load onto the train after an able bodied man is sitting in a seat, he hops right up and scurries out of your way. Don’t bother trying to wave him off, “The Wave” will help you get seated with gentle nudges in that direction.
There is a ladies only car, just in case the ladies want to avoid the “riff-raff” and rable-rousers, although there really wasn’t any riffraff or rabel-rousing to speak of. This train car is painted bright pink and it says - even in English WOMEN ONLY, yet, we learn of this train only after we mistakenly step on and Andrew is quickly waved through to the next train. The guards hold up their hand indicating for me to stop. For a moment, we were very confused. Why are they pushing Andrew forward, but telling me to stop? Pink. Ah, yes.
We watch the city zip past as the train slides along the neighborhoods of Jakarta.
At one point, Andrew’s wallet fell out on the floor in front of a train as we got off. We suspect *someone* might have attempted to pick his pocket, but upon the wallet falling on the floor six other Indonesians stop traffic and start waving around at people to try and figure out who the owner is. Luckily the wallet was easily recovered, and everyone was happy. Especially us as we would have been out of money for the remainder of the day.
By the time we reached Jakarta Kota, we were already overwhelmed by the three hour train ride, multiple transfers, crowds and excitement. So, we wandered around the corner, found a warung, ate a nice lunch and watched a very busy intersection buzz by. Busses, trucks, cars, mopeds, horse carts, tuktuks, all jostle around each other at various speeds. Does traffic just work better in chaos? No one gets in any accidents while we are there watching.
We look at the outside of a series of white, Dutch-style, buildings left over from colonialization. We consider going into the museum of the Bank of Jakarta to touch the largest gold brick on display in the world, but the museum was only open for fifteen more minutes. Bummer. So, we turned around and started our trek home.
We felt we thoroughly explored Jakarta’s train line to Jakartakota.
On our walk back home, we stop to reward ourselves with fruit ice, and we finally stop at one of Indonesia's famous parfumeries to have a beautiful gal mix us up a personal scent. We get hit up by a boy in a strange costume to make a donation to the local mosque.
A day or two later, we decide to try another part of town. We search through Indonesia's hand built, hand carved, stunningly beautiful furniture made of teak and mahogany. Tucked away in corners we find hand built bird cages and an antique dagger with a beautifully carved handle. We really wanted to take that one home with us, but we were pretty sure they wouldn't let us keep it in our carry on for the plane.
We barely scratched the surface in Jakarta. I hope we get to go back someday. Maybe to work and enjoy the amazing opportunities that come with its low cost of living. Or, maybe just to explore and poke around these furniture shops again.