By: Ario Triwibowo
Jakarta is a megacity that has been growing rapidly ever since it was designated the capital of Indonesia. Most visitors to Indonesia land at Sukarno Hatta airport, only to get out of the city as soon as possible. On first sight, Jakarta is not a friendly city: getting around is hard and is best done by car, walking is (apart from a few areas such as Fatahilla Square and around the Monas), a chore, most of the entertainment revolves around one of the many malls.
It is now the largest city in Southeast Asia and continues to pull more and more people looking for a better life, every day.
Jakarta: a Short History
During the colonial era, Jakarta was meant to be built as a trading post for the English East India Company. When rivaling Dutch Colony conflicted with the migrating Englishmen, the city was taken over by the triumphing victor, the Dutch Colony. This victory earned the Dutch the right to rule the city and rename it from Jayakarta to Batavia.
Commercial activities attracted various traders from many parts of the region, mostly from China. These trade and commercial activities makes Batavia the one of the most important cities in the region that day. By the year 1942, the struggle for freedom by the Indonesian nationalists overtook the Dutch Colony. Jakarta was to be the capital of independent Indonesia. After a long 350 years under the Dutch, Indonesia officially declared its independence in 1945. This also marks the revival of the nation’s capital. Jakarta’s rapid growth was planned by the first President Soekarno, by building major highways, hotels and shopping malls. Although the remains of the colonial buildings can be seen standing until now, many of them have been demolished in past, and others fell to a state of neglect.
During the Soeharto era (Indonesia’s second President), Jakarta’s growth reached its peak. So, it is no wonder that Soeharto was dubbed as The Father of Development. Being entitled as the city of business for hundreds of years, Jakarta’s role as the nation’s center of government as well as its economic pillar still stands strong.
Jakarta is full: Estimations vary widely, from 8 million to a whopping 17 million inhabitants. Expats often nickname Jakarta ‘The Big Durian’ because the city is a heavy mass of millions of people jam-packed into an urban sprawl (and possibly because, just as the fruit, can be quite smelly). Indonesians also have an interesting expression that signifies this: ‘Ibukota lebih kejam daripada ibu tiri’ literally: The capital (Jakarta) is meaner than a stepmother. This expression is often used as a warning, especially for workers from outside Jakarta who wish to migrate into the city. Jakarta is seen as a city of opportunity, where fame and fortune can be seen achieved from the corner of the street. But be aware, the competition is stiff, and you will not be the only one chasing a dream.
Whatever the reason, still more and more people migrate to Jakarta for various. The city heaves under the weight of its people. Traffic and infrastructure are notoriously lacking. Traffic jams or macet, are an everyday occurence.The only remedy is patience, and lots of it.
Still, for one who looks closer, there are some great things to discover in Jakarta. Read our Jakarta insider tips to get to know the best things to see, do and eat.