Landing in Jakarta, the first thing that struck us was how big and modern the city was. I expected something like Manila, but despite Manila being one of the cities with the highest population density, Jakarta feels much more crowded and populous. In fact, it seems like that the 10 million people who live in the city, are constantly heading somewhere. There is simply no time of the day when there is no traffic jam. Even on Sundays you have to think twice before hailing down a taxi to go as far as a few blocks: you are better off walking. Among the lengthy lines of jammed cars, expect to fight for the pavement with a small army of motorbikes and scooters. They respect no pedestrians in the ever-present struggle to get to their destination in time.
Jakarta has the WORST traffic we have experienced in our trip, and until they don't build a metro, the situation will only get worse. In fact, some districts can only be accessed by car at peak times, if the car has at least 3 passengers. What does the crafty Indonesian do then? Rent a passenger! Or two at once. See the report of BBC about the Unusual ways to avoid Jakarta's traffic.
Due to the constant traffic jams, people are used to wear protective anti-smog masks. When in Rome do as the Romans do, here is our contribution to the masquerade.
The other striking feature of Jakarta is the number and quality of shopping malls. We have gotten lost and ended up spending hours in one of them, which probably was the most grandiose and well-decorated shopping mall we have ever been to. It is worth to notice that being a blond foreigner brings a number of benefits, that I just started to discover: in the mall we got free cookies, free yogurt, free fish massage, free massage seats, etc. I never want to be brown again:P
Architecture-wise the city has a number of old buildings, left here from the era when it was called Batavia and was the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Unfortunately this part of the city is quite dirty and unpleasant to look at.
As we only spent 2 days in Jakarta, we didn't explore the culinary side to the fullest, but met some oddities in the local A&W fried-chicken chain: the fried chicken comes with a rice ball, but no cutlery. While it poses no problem for eating the chicken, good luck with munching the rice-ball with your fingers! Even more weird is the pint of coke-like drink with a slap of whipped-cream on the top. You have been warned, it's not good!:)