Upon our arrival in Jakarta we were met at the airport by our local guide and driver and quickly had our first experience with Indonesian traffic. It seems with the advent of budget airlines many Indonesians now take to the air where they once used trains. There is not much of a highway network on the island of Java and most major roads don't stretch much beyond the capital's outskirts. This makes traveling even short distances a major undertaking. In Indonesia they drive on the left hand side of the road ... that is when they are not driving on the right or center for that matter. In fact an Indonesian driver will use all portions of the roadway including both shoulders if that will give him the slightest advantage over his fellow travelers. He thinks nothing of driving towards oncoming traffic and only returning to the proper lane at the last possible moment.
In town itís every man, woman and child for themselves. In fact this has offered an opportunity for those brave enough to challenge oncoming traffic by becoming ad hoc traffic marshals. All it takes is a whistle and a faith in God. By assisting a given automobile in negotiating a traffic jam said marshal would earn themselves a tidy 1000 Rupiah tip, or about 11 cents. Every parking spot seemed to have a designated attendant who would risk life and limb to ensure that you were able to back out of your space and merge with upcoming traffic. In this writerís opinion a much more worthwhile pursuit than our own squeegee bandits who prey on the unwary at every stoplight.
We asked for a short tour of the city before being dropped off at our hotel, Kartika Candra and were brought to what we were told was the older part of town. Jakarta or Batavia as it was once know is said to be 500 years old does but perhaps owing to the tropical nature of its history does not have many remnants that appear to pre-date the 19th century. We were shown a number of Dutch colonial buildings but then the Dutch were never famous for their architecture. An old harbor bore a number of interesting ships that haul building materials for the local trade, the ships riding very high in the water when not fully loaded, this loading being done without the use of any cranes that we could see. Across the harbor was a shantytown where many of the crewmen lived.