Indonesia’s capital city has some of the most friendly people in the Asean, region and is a haven for bargain hunters, writes Teresa Yong-Leong
JAKARTA has certainly come a long way from the city that I first got acquainted with as a student on a study tour.
My impression of the city then was one of great economic disparity and I saw people actually living in cardboard huts en route to the city from the airport.
Though Manila also struck me with a similar economic gap between the rich and the poor, I did not see cardboard huts.
A recent visit to Jakarta was a happy re-acquaintance with far warmer and happier feelings. Indeed it was nice to see the “old acquaintance” with an improved quality of life.
People on the streets were friendly and always had a ready smile despite life being tough, while others, perhaps more burdened with the harsh realities of survival, offered a more cautious smile when they saw a camera-trotting foreigner combing their streets in search of pictures.
By and large, I could feel their genuine attempt to communicate with visitors and their anticipation, perhaps, for a share of the tourist dollar.
It was a pleasant surprise and I felt very relaxed in Jakarta. My short stay of three days in Pasar Baru was filled with happy energy and
I will definitely return, possibly with my dad, as I am sure he will enjoy the food in the many Hakka restaurants here. I spied a prominent one in Jalan Batu Ceper.
I found Jakarta, a city of 20 million, more my cup of tea than bustling Bangkok. I finished all my rupiah (worth RM200) buying batik shirts and blouses. I liked the feel of the soft batik of Solo.
In Jakarta, a visit to Mangga Dua is a must for shopaholics. To think that my sister-in-law had told me earlier that there was nothing to buy in Mangga Dua mall, the largest wholesale complex in Southeast Asia!
The stores here offer all kinds of goods, from apparel to sports wear. My favourites were those selling batik halus from Solo. Prices were reasonable too.
Today’s Jakarta, I feel, has the vibrancy and confidence to take on the rest of its Asean neighbours. The eagerness to please and compete perhaps, is refreshing and I was more than happy to part with my hard-earned ringgit.
As far as possible, I try to support the local cottage industry or small traders. I buy local souvenirs especially when I travel to places, especially where I get to meet the native communities who earn a living by selling their handicraft.
These small and inexpensive items often are very artistic, such as the beadworks of East Malaysia’s orang asal. They make such lovely gifts when I go overseas. Key chains and anklets fashioned from beads that cost from RM3-RM5 offered by the Rungus people in Kudat, Sabah, are simply irresistible.
Food wise, I had the opportunity to try sego ireng in a restaurant near the latest Tune Hotel in Pasar Baru. It was quite tasty and the black rice was served with beef rendang and cucumber.
I also sampled gourami terbang (flying gourami), an artfully filleted fish that is fried to a nice crisp at the popular Sundanese restaurant, Pondok Laguna. I especially loved the sambal that came in cute mini penumbuk. It was perfect with the signature fish dish.
My only lament was that I did not have time to try nasi tim, the local chicken rice and nasi uduk, their equivalent to our nasi lemak. On my next visit, perhaps.