Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world by population. 235 million people are spread in 17 500 different islands. Think about it! If you were to visit all of the Indonesian islands, it would take you more than 50 years! Jakarta, capital of the country in the island of Java, is the largest city in the largest of islands. It is an exciting metropol with more than 50 million people during the day time and about 14 million at night. Traffic in Jakart is something else.

We visited Jakarta in May 2017 as part of our round-the-world journey. We flew into town from Bali, the island perhaps most famous for vacationing. Jakarta was not really in our bucket list of places to visit; however, it was self-evident we would stop over to visit friends who live in the city. We ended up staying with a Finnish expat family for four days and had the greatest time! The most interesting was to hear about expat life in Indonesia. 

As Bali was about 90 percent an island of Hinduism, Jakarta is about 90 percent Muslims. You can’t really see that as much as Hinduism was present in Bali. Mostly it has to do with Jakarta being a fast developing center of economy in Indonesia. This relatively young independent country since 1945 has grown fast in recent years. It is a city for many industries and global businesses. There are tens of enormous malls for commercial services and luxury brands. Apparently purchasing power is fairly high in high and middle class, since service personnel get paid very little income in general. 

Societal classes are very much present. It is very common that expats and upper or upper middle class has service personnel. Chauffeurs, pool boys, guards and maids are at families’ service and get paid and treated often much better that way. There are far worse destinies available. To us it seemed somewhat strange at first, coming from a very equal society; however, quite fast realized the need for a personal driver for example. Traffic really was something else. Foreigners are not recommended to drive, instead to have a driver. Regulations and treating foreigners in case of an accident or a traffic dispute is something you would not want to get involved in. Punishments can be very harsh and unexpected. 

Monas, the National Monument is a great place to visit to get a quick understanding of how Indonesia has evolved. Long history under Malay, Indian and then Dutch regime has shaped the country to what it is today. Indonesia has fought in tens of wars over centuries and decades, even after the second World War when the Dutch tried to overtake it back. Dutch influence can still be seen in the old town colonial buildings. Since then the infrastructure has developed quite poorly into a city with very little or no public transportation and definitely not for walking. 

Friends & good times

Our stay was more about hanging out with friends Kimmo, Mari & Niki, than sightseeing. It was so great to live at their house and just talk, swim, eat and play together. We visited Niki’s international school to play football and dined on top of the city on 46th floor with absolutely stunning views. And we enjoyed Finnish delicasies such as traditional salmon soup and Carelian pies that Mari had taught their Indonesian maid to prepare. We spent hours just talking in the car in traffic jams and Merja, unfortunately, spent one day hugging the toilet seat due to a stomach bug. We watched some TV programs from back home, laughed at them, listened to Finnish music while having fun by the pool. And emptied a few bottles at night.

Finnish Carelian pies made by an Indonesian woman, taught by Mrs. Mari. Omnomnom! 

Jakarta was not really a destination for us to get everything out of the city. It was more about exchanging experiences with like-minded people, talking about life and the choises we make as well as opportunities that present themselves. It was an absolutely great little break from travelling and instead, enjoying time with friends.

Dinner on 46th floor at Plaza Mall

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