(having just returned from Jakarta I thought I’d write these down. Oh, and I’m not complaining, it’s generally a very friendly place with great people. Plus I did marry an Indonesian – although I’m not sure she shares all my views ;-) ):
1. Not only is the volume of traffic mental, so are the drivers of the buses, cars, vans, motorbikes, bicycles, horse-drawn carriages and every weird and wacky vehicle on Indonesian roads.
2. Much like Beijing, I have no idea how there aren’t car or bike crashes every five minutes (see 1)
3. It’s traditional for every menu in Indonesia to have at least one item unavailable. This is almost guaranteed to be the item you’d like to order.
4. No matter how many times you’ve been, getting woken up at 4:00am when the call to prayer starts will still scare the crap out of you (especially when staying right next to a mosque who found a cunning way to stick the megaphones in my window every morning).
5. Security is tight at most western hotels and shopping malls. It is, however, completely pointless so long as you stick your guns on the passengers side of the car (but don’t tell the ‘evil-doers’ that!). You probably have to experience that one to see what I mean.
6. One in three people in Jakarta seem to be employed, or appoint themselves, as some form of parking attendant…
7. .. which is actually good, as it means that despite the traffic you can normally stop right outside where you needed to be, even if you are in quadruply stacked parking and have to reverse out into four lanes of traffic madness.
8. Shopping is cheap, but be prepared to not only haggle but: have a drink, take a seat, deal with thirty different shop assistants and look at (or more likely be shown) half the stock and all the crap things they can’t shift.
9. You are more or less guaranteed to find that at least one of your cheap fake CDs/DVDs is mangled at some point on the disk. For DVDs, get them to play it in the shop first – there are two distinct types of quality (with option 1 being really bad, mostly unwatchable handheld handycam recordings from the cinema. Option 2 is normally pretty decent).
10. Shopping in the big supermarkets in Jakarta like Carrefour will surprise you (in a nice way). Puts Australian supermarkets to shame and almost made me miss living in Europe again.
11. Forget nice parks and lakes for your family outing, just stop on the side of the road for your picnic or spend your lunchtime sitting by a hole filled with trash with five hundred of your closest friends
12. There is nowhere in Jakarta where there isn’t at least one person (see 11). Doesn’t matter where you go, or what time of the
day or night. If you’re after solitude, you probably want to head elsewhere.
Luckily Indonesia has 17,508 islands for you to explore instead :-)
I’m sure I’ll think of more, but off to bed now.