Jakarta impressions

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Selamat datang, Indonesia. Actually, it should be Indonesia who should say that. Welcome!

I planed it the other day to Jakarta together with some of the Philippine ICLEI staff to make a presentation on Southeast Asian mountain cities for the Adaptation Trends in Southeast Asia. Two years ago, I coordinated an e-conference on sustainable mountain development.

ICLEI stands for Local Governments for Sustainability and considers itself as the world’s leading association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development. ICLEI is a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries, says its website.

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The alliance seeks to promote local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, biodiverse, low-carbon; to build a smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy.

My Nepali colleague Tek Jung Majat of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development recommended me as a resource person for the two day conference to be held at the Harris Hotel.

What are my first impressions of Jakarta? The first thing that struck me when we went out of the Soekarno–Hatta International Airport was the number of hustlers who asked—no, demanded—tips for every small favor while we were loading our luggage. I think Philippines airports did a better job of handling hustlers among porters.

The other night, I went out to meet Filipino friends María Cristina “Crissy” Guerrero married to an Indonesian, Ruth Canlas and Belinda Camba at the Payon Restaurant at the upscale Kemang Raya, the equivalent perhaps of the new Malate district.

We ate toge (yep, the same toge mungbean sprout that we eat in the Philippines), sate udang cerbung or prawn that looks more like shrimps in the Philippines, nasi putih (rice), gurame bakar bumbu (tilapia), sambel bawang, es kalapa muda, and other dishes that I couldn’t identify. That cost Crissy 350,225 Indonesian rupiah.

Indonesian cuisine is fine, but frankly, I like Thai food better. Except for the spicy food, I find most a bit bland.

Crissy warned me to take only the Blue Bird, Express, Gamya or Taxiku taksis. The Harris Hotel front desk, however, called for a taxi that was none of the above.

The driver spoke in quite good English (at least, I could understand him). He studied tourism in high school, used to work in a hotel, but found it boring, so he drove a taxi. The way the driver said it hinted of sleaze. So they also have that kind of “tourism” in Jakarta.

On the way back, I had a hard time taking a cab. But I knew there would be a Good Samaritan who would take pity on a disoriented foreigner. This time, a motorcyclist came to help after noticing I was unable to hail a cab. My guardian angel stayed until he could set me off in a Blue Bird taxi. Terima kasih banyak, whoever you are.

Jakarta has its share of lowlifes, much like in the Philippines and elsewhere. But it has good souls like that motorcyclist who asked nothing but a profuse thank you from a stranger.

Harris Hotel staffers are very professional, polite and speak good English. They beam, however, when foreign guests speak to them in Bahasa Indonesia. I was happy to make use of a few survival Bahasa Indonesian that I know.

I’m very happy with my wifi connection at the Harris Hotel. Fast, light years far from the internet connections in Bali when I went there in 2007. Bu then this is a three-four star hotel.
Please email comments to bqsanc@yahoo.com

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 06, 2013.

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