Indonesia Series: Jakarta and The Art of Letting Go


02-03 July 2015

Why did I ever think that Jakarta was a good idea? I loathed its traffic – the hundreds of motorcycles zooming like there’s no tomorrow; its vehicles who don’t give a crap about traffic lights and pedestrian lanes; and the taxi drivers who refuse to use the meter then asks for fixed overpriced rates instead! 

Why on earth would I come back to Jakarta? When walking on the streets of Old Batavia only made me feel like my life was constantly in danger and crossing the street was always a goddamn struggle!

There was nothing else to see except the massive Masjid Istiqlal, which we never got into because of the unending flock of Muslims to the mosque for their Ramadan prayers. Monas (short for Monumen Nasional or National Monument in English), on the other hand, was nothing more than a pillar standing tall in the middle of a park. Our first afternoon in the city was spent walking endlessly, running and even fighting for our lives as we cross the busy streets tired and hungry.

So who would have ever thought Jakarta could break my heart? First impressions never last, they say. Do not be too quick to judge, they say. And I should have listened. Certainly, we didn’t fall in love with this place at first sight. In fact, we almost did not want to stay. Our first night was so tiring and unfulfilling that we spent the last few hours of the day downing bottles of Bintang beer in our hostel, the only thing that felt right at that time!

However, the following day when we were about to leave, we left with heavy hearts. We eventually fell in love with the feel of Old Batavia, like we were in a familiar place, the Quiapo in Manila. Only in the morning, when we walked along its streets again, did I appreciate its confusing beauty. I especially loved the strip where the painters were, with some of their masterpieces hanged on the wall of what seemed like an abandoned building like it was the most natural and creative thing to do.

One of the things we can never forget is the taste of the most basic drink – es teh (simply means ‘iced tea’ in English). This may vary, but in all those places we dined in, it was always the (slightly) sweetened jasmine tea that was served, the most popular tea variety in Java Indonesia and it was the best tea we’ve tasted!

We also loved Indonesian food that we cannot remember anything we ate that was unpalatable. Even the 9,500-rupiah Roti’O bun was unforgettable. I can still clearly remember that time we entered Stasiun Juanda and was immediately attracted to the aroma of the freshly cooked buns from one of the Roti’O stalls we passed by. I crossed my fingers as we bought buns, hoping that it tastes as good as it smells. And it was better. Waaay better!

Having rested enough gave the us the energy to take a second look at the city. We got another glimpse of the Monas and realized that it has its own unique beauty especially at night. We walked further and reached Jakarta Cathedral just across the mosque and was captivated by its grandiose simplicity. The night before, we already spotted the Cathedral’s twin spires from the far end of the Monas park but did not realize (and did not seem to give a crap anymore) that it’s from the majestic cathedral. Meanwhile, Masjid Istiqlal, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, will remain to be one of the things I would come back to Jakarta for. 

On our way back to the hostel to get our baggages, we stopped by Fatahillah Square to grab some late lunch at Cafe Batavia. We were seated near the window on the second floor where we got a good panoramic view of the whole square while taking delight in eating the sumptuous food being served. There were mascots, living statues, a line of colorful bikes for rent, all being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. And that’s when it hit us that we are not ready to leave yet.

Leaving our homey accommodation, The Packer Lodge (TPL), was likewise heartbreaking. More than a hostel, it was a second home for travelers like us. We stayed there for a night (just a night!) and spent less than 36 hours in Jakarta. That’s why this heartbreak we’re feeling is something we cannot really fathom – It maybe because we spent too short a time in Jakarta or because it didn’t cross our minds that we would like the place but eventually did.

Sometimes in life, you will just fall in love when you least expect it. It wouldn’t matter in which way or how hard you fell, it would still be love. And at times, it’s those special little things that will stick with you and make you remember that love forever. My short-lived love with Jakarta was like that and it felt like there was a lot more to love we did not know about. This place we barely know already felt like home and all we could do is wish we could stay a little while longer. We would have wanted to stay. Unfortunately, as with any other kind of love, there’s that painful and inevitable truth that at one point, you will always, always have to let go to be able to move on </3



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