It was on our third day in Jakarta that I finally admitted to myself I was scared.
Yes, we'd had a long day's travel to reach our destination so spent the first day recovering. Yes, we'd each had a pile of work, emails and internet procrastination to catch up on on our second day and yes, we'd changed hotels not twice but three times over those first three days. Yet the real reason I hadn't got out there and seen more of the city was that I was scared. We'd driven around a chunk of the city finding accommodation, finding our bearings but when it came to getting out of the taxi and actually finding the things listed in the guidebooks, I was put off by a quiet but powerful sense of fear.
Travel guides and websites are a funny thing. They give you lots of useful information and are more often than not worth the time and money you invest in buying/reading one. However, they can also be voices of doom. I refer particularly to one website that invites anybody to review hotels, sights, restaurants etc. You probably know the one I mean. Well, this site and others were very quick to warn that Jakarta has a problem with pick-pocketing, snatch-thefts and other "petty" non-violent crimes.
I was scared by this. I don't want to be robbed. I like my belongings.
Then there is the traffic. We have experienced this first hand. It is constant, unrelenting and noisy; a chaos of cars, mopeds and other vehicles (in various states of decay) snaking across lanes, across each other to try get to wherever they need to faster. I lived in London for nearly half my life and always thought that there ain't no bottleneck like a London bottleneck, yet the traffic here does not compare.
The lack of a safe and efficient public transport system makes taxis the only real choice for tourists getting round the city and I am craving a long walk, something near impossible in Jakarta due to the roads being the chaos they are, the risk of crime in some areas and I've not yet mentioned the visible and certainly smell-able pollution and the term " masuk angin " that Jakartans use to describe the airborne flu-like bugs which fly around the city.
I don't want to get run over. I don't want to get sick from pollution.
I was pathetically scared.
I know and I must come across as the most pathetic fair-weather traveller. I couldn't help but ashamedly think of all the die hard travellers in my social group or behind the travel blogs I am inspired by and how they'd tut and shake their heads at me as read the guidebook for a second time in my hotel room rather than pack it in my bag and head out. Maybe it's time to just own up and say, yep, that's exactly what I am. A fair-weather flash-packing wannabe traveller.
Or maybe not.
Because as much as I was scared and the above statements were all true, I also genuinely wanted to see more of this city which is home to 10 million people, is the 10th largest city in the world and has a rich colonial history. Furthermore it has been surprisingly "uncovered" by travellers and travel bloggers so I wanted to maybe do my bit to possibly change this or at least to find out why.
This wasn't going to happen from my hotel room. So, I had a little word with myself fluffed up my feathers a bit and said:
Man up, Birdie.
And I did; it was on my fourth day in Jakarta that I jumped in a cab, drove in some traffic, then got out of the cab and went exploring...
Frances M. Thompson
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