Jakarta Jottings

When visiting a foreign city, it’s customary to focus on the notable sights and experiences, the ones recommended by guidebooks, tourist brochures and tours. Yet to confine a visit to just those features can create a distorted impression that ignores the realities of life for many of the city’s residents.

Jakarta has extremes of wealth and poverty. Liveried doormen greet luxury cars that disgorge their owners and passengers at marble shopping malls where the world’s luxury brands are displayed in air conditioned comfort while a few kilometres away, scavenging for discarded plastic bottles can provide an income of sorts.



The photo was taken in Angke an old suburb near the sea. A walk in the neighbourhood is a reminder of the city’s Chinese community, with a stroll past Confucian temples, through the Muslim community by the mosque where the labryrinthine lanes are just wide enough to allow two people to walk abreast. An open door reveals a lounge-room, an open window is a tiny shop, a few steps away someone is washing their hair in the lane. The locals don’t seem to mind strangers wandering about. In fact, there are many smiles. Western concepts of space and privacy are distant.

In this poor part of Jakarta, there are no parks or open public spaces, just the train lines. The people in the picture who were sitting on or straddling the lines removed themselves in time from danger from being run over by the train emerging through the smoke.

Like many developing nations, Indonesia has a serious rubbish problem. Countless generations used natural wrapping and packaging in the form of banana leaves and bamboo that can be discarded anywhere to turn into compost to enrich the soil. Plastics have become a pervasive problem in a society that has no rubbish disposal system. Indonesia is grappling with introducing a fee for plastic bags, hopefully a positive move to eradicate this environmental scourge.

This is my contribution to Tiffin’s A-Z Guidebook, this month starting with the letter J.

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I like to travel while having a base from which to roam. Home is a small farm on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, where I grow organic vegetables and fruit, keep a few chooks (chickens) and Dexter cattle. The place offers some country peace and quiet, and wildlife, as well as quick access to the inner suburbs of the city for my regular contrasting visits. I enjoy walking, camping, swimming and snorkelling, photography, reading, listening to and playing music, and good food and wine. A major flaw in my character is being susceptible to sales of air flights.

6 thoughts on “Jakarta Jottings”

  1. I know that you are commenting on the facts rather than making judgements, but I have to ask, if there’s no rubbish disposal system how would introducing a fee for plastic bags help? And what are the poor and homeless meant to do with their rubbish?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. If charging a fee lowers the use of plastic bags, then there will be fewer that are disposed of, although without a rubbish disposal system the discarded ones will still add to the level of pollution. Some towns in Australia ban shops from providing plastic bags to customers, and some retailers charge a fee for plastic bags to discourage their use. These policies seem to be successful.

      If biodegradeable items like paper bags and other natural products are used for packaging, and not only for the poor, the pollution problem will be reduced


    1. Thanks, Sherry. It is confronting, but I’m interested in problems affecting developing countries. We’re lucky in Australia to have a sophisticated public rubbish and recycling system, at least for the populated parts. Perhaps Australia could finance some plastic recycling infrastructure in Indonesia. That would provide an incentive to recycle, create jobs, and reduce pollution. Ultimately, pollution in another country affects our own.


  2. A sobering image – I love that you were able to capture the train. Yes, the rubbish is a big issue though just back from Bali, I noticed a lot less. I’m sure there is still plenty of rubbish but the tourist areas have obviously been tidied somewhat. I also saw an article about the plastic bag fee – I hope it is put in place. They are the scourge of many places I visited. The Middle East was just as bad. Thanks for your Jakarta Jottings and, for giving us something thought provoking.


  3. Thanks, Fiona. I was a little concerned about deviating from the Guidebook brief, so your comments are reassuring. There seems to be significant awareness and concern about the rubbish problem in Bali. As with Java (and the rest of the world), it’s probably necessary to reduce the use of plastic packaging in order to get control of pollution. I understand that at the moment quite a lot of plastic in Bali is burnt in large furnaces, which is not the best environmental solution.


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