Jakarta’s nickname among expats is the Big Durian, and like its fruit namesake it’s a shock at first sight (and smell): a sweltering, steaming, heaving mass of some 10 million people packed into a vast urban sprawl. The contrast between the obscene wealth of Indonesia’s elite and the appalling poverty of the urban poor is incredible, with tinted-window BMWs turning left at the supermall with its Gucci shop, into muddy lanes full of begging street urchins and corrugated iron shacks. The city’s traffic is in perpetual gridlock, and its polluted air is matched only by the smells of burning garbage and open sewers, and safety is a concern especially at night. There are few sights to speak of and most visitors transit through Jakarta as quickly as possible.
Keep in mind that rules and regulations are very rarely enforced in all aspects of life in Jakarta. This is not to abet you to break the rules, but simply to explain why many of its citizens act so haphazardly, particularly on the road.
All that said, while initially a bit overwhelming, if you can withstand the pollution and can afford to indulge in her charms, you can discover what is also one of Asia’s most exciting, most lively cities. There is plenty to do in Jakarta, from cosmopolitan shopping at the many luxurious shopping centres to one of the hippest nightlife scenes in Southeast Asia.