Jakarta, Mon Amour
Sometimes, you get caught in the middle of things and realize how alive a city is. And these are the moments when I realize why I like living in Jakarta.
I’d been craving Chinese food, so on Sunday Chloe, Sam and I ventured to Glodok — Jakarta’s Chinatown area. It was much different from what I had envisioned. It was bright and colorful, with more trees than I had expected, and wandering the streets was a real feast for the eyes (and stomach). I think I had expected a dim, crumbling area based on my historical knowledge of this area, which is limited to the horrible lootings and murders that took place here in 1998 during Suharto’s fall from power.
After lunch (food requires a separate post) we were walking to the main market area when a street vendor stopped us. He was asking us if we were going to see the dragon. We were very confused. He kept pointing in a direction and then we finally understood that a parade was happening. Then for about an hour we stood in awe of all the costumes, colors, dragons, and people running in the parade. The man with the metal pieces through his cheeks was the most shocking. He seemed to be in a trance-like state and women approached him and he twirled incenses over their heads. If anyone knows the history behind this tradition, please let me know.
After watching the parade we wandered to a Buddhist temple and sat by a koi pond. It was very peaceful. An escape from it all is never all that far away in Jakarta.
The parade featured Chinese Indonesians from many different cities and islands of the archipelago. The pace of the parade was rapid and the drumming and clanking kept people running and moving, sometimes almost frantically.
People would emerge from the crowd to throw offerings onto these alter-type things (again, if anyone knows the proper word and history):
We could not get away from the parade. After we left Glodok, turns out the parade had left too and moved onto the main road, Jalan Sudirman. Chloe and I wanted to get on a bus, but everything was at a standstill. So we wandered a bit and then turned onto a side road. We got into a cab and breathed a sigh of relief too soon because the parade had turned and beat us onto the street our cabbie thought would get us out of the mess.
But, that’s just how things go in Jakarta…This city is always alive and moving, or if you’re stuck in traffic, crawling.