AMCHAM Jakarta or Bust!

February 21, 2014 · 0 comments

amcham indoHere is a little example of how life-altering, crippling, and heart breaking the traffic is in Jakarta. It is a force mighty enough to crush anyone’s motivation, even this energetic ambitious woman’s drive to get out there and do things…or even leave the house!

Lucky enough to work virtually from home , but I am a people person and I want to explore  business opportunities while I’m living here. So, eager to meet people professionally and expand my business network here, I was really looking forward to attending my first American Chamber of Commerce event on Thursday night. I registered and the location was announced 48 hours in advance for security reasons. These events are always held at one of the big hotels downtown, so location is not a determining factor to attend.

Pak Herman, our driver, said we should allow an hour to get there, my husband had mentioned the night before that I’d be going “against” the traffic  at that time and might make it in 30 minutes. We set off a few minutes past 5:00pm for a 6:00pm start time, no need to be the first one there! Well, that was no worry. Three excruciating hours later, I arrived at the event at 8:00pm.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that in Jakarta (other than times of flooding) there is no special reason or cause of the extreme traffic moments, such as a big crash so the road is closed up ahead. You don’t look for “the reason” like traffic reports in the US, it just is. The gridlock is perpetual, of course morning and evening rush hour are worse, but the evening rush hour extends to 10pm, so not something you can avoid with careful planning. Basically if people are awake, there is traffic. The amount of cars and motorbikes squeezing into 2 or four lanes is incredible. The infrastructure is just not there and the amount of time you have to sit in traffic heading the wrong direction, only to turnaround at designated points and then sit in traffic going back the opposite direction would blow your mind or make you want to blow something up!

On this particular lucky day, coincidentally, all data services of the mobile operator (not to be mentioned here), were down for the entire afternoon and evening, for the first time ever. So those quick emails I had planned to shoot off on the way weren’t going to happen, I couldn’t even get or receive an iMessage. Facebook might’ve provided some mind numbing relief, but no not this time. I was a prisoner in my car, trying not to think that I could have made it from The Hague to Paris on the Thalys train in less time!

As the minutes ticked away to hours and with the event winding down as I still sat in the back of the car, my anger to turned to sadness, defeat. No, not life threatening, but the Jakarta traffic has a way of crushing your soul.

Sure, I am a networking natural and love it, but it still took a certain amount of oomph and courage to get myself pumped up about going to an event alone were a was certain, not to know a single person and I’ve been working for myself long enough to know that when you’re not officially tied to a multinational or the UN for instance, it takes a bit more effort to make new connections.


So, as the car rolled up in front of the Park Lane Hotel with only 30 minutes remaining, I shook off the journey and went in to make the best of it.  First, straight to the bar for a glass of wine and seconds later with a tap on my shoulder and a familiar face smiling at me, I was instantly happy that I had eventually made it. A British woman that I know from school was there representing a local charity that is of interest to me and she introduced me to an American Woman working for the World Bank who lives around the corner from me and then a woman from New York City, whose husband I quickly realized I had already met at a telecom event. Then off to mingle, met a few interesting people, a French guy to potentially work with and even “The Indonesian Suzy”, her real name is Sony. You will hear more about her as I am on my way to a follow up meeting with her now. So make the best of it, I clearly did.

The return trip was speedy and after Pak Herman and I dropped off two of the other ladies I mentioned, I walked into my house and was reconnected to the world via wifi. Did I dare? I hesitated, but couldn’t resist taking a peek at Google Maps.  The Park Lane hotel is 4.7 miles from home.



damn-i-love-indI’ve been promising myself  to make a “Top 10 things I Love about life in Jakarta” list since my first rant. Today, Valentine’s Day, is the Day! I’ve spent the ENTIRE day trying to come up with ten and I have to admit I extended past midnight to hit 10, but then I got on a roll! In a lame “I love you but…” move, I have to say that the past few days have been wrought with a particularly high dose of the usual challenges; power outages, network outages, oven failure while baking Valentine cookies, etc. and a traffic disappointment last night terrible enough to warrant it’s own post.

So there, my summary venting is over and now I will do my damnedest to refrain from adding a “but …” to all the I Loves below!

10. Love the warm climate! I wore long pants one day back in September, but otherwise shorts or skirts every day! Even in the rainy season the temperature is warm.

9. I Love full service! It’s easy to get used to being dropped off and picked up at the door every time, because who has time to park when you’ve already spent hours in traffic? Raining, no problem, someone with an umbrella appears to get you those three steps from your car to the door.  And delivery of everything just happens. We’ve yet to place a McDelivery, but our water bottles, gas tanks, life essential just appear, within minutes, on motor bikes, of course.

8. I love how often there is live music at restaurants and bars! With the low labor costs here, there always seems to be an unlimited number of band members too! Live music just makes a night out more fun!

7. Speaking of restaurants and bars, I Love that there is a wide variety of really good international restaurants, many within walking distance of our house! And some even worth fighting hours of traffic to reach in other parts of the city! Many still to explore!

6. Speaking of restaurants, one of our favorite local restaurants Koi Kemang is also a furniture gallery, which is an Indo Belgian partnership and features reclaimed teak wood, in modern designs, often with steel.  We’ve already bought several pieces of furniture. Usually preceded by a few Guavaritas downstairs before visiting the 2nd floor for furniture shopping! So, this should count as three: I love Indonesian teak furniture, the modern pieces as well as the ornate Balinese!  I love Koi, as does the entire family. You feel like you are in Belgium and it is a place you could go for breakfast to late night and everything in between.

5. After years of living vertically in The Netherlands and feeling very squeezed, I love having the space to spread out! Our house is spacious and open and we especially love having the back garden and pool. No sarcasm here, but as the rainy season continues, and our excellent gardner Tikno works his magic, the garden has become so lush that you can barely notice the coils of razor wire at the top of the high walls enclosing it!  The pool should get it’s own I Love You, but I’ve now reached 10.

6. I Love how safe we feel here! People are very friendly and I never feel intimidated or fearful of people, only bats & rats!

5. I love our neighborhood! It makes all the difference! Kemang Dalam is an enclave of connected back streets and the only area that resembles a neighborhood, unless you live on a compound. Very important I can bike, even safe with the kids, in 2 minutes to the supermarket and flower stands, and 5 or so minutes to the gym. The kids and Steph walk less than 10 minutes on these back streets to French Patisserie on the weekends, there’s a wine shop about 5 minutes walking further too!None of these places require “magic hands” crossing of a major street:-)

4. I love the pampering triple play! I’ll just come right out and admit it! Jakarta will bring out the Spa Diva in anyone.  I especially love the cream bath mani pedi combo! A team of four swirling around you to deliver maximum bliss & buff & blow dry all at once! The efficiency of simultaneous services is divine!  Most recent spa tab… Mani Pedi during massage then blow dry all for about $40.

3. I love how easy it is to meet people in Jakarta! I’ve met a lot of very nice and very interesting people! Everyone is very open and almost bound by this common vibe that we’re all in this together, living in this crazy place and we all “get it”. Unlike other cities where you might bond with other new people or expats until you “master it” and make your own way, integrate even. Jakarta is not a city to be “mastered”, the common challenges remain and you just learn to roll with it! The traffic and the tribulations are a big equalizer here. Jakarta is a big city, small world.

2. I Love Javanese Massage! I’m not just in love with the price, as little as $6 for an hour at one of my favorite places, but I am a true fan of the technique! The pressure is perfect! Best ever! I also love that when you call to book a massage, they always ask for how many people and for how many hours! As if you’re making a dinner reservation. Be patient, Javanese Massage will eventually makes it’s way to all corners of the world, but sorry, not at Jakarta prices.

1. Our dynamic duo Tikno & Titin get the number one spot because they make life here manageable and we could not appreciate anything else here if we had to try to cope with all the things about the household that they take care of for us. They don’t just make things a little smoother, they make it possible to get through the day! All the daily problems with water, power, repairs, etc. would just be a nightmare to deal with. We could not survive without them and I thank them every day for their hard work! I love Tikno & Titin!


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