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“OMG get me out of here!” is most visitors reaction when they first arrive in Jakarta, Indonesia’s seething capital, one of the world’s biggest and undeniably craziest of cities.

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Pollution choked, traffic clogged, drowning in its own swampy mire, it may seem it has very little to love, but, despite what decades of guidebooks have been telling people, relax, not everyone is out to scam you—Jakarta is often a genuinely friendly city, in fact it’s known as a “big kampung” and is indeed perhaps the world’s biggest “village”. The city’s open-hearted citizens will talk to you on public transport, yell hello in the street and even cross the road just to shake your hand—where else does that happen in a modern city? And one with around ten million inhabitants to boot!

On a clear day, the city can be pretty fab. Photo taken in or around Jakarta, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

On a clear day, the city can be pretty fab. Photo: Stuart McDonald

It is true that Jakarta has massive infrastructure challenges, and the traffic jams can be absolutely appalling, but an MRT project is well on the way, and other public transport systems have been slowly improved over the last decade. Despite the challenges and dysfunction the predominant undercurrent of this megatropolis is optimism—most people just get on with the business of living, often with a smile on their face—however challenging life can be for some here—and the city seems to function as if it were a living entity.

The city is not only a microcosm of Indonesia, the embodiment of the national motto “Unity in Diversity”, but also a microcosm of emotion, sure it can be bewildering at times but in equal measures Jakarta has plenty to delight and beguile even the most sceptical of travellers, you may even want to stay an ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Jakarta.
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