It did not take me very long to realize that Jakarta was not a walkable city.
Almost as soon as I arrived at my hotel, I asked the receptionist where I could buy an adaptor. Obviously, as a technologically dependent millennial, charging my smartphone and laptop are top priorities. She pointed me to a mall nearby.
As I strutted out the dual sliding doors, she kindly asked if I wished for a cab. Considering this particular mall was about a half mile away, obviously I replied “Oh, no. I’ll walk.” She looked somewhat surprised; nevertheless, I continued on my way.
The mall where I was headed was located on a major roadway. Quickly I found out that there were no real sidewalks. And if there were, they were rundown: bricks were out of place and there were scattered wide-open pits leading deep down into the earth. Accidentally falling into one of these holes would have been detrimental; especially since nobody else around. Well, people were around. But they were in cars or riding motorbikes. I was the only one walking.
So there I was. To paint a picture, I was basically making my way down a five-lane highway. (Please don’t tell my mother!) Not to mention the five lanes on the other side of the median, heading in the opposite direction. The kicker? I had to cross this mega-road to reach my final destination.
“It’s fine. It’s fine,” I kept telling myself. I had done this before. I have been to other Southeast Asian countries with tons of traffic. All I have to do is walk far enough to the next overpass. You know, like the ones all over Bangkokand other SEA metropolises—basically a bridge connecting opposite sides of the road for pedestrians.
But to my dismay there was not an overpass in sight. Odd. Fortunately I had been walking fast enough to catch up to a group of students in uniforms. About 12-14 years in age I would assume. Despite the language barrier, I managed to convey that I was looking for the overpass to get to the mall on the other side.
They giggled. Probably because of the charade I had just put on—pretending to climb up steps, making a bridge motion with my hands and pointing to the mall ahead. Or perhaps they laughed because there was no footbridge. Silly white girl.
Luckily one of the boys in the group performed a charade, too. Except his demonstrated me crossing the road by foot. Again, pretty much a ten-lane highway.
Now I knew why the receptionist suggested a taxi.
I wondered if crossing this road even possible. There was no sidewalk, no signs of a designated crosswalk and certainly no helpful button to press for a flashing green man giving the OK.
I was panicked and contemplated hailing a taxi simply to cross the road. Which is absurd. But this freeway, with motorbikes and trucks weaving in and out, was intimidating.
Just as I was envisioned newspaper headlines—“American Girl Trampled by Traffic while Naively Crossing the Street”—I saw two others attempting to cross the road nearby. They seemed much braver than I. Here was my opportunity!
I made my way over in the just in time to cross right behind. Ironically, they were also were foreigners. Or maybe not so ironically. Locals are probably wise enough to not cross this freeway via foot.
In the end, I crossed the road safely. But boy, did I learn a lesson about Jakarta. When in doubt, take a taxi.
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Image: Courtesy of Flickr