The capital of one of the largest nations in the world, Jakarta is the only Megacity in South East Asia (there are a number of large metropolitan areas in the region, particularly Metro Manila and Greater Jakarta). This Indonesian city is home to some 11.5 million people and has been in continual existence since the 4th century.
It was an important trading port right from the 4th century, under the Tarumanagara Kingdom, followed by the Kingdom of Sunda, leading up to the Dutch Colonial era and it’s present role as Capital of Indonesia and centre of the ASEAN secretariat.
It is not just a capital city, but one of the fastest growing cities in the world and was recently ranked number one in a survey of emerging cities. The city has had four previous names prior to its current one, Sunda Kelapa (397 – 1527), Jayakarta (1527 – 1619), Batavia (1619-1949), Djakarta (1949-1972). It calls itself the Big Durian in a nod to it’s position as the Indonesian equivalent of New York City.
The city is rich in culture and history, it’s centuries of history leading to the creation of a unique culture, the Betawi culture and people. Seen by Indonesians as the epicentre of the nation and the place to be to make it big, Jakarta is an assault on the senses and the mind. A melting pot of cultures and practices from all across the archipelago of 240 million.
In this city, you can find people who live below the poverty line and people who can easily buy an Alexander McQueen clothing item. This young population is also seeing a boom in the growth of its middle class.
To the new entrant, it is a disorienting mix of possibilities and challenges. Jakarta is a microcoosm of all of Indonesia with its potentials and problems, at the forefront of which is the socioeconomic inequality, corruption and traffic woes.
The previous Presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyuno ended in general disappointment (and here), although his presidency placed the nation back on track in it’s development and progress. The election of the President Joko Widodo was believed to hail a new tomorrow for Indonesia.
Unfortunately, the battle against entrenched political interest has merely begun and pace of reform under the Presidency of Joko Widodo has been hampered by political in-fighting within his party PDI-P.
Still this primer is on Jakarta the city, not Indonesia the country. The city of Jakarta is know under the leadership of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama “Ahok” a minority Chinese Christian, and the city is making progress.
As the capital of a huge nation, Jakarta is not really built to be a city for tourist to stay throughout, more of a staging base for exploration of Indonesia. But there are ways to enjoy and find out about this city.
Over the couple of weeks we will explore Jakarta – the history, the food, the culture and what it’s present can tell us about its future.
In the meantime…