Mi Trans Jakarta es su Trans Jakarta

After 5 years of its being in operation, I finally rode the Trans Jakarta for the first time. Having never been a big fan of Jakarta’s public transportation, and considering its horrid reputation, I admit to harbouring apprehensions. Still, I dared myself to take a step out of my comfort zone. A small step for man, a giant leap for Micha-kind.

It happened last Saturday. After a visit to dear old Atmajaya and lunch at Plaza Semanggi, HT, a dear friend who just returned from a scholarship program in NY, proposed a trip to Kota Tua, an area in West Jakarta which holds what still remains of buildings from the Dutch Colonial times, on the Trans Jakarta. I’ve always wanted to see that particular part of the city and after a brief moment of concern over the means of transport, I consented to the joy and glee of everyone present who knew that as far as the Trans Jakarta goes, I was an absolute virgin.

So we walked the bridge to the Trans Jakarta bus stop, paid the ticket, and stood in line (although it wasn’t a line so much as people clustering as close to the door as possible. I do wish there were a system to make the getting off and on process more organised). The bus stop was moderately spacious, reasonably clean, and equipped with a vending machine which was, to my surprise, in working order!

No incidents occurred on my maiden voyage on the Busway, except when MT got on a bus and the door closed before any of us could get in or she could step back out. She did get off at the next stop and rejoin us, however. After that the trip continued pleasantly enough. We chatted the ride away, talking about random stuff and commenting on buildings we passed by. The good thing about Trans Jakarta is that it has its own corridors, which means it travels quickly due to being unhindered by traffic (although in certain places general vehicles did take the corridor as well and I wish something would be done about that) and we arrived in good time.

After descending, we exited the terminal and walked the streets among the other pedestrians. I was strangely feeling a lot like a tourist in my own city, marvelling at unfamiliar sights like random women sitting by the side of the street holding what looked like bundles of cash (sort of unlicensed and possibly illegal currency exchange, perhaps? I didn’t ask) and a rather odd mode of transportation called ‘sepeda onthel’, which basically is a man riding a bicycle that you pay to take you on a ride while you sit on a remarkably tiny and uncomfortable looking ‘passenger seat’ behind him (waaay too intimate, even for me).

Then after crossing the street (which was a bit of a sport as most Jakartan drivers seem to consider people crossing the street as target practice), we came to this brick road (and no, it wasn’t yellow though it did smell strongly like urine in several places. Eau de Abang-abang) lined with old, barely maintained buildings. Nestled among them, we found the Wayang Museum which housed a collection of traditional Indonesian puppets. I walked around the displays, wondering about the history of the puppets and admiring the creativity and intricate work of the craftsmen. Too bad pictures were not allowed. The ticket lady actually told us that it was prohibited by law (though it didn’t seem to stop other museum patrons from striking poses next to displays and getting photographed by their friends. Hm. People are weird).

Unfortunately, the trip was cut short by a message from my sister asking me to run some errands for her. So we separated into two groups at the Batavia Café (which I really wanted to visit but considering the circumstances, couldn’t). One stayed behind and I, accompanied by MT and Bear, went to the terminal to catch a Busway back to Atmajaya where I’d left my car in the campus parking lot. Having taken it once, I didn’t put much thought into taking the Trans Jakarta again, thinking I could easily handle it.

Boy, was I disillusioned.

The bus stop was definitely more crowded than the Atmajaya one and the combination from the heat, the stares, the noise, the smells (ick!), and the sweat (even more ick!) made it close to unbearable. Bear kept laughing as he commented that he’d never seen me sweat before. And I was. Big time. Beads were forming on my hairline and running down my forehead. No sirree, it wasn’t pretty. The pushing and the shoving got so bad that MT and I got separated from Bear and we didn’t realise it until we got on a bus, turned around, and saw his face among the people in the bus stop. Man, that was a truly sucky way to say goodbye.

MT and I got back safely, conversing all the way until we got off the bus and separated on our own ways. She took a cab to her apartment and I got to the Atmajaya parking lot, started my car, and proceeded on the drive home.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad experience. Yes, there’s room for improvement but Trans Jakarta does have its potentials. Should an opportunity and a corresponding reason present themselves, I for one will brave the ick factors and definitely take it again. Though with a pack of tissue ready and possibly a mini bottle of perfume. Ah. You live, you learn.


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