I’ve been to Indonesia twice. Once to see where my wife grew up, and a couple years later to attend my brother-in-law’s wedding. Having grown up in an upper middle class family in the United States, I saw some things I wasn’t used to seeing. The best example is probably the extravagant shopping malls that put most of ours to shame, right down the street from slums where people live in glorified wood sheds.
I changed my approach to photography a bit on this trip. Instead of looking for scenes that made good art, I took more of a photojournalist mindset. I wanted to take pictures in a way that would let me remember what it was like years down the road.
This is my father-in-law’s backyard. As you can see, in his neighborhood, not all houses were created equal. If you look closely near the center of the photo, you might be able to see the single pole with electrical wires spreading from it in a spiderweb tangle. It would definitely fail US code!
The building with the triple roof on the left is a neighborhood mosque. Indonesia is nearly 90% Muslim. Every morning at around 4 A.M. we heard the call to prayer wailing over the loudspeaker you can see on the building. Calls to prayer from other mosques spread slowly all around us throughout the city until we were surrounded by the unreal cacophony of wailing loudspeakers.
I was surprised to actually find car dealerships in the mall. I know we have cars on display in malls in the US, but I’m talking a full Mercedes line-up with a sales crew! I guess space is at a premium in Jakarta because the new malls are being built up higher in levels.
I couldn’t get all the levels in the above shot. Seven levels, plus two more for the underground parking.
I had the Samsung NX100 mirrorless camera with an APS-C sized sensor for about a year. I really liked the image quality and small size, but the white balance was very inconsistent – sometimes spot on, sometimes horrible. This shot (above) took a lot of correcting (probably all the different kinds of lights) and it still doesn’t look that great.
This photo looks straight down on the seemingly random architecture. Notice the escalators running at different angles and the glass railings with different curves on every floor.
The malls, evidently are where the more wealthy hang out. It seems to be the major pastime.
This is a real boat, connected to a restaurant, six stories up in Pacific Place Mall in Jakarta. I was so amazed the first time I saw it that I made sure to get a photo the second time I visited Jakarta.
This is the traffic circle and fountain outside the Grand Indonesia mall. It made an appearance in the 1982 Mel Gibson movie, “A Year of Living Dangerously”. It’s probably one of the better known landmarks.
Traffic was another thing that absolutely floored me. Having lived near Los Angeles for three years, I thought I had seen the craziest driving and the heaviest pollution. Wrong on both accounts.
Motorcycles are smaller in Jakarta than most in the US, but the riders seem to think they are invincible. They dodge between cars through the tinniest openings. I’d say they make up about 70% of the traffic in the city. Once two motorcycles tried to squeeze between us and the car in the next lane at a traffic signal. When our driver took off, the cycle closest to us got his handle bar caught on our rear view mirror. He was yelling as our driver stepped on the gas, dragging him a few feet before he broke loose. Our driver never even glanced at him. It was almost like, “If you’re stupid enough to get your handle bar in my mirror, then you’re coming with me!”
Our vehicle was about the size of the gold Toyota ahead, but you can see that we have to follow that motorcyclist with the black jacket. Pretty tight. The streets developed during Dutch occupation are wide and organized. Everywhere else seems random in design and planning, and sometimes as narrow as our bicycle trails! If you look closely, you can see the motorcyclist in the yellow shirt peeking around from behind the car ahead. He is trying to decide if he should gamble zipping around before we pass. He made it by a hair.
Once again notice that we have to pass between the dark blue parked car and the silver Honda. And notice the motorcyclists risking head-on collisions with us, the orange bajaj, and each other, to get around us and the the other car. All that blue smoke is from the 2-cycle engine exhaust of the orange bajaj. I was amazed that one of the smallest motors on the road could put out the most smoke!
This photo was taken up in the hills above Bandung. Bandung streets are similar to the ones in Jakarta and I wouldn’t bore you with more photos of them. This town is actually Lembang. Jakarta has stifling humidity and it’s 94 or 95 degrees fahrenheit all year long. The combination of heat, humidity, and pollution was tough to take. But up here, about 4000 feet above sea level, the air was cooler and the pollution almost non-existant. I was only there for a day, but I’d say it was the most perfect weather I have ever been in. I’ve been in weather like that in the US, but it doesn’t usually last long. Too far north of the equator.
Lembang has a lot of agriculture, with it’s year-round growing season. Even the hilly parts are cultivated.
An outdoor restaurant near Lembang. This central path leads down the middle of the small valley, with trails branching off to individual covered platforms with tables and benches for eating. The atmosphere is like you’re eating fine cuisine in a jungle hut. (see below)
Well, I guess that’s all for now. In my next post, I’ll put up some photos from our weekend trip to Singapore. It’s only about a 1.5 hour flight from Jakarta. Just a hop, compared to the 18 hours of flying to get back to Seattle.