Indonesia’s contrasting vastness


JAVA Island with its metropolis cities and laid back rural villages is one amongst seven main islands in the Indonesian archipelago.
Its cities of Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya with its superb engineering feats of road infrastructure and well-coordinated transportation systems consisting of highway bypasses and railways rivals any modern cities in Japan, Europe and the United states. And as in all large and booming cities around the world, signs of affluence and poverty co-exist. Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya are no exception.
Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and is where the central seat of government and corporate headquarters are located. Its population rises and ebbs daily. During the day when people living outside of the city come in to work, the number rises to 14 million. When they leave Jakarta for their homes at 4pm the population is reduced to about 10 million people.
Their roads are jammed nonstop with all sorts of vehicles-motorbikes, cars, busses, trucks.  The cities are always abuzz with people involved in various small to medium enterprises. You can eat in the mobile cafes or restaurants. You are sure to bump into a street musician basking by the wayside or street sellers flogging sweets, clothing’s and toys.
In north Jakarta is the suburb of Tanjung Priuk where the main sea port handles shipping containers transiting between cities in West Java, other provinces and overseas.
The waterfront suburb consists of predominantly wharf labourers employed in the stevedoring business. Spinoff enterprises are also abound. Being a lower than average suburb, there is overcrowding in the compact housing complexes, street alleys are narrow, the rivers and lakes are polluted while homeless people live under the bypasses. Residents are suspicious of strangers and during my visit there I was advised against taking photos to avoid unnecessary confrontation.
But the scene was the total opposite in west and south Jakarta. In the sprouting satellite cities of Bumi Serpong Damai (BSD),Bintaro, Depok and Cibubur, rich to middle class people live a completely different lifestyle. Huge shopping malls adorn the streets with all manner of entertainment and activities happening everywhere for everyone, including children. Housing estates are orderly and neatly lined.
These cities were established to discourage people from seeking services in the already-overcrowded city of Jakarta with satellite cities offering the same services and job prospects as the capital.
Java just isn’t all about the city and city life. The bulk of people also live in the rural areas.  For me, coming from a smaller place where hustle and bustle is not the name of the game, the train ride was a huge relief, getting away from the concrete jungle metropolis.
The three hour trip from Jakarta to Bandung in west Java was very refreshing as we meandered through various green landscape and zigzagged through the mountains and valleys. There were dark tunnels and deep, steep gorges with rail way bridges built over them. The marvelous landscape cultivated with vast rice paddocks in the valleys and mountain terraces and farmers working in the fields with water buffaloes were a calming change. We passed through the rural townships of Bekasi, Purwakarta, Padalareng and Cimahi before reaching once again the super metropolis of Bandung, the second largest city after Jakarta.
I was amazed to note that although these were rural places, they were still connected to electricity and telecommunication networks. These rural areas throughout Java are also connected to the cities by all-weather road and railway network.
Life in Bandung is similar to Jakarta but the place is cooler as it rains a lot due to it being closer to the mountains. Apart from its fine metropolitan infrastructures, a variety of fresh, colourful fruits and vegetables markets added a natural touch. Bandung is an industrial city and is famous for its popular clothing products.
From Bandung it was an hour’s plane ride to Surabaya city in east Java (jawa Timur). Surabaya is also a historical city having played a part in determining the freedom from the Dutch colonizers during Indonesia’s revolution in 1945. It is now a bustling modern city and the second largest port city after Tanjung Priuk in north Jakarta. It is the leading industrial city in Indonesia.
While modernization and development brings new and positive changes to every country in the world, it is sad to say that not everybody welcomes them with open arms.

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