The bustling metropolis of Jakarta is the cultural, political, and financial epicenter of the 17,000 island nation. Not unlike other mega cities in South/South East Asia, the streets are filled with honking cars, autos, and busses filled with passengers. However, there is one major difference in Jakarta. The organized chaos of the streets in Jakarta is filled with smiling faces. In Jakarta, people smile through the situations that would leave most people throwing their hands in the air in frustration or giving in to the monotonous drone of every day life.
Life can be difficult in a low-income nation made of 17,000 islands, 300 languages, and 264 million people. On a tour through the city, I found myself in a bustling micro community on the waterfront that was entirely dependent upon one industry: dried fish.
The smell in the salty fish markets of Jakarta is not as bad as one might think and the view really is something special. The boats of all different sizes, all coated with nearly identical paint jobs, are filled with men relaxing on a break before they return to the bay to fish. The posture of the men has a level of comfort about them that makes clear the majority of their days are spent on these blue and red vessels. Mile long lines of fish at different stages of drones line the roads between the testosterone filled floating village and a community filled with women and children. As the repetitive noise of boat bell clanging softened, the sound of laughing children grew louder. Within minutes, I realized I was walking past the homes of the families of the men that operate one of Indonesia's most vital working economies.
The countries of the world are filled with markets from Greece to Indonesia. No tour of Jakarta would be complete without a visit to Glodok - North Jakarta's Chinatown market. The winding paths of the wet market take you past some of the most diverse communities of people. From the families shopping in the early morning for the groceries for their meals, to the embassy workers who's offices are near by. One thing is for certain, Glodok will wake your senses up! The smells will jarringly evolve from one to the next, from raw chicken to spices, from fruits to seafood. The revving sound of motorbikes is the only sign that you are standing directly in someones way. The changing colors wash over the sea of early morning risers who have come to make their livelihood and shop for their families.
Even in the heart of Glodok (what I consider to be the most chaotic moment of my time in Jakarta), I find smiling faces. Through the chaos, there is optimism radiating from the faces of smiling people. Jakarta is a beautiful hub of culture, food, and color, but more than that; it is the beauty of the people in Jakarta that will have me back before I know it.
Enjoy some of these photos from my time in the epicenter of Indonesia