The only time of the year when Jakarta is de­serted

Bali & Beyond - - TEAM TALK -

Imag­ine a city with about 10 mil­lion peo­ple and more com­ing to ei­ther work, travel or sim­ply live. Can we call it a gar­gan­tuan city? Maybe we can, since the sprawl­ing city be­comes even larger over time, packed with more peo­ple, ve­hi­cles, apart­ments, of­fices, and so on. The city now even “eats up” its neigh­bor­ing ar­eas, trans­form­ing into an even big­ger ur­ban town with about 30 mil­lion peo­ple. This is Jakarta, a metropoli­tan that is of­ten con­sid­ered to be “never asleep”. How­ever, not many peo­ple know that there is a short time in the year when Jakarta morphs into a sleeping beauty and re­veals its charm and charisma...


Jakarta was once a tiny trad­ing out­post of an in­land Hindu king­dom around the es­tu­ary of Cili­wung River, about 600 years ago. In early 16th AD, the Por­tuguese had an eye on this sleepy ham­let (named Sunda Kalapa at that time) to find a spice trade route in the Malay Ar­chi­pel­ago. They es­tab­lished a strong­hold there, but Fatahillah, on be­half of the Sul­tanate of De­mak, con­quered the Por­tuguese in Sunda Kalapa in 1527. Sunda Kalapa was then re­named to Jayakarta, but in early 17th AD, the Dutch seized the port of Jayakarta and changed its name to Batavia.

Batavia played a very im­por­tant role dur­ing the Dutch col­o­niza­tion as it be­came the ad­min­is­tra­tive and cap­i­tal city of the Dutch East Indies for more than three cen­turies. The Dutch built a mag­nif­i­cent Stad­huis (a big spice ware­house) and canals which can still be seen now in the Old Batavia area – please re­fer to our ‘Cap­i­tal Cor­ner’ of the June 2016 is­sue, ti­tled “His­tor­i­cal Build­ings in the Old Area of Jakarta”.

Ac­cord­ing to Bri­tan­nica in 1910, dur­ing the col­o­niza­tion, the pop­u­la­tion of the city ranged from 100,000-200,000 peo­ple. The num­ber in­creased dra­mat­i­cally to 533,000 peo­ple (based on Forbes, 2004) in the first half of the 20th cen­tury. In 1949, the city was re­named to Djakarta and has ever since be­come the cap­i­tal city of In­done­sia, at­tract­ing econ­omy-driven peo­ple from all over the coun­try, and the world. Hence, it has an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 10 mil­lion peo­ple, mak­ing it the 10th largest city in the world.

How­ever, many peo­ple who work in Jakarta live in the satel­lite cities, which are of­ten called “the sphere”. The term “Greater Jakarta” is also com­monly used to re­fer to these ar­eas which in­clude Bo­gor, De­pok, Tangerang, and Bekasi (Ja­bodetabek). If we com­bine the pop­u­la­tion of Jakarta with its spheres, the pop­u­la­tion reaches a stag­ger­ing fig­ure of about 32 mil­lion peo­ple! Can you imag­ine? No won­der the Greater Jakarta area is among the largest ur­ban ag­glom­er­a­tions on the planet.

The daily traf­fic con­ges­tion is also proof of how big Jakarta is.

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