A Jakarta Traffic Horror Story.

Last night the traffic was completely insane, a normal trip of 1-1.5 hours turned into a 6 hour door to door trip (~4.5 hours of driving). This was with a pregnant woman and 3 children aged 10 and under after a full day at Seaworld, Ancol. So North Jakarta to South Jakarta via East Jakarta.

It was stop, start all the way, I was hoping getting onto the toll would improve things. It didn’t. This is traffic so bad that enterprising folk walk up and down the road between cars selling water and snacks. (And usually walk faster than the gridlocked cars).

A few hours later when the petrol gauge warning light came on, things where not looking good. No petrol stations on these city tolls either.

My wife is 7 months pregnant, an interesting fact about pregnancy is that the bladder becomes squashed to about 1/4 of the usual size. So petrol gauge flashing, kids screaming and wife in pain we exit the toll and brave the gridlock below. It was dark, it was rainy. There was no stations, nor even a tiny convenience store (which would have a toilet in it. Somehow we managed to get back onto an on ramp for another toll. Some gentle reminding of the driver that being on the correct route home was slightly secondary to our need of a toilet stop and petrol ensured before we found a U turn and traveled in delightful traffic free speed the feeling only slightly marred by the fact that it was in the wrong direction.

We saw a large hotel (Park Hotel). A god send, over a concrete divider, into a bank carpark, and a rush to use their bathrooms and have a food and drink break. The singer in the cafe/lounge was horrendous, or perhaps she was merely slightly bad but my tolerance level was much lower.

Imagine my wife’s delighted surprise when the bill arrived and it was approx $50 for a few snacks and a few (non-alcoholic) drinks.

After almost an hour’s break you’d think the traffic at 10pm would be improved? You’d be wrong. Well, actually driving in the wrong direction it was still pretty good, so we drove on and found a petrol station. Next problem solved. Then drove a bit further and found another U-turn and … Stopped. Back into it. Sigh. But at least we were refreshed and empty bladders. After perhaps 30 minutes of it my son noticed a hotel across the road and said “Dad, wasn’t that the hotel we stopped at before?”.

Yep, it was, we are still not at the toll exit we originally took! (Not that any of them are a great distance from each other).

And then, as miraculously as the traffic appeared it seemed to clear, an underpass that had been completed blocked earlier was almost clear, we didn’t say anything for fear of causing it to get worse in a karmic fashion but we managed to get up to 60 and even 80km/hr.

Another hour and we got home uneventfully.

Finally walked in our door after dropping of my mate’s daughter who’d been with us first, at 11.30pm.

Lessons to be learned;

1. The traffic gets 10x worse whenever it rains in Jakarta.

2. Peak hour really is worse. (We left at 5.45pm thinking that traffic would be heavy, but if we had dinner first and then left later traffic would still be bad.

3. Jakarta traffic is just unpredictable, best to avoid travel if one can help it. And always leave early. And always have water, food, toys, books, games, DVDs and pillows in the car.

I’m sure there’s some other horror stories out there, but anything worse than that?

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About Pak Liam

Living, teaching and traveling in Asia.
This entry was posted in Indonesia, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Jakarta Traffic Horror Story.

  1. Ana Gaby says:

    Ohh no! What a horrible exprience. I can totally feel your wife’s pain. I had a bad Jakarta day, too. We got to CGK after a blissful weekend in Bali. Two hours in we are still waiting for our luggage which was displaced and had been waiting for us in a different baggage claim. Stuck in traffic for about 2 hours on our way home. Decided to walk the last km or so just to stretch our legs and almost got run over by motorcycles using the sidewalk. I was not happy.

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