Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Karma Beer

When it comes to getting around Jakarta, public transport is the only option for many. For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to afford taxis or who actually own a vehicle, the idea of using public transport is foreign. Admittedly, I rarely use it as it tends to be hot and slow. I sometimes take a mini bus that takes me directly to a plaza near my home. Otherwise, the logistics and headache make me not want to bother.

Yesterday, I decided to visit the northern regions of Jakarta. I planned on taking the transjakarta busway there (and even planned my route online) but changed my mind due to the rain. After the rain did not cease for hours, I gave in and called a taxi. The ride did not take that long and only cost (toll road fees included) Rp. 70 000 (around $8). Bear in mind that that is a somewhat expensive taxi ride by Jakarta standards. After spending some time at Emporium Mall in Pluit (went all the way to North Jakarta to hang out in yet another mall, I made my way to Mangga Dua Square to the tune of Rp. 35 000 ($4) in a taxi.

Once finished in there, I decided it was time to make the inevitable journey home. I started doing the math in my head and realized that, with toll fees and a tip, it was going to cost me Rp 120 000 ($13) to get home. This is an obscene amount to pay for a taxi. A fare of this magnitude is usually reserved for trips to the airport or an out of town excursion. That amount of money is a nice dinner and a couple of beers at a pub in Jakarta.

Since I was in no rush and it was past 8 p.m. (traffic subsides at night), I decided to give public transit a try. Step 1 was figuring out where/how I would get home. The first mini bus I saw outside was destined for Kota station, the first stop on the transjakarta busway 1st corridor. Sorted! I hopped on and had an interesting 15 minute ride to Kota station. This leg cost me a grand total of Rp. 2 000 (25 cents). From there, it was a short walk to the busway entrance where I bought a ticket for Rp. 3 500 (40 cents) and almost immediately got on an empty bus.

The great thing about corridor 1 of the busway is that it has it's own exclusive lane that cuts right through one of the busiest areas of the city. It also covers a great amount of road as it only took me 25 minutes to get from beginning to end of the route. The last stop is Blok M terminal, which is the transit hub (among other things) of South Jakarta.

Once finished in there, I had to decide what to do next. Blok M terminal is filled with buses that go to every place you can imagine. There are buses that go near my house but not directly to it. The other problem is that some buses sit in the terminal for up to 30 minutes while you sit and wait. Feeling that I did not want to deal with this headache, I opted for an ojek (motorbike taxi). Before boarding an ojek, one must negotiate the price. After some haggling, I agreed on Rp. 25 000 ($2.75). Had I been more persistent, I could have gotten down to Rp. 20 000 ($2.25) but the driver had an entertaining quality and I didn't feel like persisting.

10 minutes later and Rp. 25 000 in the driver's hand, I was home. The whole trip took me around 1 hour and 15 minutes and cost me a mere Rp. 30 500 ($3.40) which meant that I had saved around Rp. 90 000 ( $10). Admittedly, the trip did take me an extra 30 minutes or so but it was well worth it. I don't know if I would want to repeat this trip in the daytime as the heat and traffic factors would come into play. This whole ordeal has made me somewhat change my opinion of public transit. As for the $10 I saved, that money is going directly towards what I like to call "karma beer" which will go directly into my new bar fridge.

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