The last time I was in Jakarta was in 2005. Most people told me that Jakarta was just like Manila. I don't know why they say that. Back then, Jakarta was yes not that nice, but was still better than Manila. The first thing that caught me were the trees. There were trees everywhere, even on their highways. I even went to warung areas (shanties) to interview some households, and was surprised that their squatter's areas were clean. Yes, there were houses made of plywood and patched up boards, but it was not as dirty as those we have in Manila.
Two weeks ago, I went back to Jakarta and was able to see more of the city. I was surprised that Jakarta looked even better, more organized, more new buildings, more and more restaurants and even more trees. I was in awe in how much Jakarta has changed in just over 2 years.
I went to most landmarks before, so I tried going at places I haven't been to. One was the Jakarta Cathedral which was in front of one of the largest mosques as well. The cathedral was gothic, very imposing in a Muslim country.
I was supposed to go to the Thousand Islands, but my sister was sick, so we had to cancel that trip. Thousand Islands is a group of just a hundred coral islands just an hour away by boat from Jakarta. The jump off point was in Ancol, a seaside complex similar to our CCP, but with more life and activity. I was actually surprised with Ancol, because it was so huge, and there were a lot of nice resort hotels, boardwalks, a cable car, restaurants and even a beach (which was of course dirty, but people were swimming).
There were cafes and restaurants along a very long stretch. I envied their one cafe, Le Bridge, that was in a curved boardwalk that extended out to sea.
The vibe was cool and there were young people just chilling out. The water was murky but there was no funky smell. A lot of Jakartans were enjoying a stroll during sunset.
I do think the clean up of Roxas Blvd is a good thing, but it was now too bare for me. What should have been done was more of a regulation of establishments, not totally eradicating the activity at Roxas Blvd. San Miguel by the Bay is perhaps our version, but it's all concrete. Ancol looked old though, not that clean, but at least well maintained.
Going back in the city, I explored more of the other thing that made Manila look like Jakarta, the invasion of malls. Malls were everywhere. There were a lot of high end malls like Senayan, Plaza Indonesia, EX, Pacific Place, Pondok Indah Mall and Cilandak Town Square (Citos). There were even more international brands selling in Jakarta.
Finally, the one thing I was frustrated at, the number of very nice looking restaurants. Now, I stayed in South Jakarta, so travelling from the airport to the South at rush hour meant a 2 hour drive. Passing by the streets, I noticed several well-designed restaurants and cafes. It seems that most restaurants really place an eye for design. I got to eat in some of them, and all tasted great.
The ice cream below is one of the best I have tasted. It's from Tamani Cafe. It's milky but not too sweet.
I just wanna single out a restaurant that really shocked me. IZZI Pizza offered 50% discount in all their menu items. Imagine, we ordered a Seafood Cream Penne Pasta, a Four Cheese pizza, a Classico pizza, Caesar salad, and paid only P500. Yes, P500, and I know they used authentic ingredients. See the pictures below. Amazing. That's 5 cups of plain rice at Lago de Oro. Wow.
All in all, Jakarta is not like Manila. This makes me real sad as we are really lagging behind our ASEAN neighbors. Vietnam is on its way. Indonesia keeps getting better. I couldn't stop thinking why we can't advance. It really bothers me to the point that I want to confront GMA and ask her sincerely WHY. And I'm willing to offer my free services. Of course, it's not that simple. I just don't get it why all our neighbors can do it, and we can't. Final word? Plant trees. Plant them at EDSA.
I just love A&W's Waffle Sundaes. Too bad A&Q closed down in Manila.