Ross offers tips for travelling on Jakarta's buses, and rails against those who view the city's public transportation network as unsafe.
A few weeks ago a short article on the 'dangers' of travelling on Jakarta public transportation appeared in the Jakarta Post. I've mislaid the original because I've been too busy to scribble much but I was so amazed by its tone of paranoia that I vowed to post a comment when I had time.
Buses are still cheap despite the price hikes, and in bad traffic, what advantage is there in paying a fortune to sit simmering in a taxi? Better to pay Rp6000 on a bus and share the groans with somebody sitting beside. Gives you a grand opportunity to widen your circle of friends.
As somebody who uses at least two angkots daily as well as an aircon or regular bus, whichever comes along first, I found the writer's timidity quite astounding. He even went so far as to say we shouldn't let our handphones be seen on a bus or some bounder would take them away from us. This is arrant nonsense.
I use my h/p most of the time to while away my 90 minute commute and so do most of my fellow-passengers. I also flourish my nice new digital camera on board buses and at major bus-stops and terminals including seedy old Blok M, where I snap dare-devil metro-minis and the like. Thus far, I have not had anything stolen at these locations.
Of course it can sometimes happen - an angkot 11 from Bekasi Terminal found me squeezed in with a crowd of copets and their jilbabbed molls, and because I was off guard against the guys, the unsuspected minxes got into my shoulder-bag. But it is absurd to exaggerate the threat. Twice I've lost things to the forces of criminality, out of thousands of journeys. (I don't count my very first-ever metro-mini jaunt, 48 hours after my arrival, when somebody took my glasses out of my jacket pocket - that's part of the learning process.)
The JP writer was correct to say that sensible precautions are in order.
My second round with Bekasi baddies had me yelling out that very word and four of them jumped off sharpish. If people stood up to them, showed some solidarity, the undesirables would soon be on a loser. (White-collar commuters could take a leaf out of the kampung book, where malefactors often fare badly at the hands of the citizenry.)
The author of that article seems to lack any optimism about civic conscience. His (or her) implication is that only Busway services are worth the risk of boarding. Apart from the fact that astute crims will no doubt be operating on the Busway too, that's exactly the sort of fear-mongering that makes us afraid of each other, detracts from the joy of Jakarta. And Jakarta has a lot going for it, not least its people.