Why I Will Never Drive in Jakarta

Watch this video from YouTube and you’d understand why I think I will never drive in Jakarta.

How bout a more serious look at it?

Oh don’t get me wrong, I did learned eons ago – with stick nonetheless! Even got myself a driver’s license right after I finished my short driving course without a test or anything – yes people, that’s how we roll here. Money talks! BUT I failed my father’s high standards of defensive safety driving. It’s a long story but let’s just say that out of three kids my father have, only one passed his standard and deemed the one that has became his successor.

So, my driver’s license faced its slow death by hiding in my purse for about 5 years and I never get behind wheels again.

In the States, I don’t drive so yeah that was lame.

Back in Jakarta with these kinds of traffic, no matter how much I wish I can drive, I’m afraid it would end up ugly.

Sitting in the passenger seat alone is enough to make me all worked up seeing how crazy motorbikes are around Jakarta’s traffic. So I’m afraid if I’m driving I’d be so tempted to just run them all over.

In the past couple of weeks since I’m back to work and with my father returning to South Africa, I’ve been riding motorbikes with my youngest brother every morning. He would drop me off and I’d catch a taxi or hitch a ride with one of the guys from work.

As much as I’d like to think that I have a brave soul,  sitting on a motorbike makes me nervous now. Not so much because I worry that my brother is a lousy driver – no he’s very careful and doesn’t do the crazy zigzagging like the other drivers. I’m more nervous about the hundreds – if not millions – motorbikes who doesn’t seem to have brakes at all!

For example, my father’s car was hit by a motorbike so badly a couple of months ago when he tried to turn right into our housing complex while another car is making an exit turn left, so it was a blind spot. Out of the blue wham… a motorbike who never bother to hit the break smashed, ripped the back tire of the car and dent the left front door. In a city like Jakarta, no matter what happened, the car will always get blamed for.  Sucks big time!

My father was OK, the car not so much! Big huge dent on the left door, so big that we had to replace the whole door and got a new tire. The two people in the motorbike? They got minor scratches and ended up asking for money to go to the hospital. Insane? Yes!

Back to my daily rides with Danny – my brother –  I’m just scared he would get pissed and punch some careless driver like he did awhile back when he just started working. I could not possibly make this up. Actually I was laughing my ass off when I heard about what happened.

Someone stupidly cut right in front of him while  he had a blinker to turn left. Granted, the two motorbikes collided – not too bad I guess – but bad enough to make my brother left his motorbike and punch the other driver on the face.

Seriously I hate, hate, hate the traffic here. If there weren’t as many motorbikes as it is today, I would probably love driving around Jakarta.



  1. October 12, 2011 / 6:58 pm

    OK, that’s just painful.

    But first First, I’d ride right up on the curb on those dirt bikes….second, my manliness won’t let me ride a motor scooter.

  2. handwashcold
    October 12, 2011 / 8:21 pm

    omg…I used to take an ojek (motorcycle taxi) to work each day from Slipi to…hm. Can’t remember where I worked. But it was a 15 minute drive on the bike. When I was pregnant, my belly started pushing my driver off the front, so I insisted my husband buy me a bike of my own. There I was, this pregnant bule chick driving herself back and forth to work, sometimes in the rain, sometimes without a jacket (oh, the horror! masuk angin will kill me for sure!). You can imagine how well that went over!

    @ChopperPapa I get the masculinity thing with the bikes & all, but you may as well drive a car in that case! Those little step-throughs & scooters are the only things to weave in and out of traffic. On a proper North American bike? You’d be as stuck in traffic as the Kijang van in front of you.

  3. October 12, 2011 / 10:14 pm

    My sister-in-law’s mom was hospitalized for months after she got hit by a motorbike in Jogjakarta. The biker claimed that the old lady (she’s 60 years old) was to slow crossing the road. Insane. The fact was, she got hit just a step away from the curb. The biker, who was 15 years old, hit a guy pedestrian a week before he hit this lady. The biker didn’t show any remorse, even after he was told the lady’s condition who suffered bleeding in part of her brain. She was left in a hospital untreated while the police trying to locate her family. She was on her way home from church. She suffered memory loss for a year, she needed a personal assistant afterward. Did the biker pitch in, even a dime? Nope.

  4. October 12, 2011 / 10:18 pm

    Seriously, your traffic is insane – it looks like a motorized bike traffic of Japan. On a positive note, I guess it’s hard to smoke and sit in traffic when you’re on a motorbike.

    Thank God your dad wasn’t hurt – probably because he was in a car – that’s the bright side. People ask for money in NY, too. Many drivers don’t have insurance. That’s why I’m with you – I won’t get behind the wheel anymore.

  5. October 13, 2011 / 12:29 am

    Sounds like China – my sister lives there and says people don’t heed the law (why bother to have laws then?). She doesn’t drive there because if someone is hit, even if they rode their bike right in front of you, it’s always the driver’s fault just like in Jakarta. Too dangerous to drive with too much risk!

  6. October 13, 2011 / 11:35 am

    That is insane! There is no way I could drive there, then again, it’s so different around here!

  7. October 14, 2011 / 9:18 pm

    I’m afraid to drive in Jakarta too. I had a car for a little while and drove a little during lebaran (when most of the population of Jakarta leaves for a week or tow but that’s the extent of my bravery. Apart from that, I catch taxis.I’m in Melbourne right now and I have no problems driving. But as you say, Maureen, Jakarta is scarey.

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