Jogja/Maliboro

After spending a few days in Borobudur and Prambanan, we’ve moved to the Maliboro district in the heart of Yogyakarta (Jogja) proper. We’re here to eat food, rest a bit, and people watch. And on a street lined with multi-story malls housing American fast food brands, traditional batik clothing outlets, and pop-up vendors cramming the streets with cheap souvenirs and delicious food, we couldn’t ask for better. Maliboro is an artery for the city’s commuters that thickens to a crawl during rush hour. It’s also where the newly affluent middle class comes to shop, where a panoply of shopkeepers flood onto the streets to sell their wares, where everyone mixes and mingles. There’s always something to see.

Stoytcho and I roam the streets, ducking between people and capturing what we can on a camera with reflexes too slow for life here. On one occasion, I’m staring out into the flow of traffic and watch in awe as a man with a dozen sacks of rice and a crate of fruit on his scooter deftly weaves between cars. I shout to Stoytcho, “WHOA, did you see that?” “No,” Stoytcho replies, “I was distracted by a chainsmoking ten-year-old shopping for a lighter.”

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Two girls play near a monument to Indonesia’s revolutionary heroes, along Jl. Maliboro.
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Men work in a ditch along Maliboro, further complicating the daily rush hour.
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Angklung performers shut down Maliboro as they protest a ban on musical street performances. Their signs read variations of: “We are artists, not vagrants.”
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A performer plays the angklung on Maliboro, in defiance of the street performance ban.
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Women shop for bridal accesories at pop-up shops in one of Maliboro’s malls.
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Our backpacks rest at the Packer Lodge in Yogyakarta.
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Stoytcho rests in the lobby of the Packer Lodge in Yogyakarta.
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Ojeks and cars crawl along Jl. Maliboro in rush hour.
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Two women try to cross the street.
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People gather and walk the street in the evening at Maliboro.
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The late afternoon sun through a sculpture.
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The narrow walking corridor between shop stalls on Maliboro’s west side. Stoytcho towers over everyone here.
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A neon sign for a batik clothing store.
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A man attempts to cross the street with his food cart.
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A scrambled egg fries in a hot wok before rice and seasoning are added to make nasi goreng.
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Light and color in the night: the view from a food stall off Maliboro.

Jakarta: Photos from around

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Night traffic in Jakarta

Jakarta is a sprawling megacity, with 10 million people crammed into an area smaller than New York City. The people here come from a kaleidoscope of cultures and faiths; dozens of Indonesian ethnic groups rub elbows and the majority Muslim community lives alongside communities of Buddhists, Christians, Catholics, and Hindus. It’s business as usual for the thousand year-old seaport, which has seen waves of nearly all the world’s religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity) carried on the tides of trade routes.

Indonesia’s wealth has increased in the past decade, but with it has come rising income inequality that is etched into Jakarta’s cityscape. We’re staying in Glodok, an industrial area near the seaport characterized by corrugated aluminum roofing, wooden market stalls, and open sewers in the streets. But take a bus thirty minutes south and you’ll find yourself in Central Jakarta neighborhoods like Menteng, surrounded by walled mansions and multi-story malls with marble floors pushing the latest luxury brands, where doors are opened for you by bellhops who speak perfectly unaccented English. The economic disparity in the city is jarring—residents of Glodok and Menteng may share a city, but they live in different worlds.

In spite of the wealth gap, nearly everyone we meet in Jakarta is happy to see us. Any smile from us is immediately returned by a passing person. On the bus and around town, people who speak English ask us about our travels and translate our responses for excited relatives. Gaggles of schoolchildren approach you at tourist attractions, tasked by their teachers to interview tourists as English homework, and in nervous giggles ask about your favorite Indonesian food. I’ve never felt more welcome in a country where I don’t speak the language. It’s as if the entire country is excitedly curious about you, reaching out to embrace you in every act.

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Jakarta rush hour seen from Glodok, where five rows of cars fit into four lanes and sometimes the motorbikes skip traffic via the bus lane (right).

 

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The square in front of the Jakarta History Museum in Kota Tua.

 

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Stoytcho tries a hot bowl of wedang ronde, a local sweet snack.

 

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A variety of dishes offered at a padang stall in the Blok M food market.

 

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People watch rainy-day traffic in front of the Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. Across the street is the Jakarta Cathedral; both houses of worship have coexisted on this street for decades.

 

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Two girls, one with a headscarf, walk together in front of the Jakarta History Museum in Kota Tua.

 

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A puppet made for Wayang, the traditional Indonesian shadow puppet theater.

 

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A nasi goreng (fried rice) stall on the street.

 

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The narrow, makeshift market-crammed streets of Chinatown, near Glodok.

 

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Pipes empty into a streetside open sewer in Glodok.

 

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A fountain in the Grand Indonesia Mall.

 

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The National Monument (Monas), commemorating the country’s fight for independence.

 

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A woman and her child in an ojek (motorbike) parking lot.

 

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We take a selfie with Indonesian students that interviewed us for their English class.