You can tell a lot about a city from riding the public transportation. You can see workers, tourists, commuters, and entertainers all making their way to where ever it is they go. I always get excited about traveling in a new public transit system because I get to see so many different kinds of people at once. I was awed by Portland’s commitment to bike racks inside the rail system. In NYC you see so many entertainers from Shakespeare actors to Mariachi bands. I’ve even seen Fred Armisen coming out of the subway at Rockafeller Center. Celebrities still use the subway, I mean that’s pretty classy.

I first fell in love with public transportation in Orlando Florida. I spent hours usually nestled up against (hopefully) a window seat reading, doing homework, avoiding eye contact, and even sometimes doing cross stitching projects. In New York I filled up two spiral notebooks in my first 8 months from writing, read, and again avoided eye contact. This time it was much harder because the seating was facing each other.

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at?

In a lot of large metropolises, it is not only cheaper, but faster to take public transit. This is absolutely true for Jakarta. If you can get there by bus, do so. Buses have their own lane which is outlined either with thick paint, or more commonly you’ll find thick raised bricks that discourage drivers from illegally cruising onto the bus lanes.

So why not take a taxi or hire a driver for your personal needs? Jakarta’s traffic is horrible. Almost every expat blog I’ve read about Jakarta can agree on that. If you’re in a taxi, or in the backseat of your hired personal driver’s car, you can expect to cruise around for hours on end until you’ve made the backseat your new man cave dwelling. Despite all time spent going no where, especially during rush hour, Jakarta people on the bus don’t seem to get fussy or upset. Force the bus to move only 50 feet in 30 minutes and people will continue to look as pleasant as taking tea time in the parlor.

There are many public transit buses, but the only reputable one where you’re at least less likely to encounter a group of pickpockets is on the TransJakarta lines. I’m told the pickpockets work in groups of three or four. It puzzled me when I first came onto the bus, because here they have a “Women Only” section in the front of the bus. I’m a little torn on the system. On the one hand I’d like equality. I would like to believe we can all get along. On the other I’m really grateful for an area where I don’t have to worry about men taking advantage of bumps and turns to inappropriately push up against me. I’ve had it happen, I’ve read about it happening, I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos of sexual assault and as a female it’s really uncomfortable having to constantly be on your guard for the next weirdo alert.

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“Ruangan Khusus Wanita” or “Women’s Section” It’s so empty! I can sit anywhere!

Both buses and trains have this seating system. I personally find it a bit unfair since the rest of the bus inevitably jams up faster. I’ll admit though, I usually take advantage of the system by grabbing a seat or at least some open floor space leaving behind the squished masses, and inevitably my husband, to fend for themselves.

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People don’t really read, or entertain themselves on the bus here in Jakarta. There are two things to do: Stare into the abyss, and sleep. Talking does happen, but it’s a quiet and reserved kind of talking. This makes for a very boring ride. Perhaps it is boring because of the things we’re not allowed to do on the buses either. This sticker makes it all very clear.

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  • Our max speed must be 50 km/jam (per hour). I have no idea how this is enforced to the passengers.
  • No pitting durians against dogs in a knife fight
  • No smoking
  • No eating or drinking
  • No lifting up women’s dresses

I can’t believe this has to be put on a sticker. If it’s a rule, it means its been broken. Jakarta is so brazen about reducing levels of sexual assault against women they have their own section of the bus and a sticker. Not the gold star kind either. I’m really glad to see this posted, because sexual assault so far in the USA has been a “ride at your own risk” policy. There’s rarely a way to enforce, corroborate, or identify people. At least when someone tries this you can slap away their hand and point to this handy info graphic.

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