Jakarta / Beautifully Ugly
well worth the visit: inner beauty and authentic travel
Well, Jakarta, there is no easy way to say this, but you didn’t make it into my Top 10. Or the Top 50, or the top, or even just the list. But then again, you know that I disdain these lists and that I just made this one up to tease you. You’re alright Jakarta. Sure, you are no Paris, but why would you be, or want to be? I'm sorry if I'm getting under your skin here, but see, that's exactly where I want to be. For yours isn’t a superficial Paris-beauty; yours is an underneath-beauty. And for those who look at you with kinder, more curious, and patient eyes, you wear that prettiness inside out.
"Why pretend that you are easy on the eyes of strangers who are just checking you out, soon off to generic liaisons on Bali? You aren’t Kuta, you don’t wear makeup. You look run down. Your old town has seen much better days. And you don’t smell so nice either. But you got character."
To me, your beauty emerged from your seaside decay, the way the elements had their way with you, chipping off layer by layer of your facade to unearth the soul under your flesh; and it was evident in the funk of your street life, and, most of all, in your people. The farther I drifted towards the outskirts of your heart, the more the walls crumbled, the friendlier the people greeted me, throwing me smiles and laughs and picture poses. And that’s more than enough to make you well worth the visit Jakarta – your culture, your reality, your true self. Why lie? Why pretend that you are easy on the eyes of strangers who are just checking you out, soon off to generic liaisons on Bali? You aren’t Kuta, you don’t wear makeup. You look run down. Your old town has seen much better days. And you don’t smell so nice either. But you got character. And grit. And true Javanese street scenes. Let the tourists find pleasures and inner selves in Ubud’s yoga retreats and art galleries. They are the ones missing out on something a little rawer and realer, a glimpse of life behind the facade. You are not catering to the slim appetites of hasty tourists who munch on sun and fun and whatever is easy to digest. You are serving big portions of what it’s like elsewhere, existence in its entirety, complexity and absurdity, beauty and ugliness.
"We all adore the world’s Venices, Grand Canyons, and Machu Picchus, while few postcards leave the Jakartas. But they are the places that grow on you and stay in you."
We all adore the world’s Venices, Grand Canyons, and Machu Picchus, while few postcards leave the Jakartas. But they are the places that grow on you and stay in you. Like La Paz and Chennai in my case. I wasn’t attracted to them first, but after some days I saw them with different eyes, infatuated, and after some weeks I was in love, and after some months the parting was heartbreaking. Immersion gave me enough time to get to know these charismatic cities and feel their beauty before I could see it. And when I saw it, it was abundant and profound, and our bond was strong beyond looks. As for you and me Jakarta – we didn’t get to spend much time, not enough for me to fall for you. Who knows what could have been? But one thing I do know: you have a new friend in me, if not a future lover.
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