countries

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South(east) Asia Indonesia

Jakarta / Beautifully Ugly

inner beauty & authentic travel - less pretty cities well worth the visit

   Well Jakarta, there is no easy way of saying this, but you didn’t make it into my Top 10 Purtiest Cities. 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 (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 what you lack in superficial Paris-beauty, you wear under your skin 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 have character.

To me, your beauty was woven into your seaside decay, the way the elements had their way with you, chipping off layer by layer of your facade to unearth the character under your flesh; and it was woven into the peculiarities of your street life, and, most of all, into your people. The farther I wandered into the outskirts of your heart, the more the walls crumbled, the friendlier the people became, greeting me with 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 have character. And soul. And true Javanese street scenes. Let the tourists find pleasure and their inner selves in Ubud’s yoga retreats and art galleries, let them snorkel the turquoise waters without a worry in the world. They are the ones missing out on the most revealing encounters and lessons of travel: rawness and authenticity, the look behind the facade, where the genuine life and culture of any given country dwells. You are not catering to the slim appetites of hasty tourists who crave easily digestible chunks of beauty, sun and fun. You are serving the ones who truly want to see what life is like elsewhere, in its entirety, complexity and absurdity, beauty and ugliness.