A short bus ride, but a world away from central Jakarta is the Benhil section of Jakarta. We chose to stay in a kampung (village) in an effort to get a sense of residential life in this crazy city. And it certainly delivered. In this neighborhood we did not see one single westerner during our visit. It was close enough to the city center that we were able to explore, but far enough away that it seemed like a different world.
The children close to our guesthouse would follow us back to our room, introducing themselves “Hello meeeester, My name is…”. All the while giving us high fives, laughing and grinning. It wasn’t just the kids, either. One day, after spending the day mostly lost, we were trying to get ourselves a street food dinner. The vendor didn’t speak english, but a group of younger people closer did. They ordered for us, and told us how much we owed. I touched on it in Part 1 of Jarkata, but the people here just amazed us.
One of our favorite aspects of staying in the Benhil area was that we had a glimpse into the every day life of the locals.
Since we didn’t really find much to do in central Jakarta, we were very happy to split our time between Benhil and downtown.
Oh, did I mention our guesthouse had a rooftop terrace? I didn’t? Well, let me show you:
Central Jakarta is shiny, new and very polished, with towering skyscrapers and massive fountains, statues and manicured lawns. Benhil was run-down, grungy and dirty, with makeshift roofs and loads of chickens running around. The locals were so friendly that we hardly noticed, and we never felt unsafe even once. I spent more time interacting with people here than I did taking photographs, and that can sometimes be a beautiful thing.
Where we stayed: Evy’s Behil Homestay
Cost: $35 US/night, included a basic room and decent breakfast, as well as free chats with Evy, who is pretty awesome.
Getting there: We chose to hire Evy’s driver from the airport for 250,000IDR (roughly $22). We landed at 11:30pm, and it took over an hour to get through immigration. It was (obviously) very dark out, and the apartment building is not easy to find. On the way out, we took the Damri bus to the airport (located in Terminal 2 in the main bus terminal), which was incredibly easy and affordable (30,000IDR per person for the Damri; 3500IDR per person for the bus to the station).
Tip: For those of you arriving in Jakarta, print out your return ticket itinerary that shows you will be leaving Indonesia. I didn’t know this was a requirement for entry into the country, and the guy at immigration gave me a pretty hard time about it. It was late, the guy mumbled in his heavily accented English behind the glass window, and it was a little frustrating. I kept handing him my phone, where I had pulled up our reservations. In return, he handed me a giant manual stating it needed to be printed. In the end, he let us in with specific instructions to print it out next time.