What lies beneath the highway


A road built at your convenience

There are cases when highways are laid out at the expense of existing frail connections of particular areas. Prof. Dr. Ir. Sedyatmo toll road which connects Jakarta and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, for instance, separated the vast and living space in Cengkareng. The solution was building crossing bridges available to transport people and goods on motorcycles.

A similar case is the highway that connects Jakarta with Bandung. Commerce in Bandung took a great benefit from the direct access to the capital, in which travel can now be made possible in just two hours.

But some sections of the highway had to cross exisitng villages, splitting them into two sides. Due to the characteristics of an area—size, interaction, and movement—seeking generic solution of building bridges does not necessarily replace accessibility like it used to be.

A man heads home by trespassing the toll road on foot, a dangerous habit to his daily commute.

But interestingly, people always have the ability to adapt with changes in their living spaces. Such a land-conquest merit in the modern context is clearly shown in the way people make access to move around, finding means to support their homes, trade goods and services, and so on.

In Kapuk, one of the areas that constitute Cengkareng district, North Jakarta, a long section of highway crossed by without an off-ramp. This backyard of Kapuk can be described as the deserted area by the river where housing is unorganised, wild plants grew naturally, and access to anywhere cut-off.

And the surrounding people at the dead-end part of the village managed to create a way of their own, a reliable dirt road passing under the highway, capable of getting them on bikes to main avenues at the west. This is one of the few open and unmapped networks in Jakarta.

Talking about the integration of city transportation modes, one can find an extraordinary case in the backyard of Kapuk that will let many engineers dumbfounded. This is an example of an actually functioning and time-tested integration of land and water transportation means. The less than 100 meters length of dirt road will end up at a riverside.

A man in his usual working day offers river-crossing service by boat where two ends of the rope are tied on the two sides of the river. Crossing from one side to another is made possible by relying on manual labor.


An alternate road that cuts the distance to and from the poor and heavily populated area of Kapuk.
An alternate road that cuts the distance to and from the poor and heavily populated area of Kapuk.


A small passage under the highway.
A small passage under the highway.

Morning cruise in the Strait of Malacca

V4 Nov 2013The morning sea view from the highest deck of Italian mega ship Costa Atlantica cruising the Strait of Malacca graced the cover of the fourth international edition of think archipelago magazine, November 2014. Here are several photographs on board of the ship that was not found in the article Night at the cruise ship. Now we publish it online for the first time.

Costa Atlantica viewing deck

Costa Atlantica viewing deck

Costa Atlantica stern deck

Sunrise in Malacca Strait

Costa Atlantica cruise upper deck

Costa Atlantica cruise upper deck

Night at the cruise ship

Costa Atlantica deck at night

Costa Atlantica deck's bar
Recently boarded passengers chat at one of the deck’s bars.

A few men isolated themselves on the deck of Costa Atlantica from over 2,500 passengers, most of which have just boarded the ship two hours prior to departure.

A small group remained stuck in the crammed lobby to get through time-consuming but necessary boarding arrangements. Most others had started discovering every interior part of the lavishly decorated ships.

Many stayed in their rooms to get a break from the mass tourist.

On the deck, the gathering place at the top level of the ship where only very few people have had the thought to look at, the peace in vacation was found.

Minutes of departure

Under the dark sky and facing dark seas, people did not notice that the ship had just departed the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore. The main engine was hardly heard or felt. Their conversation was louder than the sound of waves.

Costa Atlantica viewing deck at night
Work hour: A crew member walks past the panorama deck as the ship begins the 5-day itineraries across three Southeast Asian countries.

Costa Atlantica picked Singapore as the port of origin in one of its cruise line maiden journeys in Southeast Asia.

In the late evening that does not differ much in temperature than in daylight, it set sail to two cities along the Strait of Malacca—the city of Malacca, Penang—and ended its journey in Phuket Island.

The visit to three ports and return trip southward to Singapore took five days to complete. The Strait of Malacca was barely challenging, as calm waters and windless days remained so for the entire vacation on board.

Crew members were on duty the entire day and they made up around a third of the total number of passengers.

Costa Atlantica lobby
Cruise staff seemed leisuring in the glitzy lobby. “Cruising in Italian Style” makes them able to mix professional on-duty hours with relaxing attitude.

Money spenders of Asia

Due to the economic slowdown in the western continents, cruise business activities have shifted to the east. People in the region with curiosity for the experience and cash are more than willing to fill the vacant rooms.

Thus, Costa Cruises Group operate their Asian cruise lines from Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal. They become the pioneer in international cruise lines making Asia as homeport.

People in the region now can take a cruise vacation without having to fly to European ports beforehand.

Nonetheless, this is still a luxury vacation, yet at a relatively affordable rate considering the cost the Asian riches had to pay to get such a holiday at the time when cruise lines operations were concentrated in far-flung regions.

Costa Atlantica at the Strait of Malacca
New business frontier: Costa Atlantica sails off the Strait of Malacca.

The ship looked empty on day as most passengers disembarked to quick visits at one of the ports of destination along the Strait of Malacca.

Cruise journeys benefit the coastal cities situated along the course. Money spenders of Asia make the tourism and hospitality businesses all the more promising.

Budget flights and hotels gain a strong foothold in Asia. The ship garners some success in its new venture in Asian territories due to the operator’s ability to align themselves with Asian behavior in terms of meticulousness in leisure spending.

Tiziano Restaurant of Costa Atlantica
Dining at Tiziano Restaurant of Costa Atlantica

Cruise dining

At one section of the cruise, Tiziano Restaurant offers not only fine dining experience and exquisite interior lightings, but also a pleasant surprise by the well-clad waitresses who show a love of Italian rhythm and melodies.

More than just a gastronomic indulgence, Italian culinary feast on an Italian cruise is a mixture of delightful taste and vacation life style. This is a culture that celebrates every bite of food, every musical note, and each colorful moment in life.

To see more photographs of Costa Atlantica, go to Morning cruise in the strait of Malacca.

Cinema la strada

V4 Nov 2013Cinema la strada was the cover story of the fourth edition of think archipelago magazine, released in November 2013. It depicted the daily accounts of many activities by the people who make ends meet in Jatinegara, one of the earliest markets in Jakarta built more than a century ago. The photoessay was deliberately taken at dusk to present a different perspective.


A number of people find shelter from a hot afternoon in front of the train station exit door, which have been locked permanently. For various reasons, the difficulty to find formal jobs causes people to be seen on the streets without much things to do. This is commonplace in the city’s public places.

A street vendor reclines on a sidewalk near train station in Jatinegara, South Jakarta. He displayed a few pair of footwears on a tarp. With a very small number of commodity to sell in a day, he can move and sit around in most parts of the city without any hassle.

But it is not so difficult to guess how small he could earn in one common day. At dusk, A man waits for a bus ride as he watches the traffic from the crossing bridge across the train station.

Depending on the severity of the traffic, a wait like this can last for hours. Making the bad to worse, the city’s public transportation is underfunded and in short supply. Waiting  can be very exasperating, something that is commonly felt in Jakarta.

Motorcycle taxi drivers at Jatinegara, East Jakarta, helplessly waited for passengers at the railroad crossing gate. One of them, stepping down from his parked motorcycle, enthusiastically amused a photographer he saw wandering around Jatinegara train station.

Not far from there, throwing his back against the wall that separates railroad and pedestrian precinct was a street vendor selling as many shoes as he could carry in his bag.

Some meters away, in the same realm of misfortunes, but just slightly better, a man stood in front of his street kiosk. He slipped his hand into a pocket and pulled out a handful of cash he earned that day. Meanwhile a busker passed by fast as he stood at the front door of a bus. He was looking at what was ahead of him.

Stopping ahead of the bus was a man on his motorcycle, lighting a cigarette when the day had fallen to dusk. At the other side of congested street, a tailor refused to finish his usual day amid the noise and dust. He kept on operating his small sewing machine. An order like this kept him survive another day filled with heavy pollution.

On a row of shophouses in the vicinity, the overcrowded sidewalk had gradually become empty as commercial activity closed. An old man with his black glasses walked past the closed doors alone at dusk.


The window of words

logo-saliharaThis article, featured in think archipelago magazine V4 Nov 2013, showed Komunitas Salihara hosting the Literature Biennale from 20 September to 27 September 2013, with a major theme Literature Circus. It is a tradition held by the renowned cultural center in East Jakarta since 2001 that we hope to continue in 2015. Poet Joko Pinurbo read one of his works from 2010, Jendela.

Jendela (Window) by Joko Pinurbo at a poetry reading in 2013 Literature Biennale, Teater Salihara, Jakarta.
Jendela (Window) by Joko Pinurbo
at a poetry reading in 2013 Literature Biennale,
Teater Salihara, Jakarta.

Di jendela tercinta ia duduk-dudukbersama anaknya yang sedang beranjak dewasa.

Mereka ayun-ayunkan kaki, berbincang, bernyanyidan setiap mereka ayunkan kaki tubuh kenangan serasa bergoyang ke kanan ke kiri.

Mereka memandang takjub ke seberang,
melihat bulan menggelinding di gigir tebing,
meluncur ke jeram sungai yang dalam, byuuurrr….
Sesaat mereka membisu.
Gigil malam mencengkeram bahu.
“Rasanya pernah kudengar suara byuurrr
dalam tidurmu yang pasrah, Bu.”
“Pasti hatimulah yang tercebur ke jeram hatiku,”
timpal si ibu sembari memungut sehelai angin
yang terselip leher baju.

Di rumah itu mereka tinggal berdua.
Bertiga dengan waktu. Berempat dengan buku.
Berlima dengan televisi. Bersendiri dengan puisi.
“Suatu hari aku dan Ibu pasti tak bisa lagi bersama.”
“Tapi kita tak akan pernah berpisah, bukan?
Kita adalah cinta yang berjihad melawan trauma.”
Selepas tengah malam mereka pulang ke ranjang
dan membiarkan jendela tetap terbuka.
Siapa tahu bulan akan melompat ke dalam,
menerangi tidur mereka yang bersahaja
seperti doa yang tak banyak meminta.

Joko Pinurbo

The crowd returned in 2013 Literature Biennale since it was last held at the same place two years earlier. This time, the much-anticipated poetry reading featured Joko Pinurbo among many other poets.

But it was obvious that Jokpin was the magnate power in bringing the youngs and olds due to the carefully –chosen words and efficiently-constructed verses of his poems. Jendela (Window) was notably the most compelling poem he read that evening.

The poet who half-jokingly claimed to always be nervous on stage filled his voice into the silence of 10 P.M. The audience, on the contrary, kept up high enthusiasm despite the cold air that surrounded them inside the 300-seat auditorium.

As now one of the most-sought poets in Indonesia, his presence boost the popularity of the literary festival in Jakarta.

Yes, we can

taman menteng

There is not much left anymore for the naysayers to say anything pessimistic about parks in Jakarta. Despite the common negation that parks will never take more than 10% of the city’s 740 square kilometers size, and that the goal to eventually make it 30% a pipe dream, expansion of green areas in Jakarta runs at an impressive rate.

The consistency of Jakarta’s new administration has paved the way for the creation of new parks in Pluit and Pulogadung, which used to be dingy backyards on two of the city’s neglected reservoirs. Currently the energy is centered on revitalisation of green spaces.

Menteng Park in Central Jakarta facilitates playing ground and sports courts.
Menteng Park in Central Jakarta facilitates playing ground and sports courts.

Feel alive!

Regardless the recent revival campaign involving several blocks and other overlooked backyards, there was a success story that came from the initiative of the previous administration.

Menteng Park was built to replace the emptied football stadium and completed five years ago at one of the prime districts in Central Jakarta. When it was opened, very few people frequented the park. But five years later, the park got regular visitors each day and peaked in the afternoon.

Lots of small communities of young people based their activities here, from jumping stilts to Star Wars movie fans wielding their lightsabers at night. The park is alive with sports and drama rehearsals.

O pen field in Menteng Park is used to various p ublic activities, from Capoeira training and w edding photo session.
O pen field in Menteng Park is used to various p ublic activities, from Capoeira training and pre-wedding photo session.

Extreme solution!

Not so long ago, every discussion to maintain green areas will end with sighs, let alone the dream of creating new ones. Now once again people dare to exchange thoughts.

Misused open spaces for mobile stalls, parking lots, or even illegal housings, like in river banks, has become extreme situations that require extreme solution.

The introduction of strict measures to put the city of over 10 million population in order indicate that the current top ranks in the municipality dares to walk the talk.

taman menteng

See more pictures of Menteng in think!archipelago Flickr account.

Steve’s hard nights work

Steve Aoki
Steve Aoki in Go Global: Global Gathering On Tour 2015, Kuningan City Ballroom, Jakarta.

Begin playing underground music in a student apartment some ten years ago, the American DJ Steve Aoki has enjoyed international stardom since three years ago, following his debut solo album in 2012.

Now his show ticket fetches at least USD50, the price his fans paid in his latest visit to Jakarta early this year. He has come more frequently to the faraway country like Indonesia, implying that the globalization has had a direct impact to someone’s fame from the other end of the world.

In particular, an electro house music DJ who has won grammy award such as him, was met with ecstatic audience, even though in a smaller crowd compared to the giant scale concerts in Japan, Brazil, or the latest one in hometown Miami.

After many years of relentless hard work, Steve undoubtedly set the standard in DJ profession to a new level.

Besides from the massive crowd in global concerts, it is the consistency in preserving the stage uniqueness that actually sets him apart from countless others whose instant presence (and equally instant dissapearance) are commonplace in the modern music era.

Cake tossing, champagne spraying (mouth-burst included), foul-mouthed remarks, that blue inflatable raft, and his acrobatic stunts are indispensable in Steve Aoki’s music performance, regardless the consequences.

The physical injury following trampoline fail in Puerto Rico, for instance, did not deter him from doing another risky stunt in Jakarta, when he jumped off two storeys high to the raft on top of the crowd.

The damage in his vocal cord due to years of on-stage screaming did not pull him out of today’s scheduled Colourfest 2015 in Glasgow.

And at the core issue, the criticism he faces regarding the negative opinions towards house music and the questionable skill of the USB-sticking DJs never make him falter. He loves the crowd’s enthusiasm. He knows all too well the value that made them so.

Just as Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel pointed out, there will be no Bill Gates and Microsoft, or Sergey Brin-Larry Page and Google, other than the cunning imitators.

That said, there will be no other Steve Aoki in the future. Since the effort to become a wannabe is futile, new aspiring profiles in the same industry, especially local talents, should focus on innovation.

Steve Aoki