Jakarta: The way it is now

I spent only barely a day and a night in Jakarta last Friday, but I probably saw more of these than I’ve seen in my entire life: metal detectors, security personnel, bag hand-searches, bomb-detection mirrors (at least that’s what I call them) and bomb-sniffing dogs.

In Bali, as our van approached the hotel driveway, we got stopped in front of barriers, and then I watched with curiosity as at least 4 or 5 security guys stepped around us, stuck that mirror thing under the van and opened the boot to check for bombs.

I thought, it’s ok. It’s Bali and they’ve had bombings, so it’s understandable they’re on alert.

And then I went to Jakarta.

From the way my fancy little taxi was driving round, it seemed like my 5-star hotel had deliberately moved and re-arranged its vehicle entrance so that cars have to drive round and about winding narrow streets and hawker/market-ish areas to get to a “containment” area to be searched and checked before you even see the hotel lobby entrance.

I was further convinced of this the next day when I realize that the daytime vehicle access route to the lobby is different and much more straight-forward than the night-time access route.

Here, I thought I got it all figured out….you know…stick mirror under the car….open the boot, and on we go.

So I was very surprised when I suddenly had 2 guys open both of my passenger doors simultaneously, popped in their heads, peered around me, said something along the lines of “Selamat datang, ibu” and reached in with a scanner type thing to scan the doors. (Me?! Ibu?! Are you kidding?!)

Open-door search at the hotel.

The first time round, I thought one of them was gonna grab my shirt by the collar and yank me out a la movie-kidnapping style. (I know, I love drama.)

And with another line of selamat something ibu (ibu?! really?!), they slammed the doors shut, motioned to the guy holding the drop-barrier down, who released it and let us through.

Phew. We passed!

Little did I know more surprises await.

Where in the effing world do people have to walk through metal detectors to get into a hotel?!


You hand them all your bags, walk through the metal detector. One guy hand searches your shoulder bag, while your luggage is handed to a dog who goes sniff-sniff-sniff.

Jakarta hotel lobby entrance. I have no idea why they’re ALL looking at me…

Note the bomb-dog lying just next to the bomb-dog-guy on the far left, who’s holding the leash.

Later on, when I went to the mall, and talked to Jenny, I realized that it’s now the norm all over Jakarta. The next day, when I went to my meeting in an office building…the same thing all over again. Car search, metal detector, bag search.

Entrance at the mall. That’s Jenny in the dress and her little daughter in pink.

This mall hand-scans your bags while you walk through.

But most places don’t have those little scanners. They rely on hand-searches.

Only that they don’t really do the search.

You just give them your bag, walk through, they give you your bag back.

What if people just put bombs in their backpacks?!

Perhaps, they only search when your bag is especially heavy? Or if you look especially dodgy?

I was carrying a big sports shoulder bag as heavy as shit and filled absolutely to the brim when I walked into my hotel. And because it was so full, the security guy had difficulties opening the zip.

He managed to pry it open by only about 4 inches, and he gave up and handed it back to me.

I guess I don’t look dodgy enough.

When I left this city 11 years ago, there was none of this shit. Us kids roamed in and out of malls at will and on whim. I guess all this is supposed to make us feel safer. Do we really? Are we?


2 thoughts on “Jakarta: The way it is now

  1. shyte, how come my dad never told me this? he’s in and out of jakarta at least once a month!

    ‘Ibu’ DOES sound nasty. it sounds OLD! gawd. no consolation that it just mean’s ma’am now eh?

    anyways. i was expecting to see a photo of u and jenny? Helloooo???

  2. Hmmm….I think people get used to it. And perhaps all those security measures have been in place for years….coz I seem to be the only one who’s even talking about it at all!

    I mean, Tong and Sella goes back from time to time right? They never mentioned this!

    Yeah, “ibu” sounds absolutely SHIT. It’s ALWAYS ibu-this and ibu-that!!! One reason not to go back to Indoland. hahahah….

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