Cruisin’ the kampung


This one’s for the Australians, or anyone suprised by this:


I spent the first night of Idul Fitri, September 30, ‘nongkrong di kamung’, hanging out in the streets of my neighbourhood. I call it my neighbourhood, but it really isn’t mine, I realized, because it was the first time I’d ever actually been in there without the specific purpose of getting somewhere else on the back of an Ojek.

DSC_0144The end of the Muslim holy month was perfectly timed with a recent nostalgia for home. Idul Fitri in Jakarta is what Christmas is for me. Go home, willingly or reluctantly, to the family, eat a lot of food and hang out.

But Jakarta, as always, is a hyper version of anything that happens in Sydney.

For starters, about 90 percent of the population has been fasting from dawn till dusk for the entire month. No food, no water, for the entire day. Also, no complaining about it, no getting angry- it’s against the spirit of the fast. I tried doing this for one day and the beast within awoke at 6pm when I was allowed to eat. Now multiply that intensity by twenty something days. I think you’ll agree a food binge is very much in order.


Christmas carols in Sydney sung piercingly high were swapped for drums thundering through the twists and turns of the neighbourhood alleys. Dozens of littles ones running amok, belonging to one of the houses on the side of the dirt streets. Fairy lights hanging from houses were clearly insufficient- kids- three year olds- chucking firecrackers up in the air and at each other.

In Sydney  the only people who do this are those who travel three hours away to Fishwick, a town famous for selling firecrackers and porn (it’s outlawed in the city).

DSC_0146Indonesians have a tradition- mudik- of travelling back to their home town during Idul Firi. Millions of Jakartans brave the snail-pace highways of Java for days to see their extended families in rural areas.

But as one guy in my kampung put it: “Mudik, dua puluh metre” (Get home in 20 metres).

My entire neighbourhood is a single extended family of Betawis, the original Jakartans, and everybody is somehow related to someone else in the kampung.




Located in a back alley, decidedly not partipating in celebrations.

The adventure continued on the back of a motorbike through the streets of Jakarta- a plan shared by thousands of others, as is the Idul Fitri tradition. I might as well have injected a kilogram of nicotine into my lungs for all the fumes I inhaled, but it was worth it.





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