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Letter from Jakarta: A City That's All About the Possible, However Impossible It May Be.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Monday, 17th February 2014

One never zips around Jakarta – that is a fact – but I feel as if I have just zipped in and out of the city and in that short time, felt once again the pulse of a city that’s all about the possible, even though it may sometimes feel impossible.

4Hoteliers Image LibraryFor example, immigration was impossible on the Sunday night I arrive. Tip for future  – do not arrive in Jakarta on Sunday night because it’s an off night for staff.
The counters for people like me who do not need visas were closed off to Indonesians only and as such, you had hundreds of passengers crowded around the herring-bone designed counters designated for people who need visas on arrivals.
What a mess. There were no queues. Everyone was jostling each other – for what, I don’t know. Because none of the queues were moving. In front was a big Korean group who didn’t speak Bahasa or English and an officer who clearly didn’t speak Korean except for the word “Psy”.
And so we all sighed and harrumphed in the mess for at least 60 minutes before one officer finally woke up and realized he could actually allow access to the Indonesian-only counters which had 10 officers and no customers. I was nearly trampled over in the stampede to get to these counters.
The plus point – a traveler always has to be positive otherwise what’s the point – is that traffic is good on Sunday nights and despite the rain, I was at my hotel the Pullman Thamrin in 40 minutes. (Photo Credit: Pullman Thamrin,
And that’s travel for you – win some, lose some.
In the Indonesian online travel space, there’ve been some winners but many more losers. My contacts on the ground, who move in VC circles, tell me that the Indonesian start-up scene is slowly maturing – which means you’re seeing a rise to the surface of the more solid models and the withering on the vines of the less solid businesses.
“A lot came up last year when things were very hot, many disappeared and some investors have left the market,” said my contact. “I think this year we will see consolidation and a reckoning in the market. Unlike Singapore, we don't have an environment that supports start-ups,” he added, referring to the various Singapore governmental grants available to support entrepreneurs.
“In Indonesia, you got to make it on your own, and often against the odds.”

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