Indonesian Word Of The Day: “Macet”

So macet means congestion. As in, traffic congestion.

This is an example of typical traffic in Bogor going at full-speed.

I have a feeling macet is going to be a word that we’re going to come across in Bogor quite a bit. Traffic here is a whole different ballgame compared to what we’re used to back in Canada, and the fact that they drive on the left side of the road is just a small part of a completely different vehicular landscape.

First of all, there are no traffic lines anywhere. No lanes. It’s absolute chaos, yet it’s a very organized chaos. Everyone seems to know where they fit in, how much space they have on the road, and where everyone else is. Now, road awareness is a fairly admirable trait in North America, but here in Indonesia, it’s made even more impressive by the fact that people literally zip in and out of traffic seemingly at will. You need to be paying attention at all times, because there is a 100% chance of having a motorcycle squeeze between two cars, finding a space that wasn’t there mere seconds ago, and cut your car off. Some vehicles will be going 30-40km, others 70km/h. All on the same roads. There are no real speed limits (or none that I can see anywhere / none that seem to be enforced), though if you can get going past 70km/hr anywhere, consider yourself lucky. Which brings me to my next fun travel fact…

CONGESTION. It’s everywhere. And with all the motorcycles fighting the cars and mini-buses (“angkots”) for space on the roads at any point around town, it’s unavoidable. There seem to be certain spots where the congestion is worse than others, though: intersections. Traffic seems to flow fairly well, until you see the glimpse of an intersection on the horizon. Traffic lights mean a sure-fire 10 minute wait, at least. And the funniest part is that drivers don’t seem to pay much attention to the lights themselves, they are more focused on the “traffic directors”, people who dress in plain clothes and carry a whistle, forcing cars around. You’d think they were police, but no. Just random plainclothes Indonesians moving traffic in the busiest intersections I’ve ever seen.

There are even people who make a living doing this: they occupy small intersections with no traffic lights, and literally will move in front of traffic, hand in the air signaling for oncoming traffic to stop and let someone through, in exchange for a few thousand rupiah (around $0.20CDN).

I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it sooner or later, and by get the hang of it, I of course mean pay someone who has been driving in this elaborate labyrinth of asphalt and metal his entire life to do it for me.

-B

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