Jakarta in Deep Slumber

By Cindy Julia Tobing
13th May 2020
In the face of a pandemic, the emptiness that engulfs the capital is as haunting as it is reflective. Taken from inside a car to follow safety protocol, these photos show that while it seems like the world has stopped for many, there are still others who seemingly have no choice but to keep the hustle going outside their homes.

One of the world’s most congested city looks eerily foreign to the eyes of many. Since the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) took effect in April, the absence of bumper-to-bumper traffic and commuters crowding the streets have become a prominent everyday sight in Jakarta. 

These scenes, usually familiar around Lebaran holidays, have been ongoing for longer this year. With the looming pandemic as the culprit, a metropolis engulfed in emptiness carries a different spell. 

Just two months ago, places like the lifestyle hub, M Bloc Space, or tourist quarters like Kota Tua, still teemed with goers. The latter, who’s always had its share of crowds, is cordoned off as a preventive measure. While M Bloc Space, whose crowds skyrocketed since its opening last October, looks almost lifeless.

Similarly, empty pushcarts can be seen parked along the stretch of Pasar Tanah Abang, while a string of taxis in front of Plaza Senayan appears to be unattended. With few cars and ojol drivers (e-hailing drivers) passing here and there, the always-packed Sudirman and Thamrin main roads also look eerily vacant. A sprawling metropolis at a standstill.

In parts of the city, however, some places are still bustling with a brigade of street food joints. At the Kebon Kacang street, nestled between Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia, food hawkers are still very much operating their trade; at night, few commuters can be seen breaking their fast there while some might just turn in for a quick dinner. One or two pushcarts selling street snacks ‘set up camp’ in front of landmarks such as Lapangan Banteng, while a group of pick-up drivers can be spotted huddling while resting on their motorbikes.

On the surface, it seems like a lot of things have changed with people staying at home. Some sceneries, however, showed the opposite – a further testament that for some people, regulations don’t carry the same weight when one’s livelihood is at threat. And in the face of a pandemic, these two different realities have never looked clearer.

Photographs of today’s Jakarta may have visualised the more obvious impact of lockdown measures in response to COVID-19, but they could also raise questions about what the pandemic reveals about society. 


Following safety protocol, these photos are all taken from inside a car.