All Night Long in Jakarta
It's 4 am at Jakarta's Soekarno Hatta International Airport and the red digital numbers simply add to my own personal version of dazed and confused. Any hope of badly needed caffeine have vanished in a mirage experience gone stupidly wrong.
The death march to the gate turned out to be like an episode from the Walking Dead, a beacon of hope was on the horizon. Yes, the Starbucks sign was lit and my pace quickened from a crawl to a flat out run for the latte, but as in all mirages, my entry to the inner sanctum of java was barred by a rolled down metal gate and an ignominious "closed" sign. I did manage in a fit of punch drunk madness to kick the door, in what my own imaginary life was a Van Damme roundhouse. In reality, I actually missed the roller blind and fell over. Man down.
While laying face down on the cool bricks of the airport terminal I was able to relive the past few hours of my journey.
It started with a 2:40 am wake up call, and the sheer panic of one missing sock, which I thankfully later found on the final room check, stuffed into the mini bar. Feeling a bit posh the night before I had upgraded my usual Blue Bird taxi booking into a Silver Bird to ease the savage early morning mind fog.
Riding through the dark streets of Jakarta I silently passed countless multiple versions of the same mini-mart: 7Eleven, Lawson Station, Indomaret and even an all night Starbucks. Bright white lights magnified the customers lining up, and out front these new age social centres had tables full of groups of people in deep animated conversation.
These days, Jakarta's economy remains cranked up 24/7, with the bright lights reflecting a whole new air of confidence – the promise and the buzz. I had been in town to attend the Indonesian Hospitality and Tourism Investment Conference. My own professional experience has mirrored the emerging dragon's trend with Bali, Jakarta and other markets taking up such vast chunks out of our time that it would build Pink Floyd's Wall in a few scant weeks.
Admittedly on the first day of the event, the Jakarta Post ran at headline which caused me to do a double take: "Economic growth loses steam". The story spoke about declining GDP and consumer spending and the real deal killer inflation. As the song goes, EI-EI-O. The tune aptly spells out the warning flags for the country's economy with the oil subsidy issue continuing to be the elephant in the box. No single item on the national agenda has such a sensitive hair-trigger that runs the gamut of the nation's population from top to bottom.
Next, throw in the uncertainly over the election and Indonesia's political direction post-SBY (Susilo Banbang Yudhoyono the current president), who has pulled off something of a Bill Clinton like "walk on water" drive for what is now South East Asia's largest economy. As in life, there are too many questions, and I didn't even make it to the prevailing crisis over inadequate infrastructure.
And yet Indonesia, like Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines are hungry tigers, increasingly becoming high big stake players in the global economy.
Sometimes it takes a journey off Wall Street or those gyrating bourses in London, Tokyo or Sydney to see where the real action is.
Despite risk, it's these countries that hold huge upside and remain Asia's shining stars. Yes, Jakarta's the kind of place that stays up all night long, and whether you are running on adrenaline or caffeine, a mini-mart is never far away.