Kuala Lumpur vs Jakarta

My life as a Jakarta-born, KL-bred gal took a hard u-turn at the start of the year when I got kicked out of my home. It was due to circumstance, not by my parents, mind you. 

I was lost, once again.

It was very weird to be sent back to your birthplace after experiencing everything elsewhere for 12 years. Jakarta is one heck of a city that’s always all up in your face, whereas KL is a little calmer and laid back.

After 2 months of observation, here’s what I can conclude:


Jakarta’s public transportation is shit, but it’s growing. 

We’re going to have an MRT & LRT system in the next couple of years, finally! In the meantime, we still have to suffer through unbearable traffic every day at almost every hour. Most times, the city is painted red on Google Maps, especially during rush hour or an upcoming long weekend.

I usually get around with a motorcycle taxi or ojek. Fun fact: even Uber has Uber Motor here. It’s the perfect way to maneuver through traffic and if you like a little wind in your hair. Transjakarta buses have their own lane, but they still get trapped in traffic during rush hour AND you have to fight through clawing passengers trying to get on the bus. 

I’m very proud to say that taxis are far better here than KL. People are still going for GrabCar/Uber, though, because the reputation for taxis has declined, particularly after the riot which broke out last month.

In KL, I don’t drive. Everybody knows me as the public transport advocate.

I used to go to campus by train and bus. The same goes for heading into work because you can. KL wins in terms of public transportation. Plus the highways are actually highways where your max speed limit is at 120, not 80. To illustrate, I have never been in a 2-hour traffic jam for a mere 3 km journey.

Winner: KL for public transport and traffic. -1 for taxis. 


I cannot. keep. up. with. Indonesian. slang.

I mean seriously, who keeps making this up? After 5 months of being in Indonesia, I’m still nodding and laughing as if I understand what they’re saying but really, I don’t. Maybe the gist of it, but not entirely. 

I might be a little biased on this, but I honestly prefer speaking Indonesian than Malay. It’s because Malay sounds so angry!

English is not as widely spoken in the daily language, but it’s definitely growing on the business side of things. Perhaps it has always been like that, but I never knew about it. 

Anyways, I always order my food in Indonesian, just to avoid confusion. People here abbreviate EVERYTHING. Even when it comes to things pertaining to the government and ministries. I mean, come on, that’s legit stuff. It takes some getting used to, that’s for sure.

I honestly miss speaking Malay though. 

My colleagues did say that my Malaysian accent comes out when I talk at times. I’m always so tempted to drop in a ‘doh’ or ‘meh’ in a conversation. 

So far, ‘tau takpe’ has been used frequently. 

When it comes to customer service in banks, hotels, restaurants, and so forth, KL definitely needs to step it up. Every time I go out, there’s always a rude person behind the counter waiting to ruin someone’s day (coughTAYLORScough).

Winner: Jakarta for quirky slang, lazy abbr., and better service. 🙂


I never thought I was a picky eater until I came back. As much as I love Indonesian food, I honestly miss Malaysian food and the expansive array of food selection in KL. 

I think it’s mostly because I don’t know where to get similar food in Jakarta. I still don’t know where to get my Thai food fix, but I’ve found my gyoza heaven, so that’s all good. I’m still hung up on curbing my sweet potato fries addiction because I can’t seem to find any in this city!

However, in Jakarta, food is just about anywhere. Even though KL has a shit ton of mamaks, there’s street food sold in pull-carts in Jakarta for any time of the day. It’s the perfect place for snackers really. 

There’s also a 24 hour ramen place (!!!) and Starbucks (the one that was bombed in January lol). Gojek, the motorcycle taxi app, also offers food delivery services. On top of that, it includes grocery shopping, spa services, cleaning services – whatever service you need really. It makes life a whole lot easier.

Winner: Oh god, I rather not name a champ.

The scene

Jakartans love to shop. There’s literally a mall for every 1,000 habitants in Jakarta. Shopping is not a casual affair, Jakartans go all out.

I would feel so underdressed if I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Don’t even think about going to a mall with your flip flops, especially Grand Indonesia.

Fun fact: at every building – hotel or mall – you go, they will check your bags before you enter. Sometimes they go through an x-ray machine.

I usually hang out at the South or Central because that’s where most things usually are, especially for work. The coffee culture is booming in the South whereas the North is great for desserts. Central is more for business. It’s where all the government offices, the national monument, and presidential palace is. Don’t ask me about the West/East.

Besides that, I find people are much more tolerant here than KL. 

For instance, I went to Vin+ and there were a group of tudung-clad ladies smoking. No one made a fuss when tudung-clad ladies ate at a restaurant where pork was served and neither did they. No one will ever say no to an 8-year-old kid asking for a stick either.

In KL, well, you know how it is. 

It’s super shocking to find a headscarved girl walking in Changkat, let alone sitting at a bar in Changkat. There’s hardly any kids under the age of 15 smoking in KL. But really, that’s mostly due to the lack of widespread education.

Winner: KL for the more “developed” population + safety, Jakarta for the more “tolerant” community.


I was never one for politics, but in my line of work, it’s inevitable. 

Hands down, both countries are ridiculous, but hey, at least I don’t have a prime minister that kicked out journalists for questioning his $2 billion scandal.

In a developing country where money is power, corruption cases are evident on a daily basis. 

Here, it’s about political parties requiring you to put 1 billion rupiah worth of deposit to sit in their party, botched corruption cases by the judiciary panels and self-involved celebrities trying to run for Jakarta’s gubernatorial election. The current governor of Jakarta is getting so much shit right now because he’s actually doing a fantastic job. Essentially, they’re not used to a stern governor. Also, it’s because he’s Chinese and not Muslim.

I can’t say much about KL because it really isn’t my place. All I can say is that money is power and everything can be bought. Ministers say the darnedest things and do the most disgusting things, but that’s just about anywhere right?

Winner: Jakarta, because a mayor once said Indomie makes babies turn gay. Also, we had a female president.

If we’re really counting, KL is at 1.5/4 while Jakarta is in the lead with 2.5/4. Am I being biased? Maybe a little. 

I’m still a little in denial that I’m not in KL anymore, so here I am trying to make Jakarta look its best.

I miss KL. I really do. I promise you, KL is not any less.

I’m heading back at the end of the month for my convocation ceremony and I can’t wait to see my friends, family, and food. 3 essential Fs. After that, I have to officially bid the city farewell because everyone is moving out. 

When will I come back? I will never know.

Jakarta is no joke, though. I’m truly excited about my prospects in this city. Being a part of the media industry really helps too because at least I know what’s up.

If anybody is looking to explore the big durian, as they call it, holla at yo gurl for some rooftop Radler sessions with skyline views and sunset vibes.


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