New Year’s Eve: Morning Walk on Car Free Day in Jakarta


New Year’s Eve celebration is identical with fireworks, booze, fancy dinner, traveling and gathering in public places at night. Which is great, actually. But I just don’t do that anymore.

Being a Jakarta resident, staying at home on New Year’s Eve has been my choice for the past few years because of the terrible traffic jam in the evening (of New Year’s Eve) every year, which is killing me. Not to mention road blocks on main roads for stage installations for night performances and street food vendors, that worsen the existing bad traffic.

Instead, I joined my uncle for photo hunting on December 31, 2017, the last day of Car Free Day in Jakarta at 6 am. It was a great effort for me to be on site at 6 am since I’m not a morning person, but I think it would be a great alternative way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.


Car Free Day in Jakarta has been initiated since 2002, held every Sunday morning, to reduce dependency on using vehicles to commute. At the same time, it encourages healthier activities, such as walking, jogging, cycling and hopefully, the level of air pollution decreases. From time to time, the week period and duration of Car Free Day have experienced some changes. Finally, since 2012 until now, Car Free Day starts every Sunday morning from 6 am to 11 am.


Arriving at around 6.10 am, we passed the vendors, who were in the final stage of setting up their tents and merchandise along the street, to reach the roundabout of Hotel Indonesia known as Bundaran Hotel Indonesia or Bundaran HI with the signature Selamat Datang (literally means “welcome”) Monument situated on MH. Thamrin Street.  Although it wasn’t crowded yet, I still couldn’t avoid the presence of “unwanted” figure on the left side in my photo.



I zipped a glass of hot Milo drink while sitting on the pavement of Bundaran HI facing the front side of Grand Hyatt Hotel. It felt like hanging out at an outdoor hotel cafe in a shoestring because it cost me only Rp. 5000 ($ 0.30) per cup.



Mingling with people from various background and activities on street when no cars passing by, except Transjakarta public buses, is an amazing experience. It opens my eyes that I’m looking at 2 sides of a coin simultaneously. One side shows a number of people who depend on Car Free Day as a(n) (additional) source of income, while on the other side shows a number of people who enjoy a day off from work and tend to spend some amount of money when necessary.


Occupations on the street may vary, and each of them is unique in its own way.

Street Food Vendors


When hunger and thirst strike, there’s nothing to worry about. Vendors on the bike sell coffee, coffee milk, ginger drink, oatmeal, hot chocolate and cup noodles. I got my hot Milo drink from one of these fellas on the bike, anyways.

Besides, the carts parking along the street offer more food variety. Gorengan or deep fried food is what most vendors sell, such as tahu bulat (round shaped tofu), fried fermented soybean, fried tofu, chicken nugget and many more. For healthier options, there are half-ripe mango, fresh cut bell fruit with spicy sugar, papaya, palm juke water and fresh juices. Heavier meals from vermicelli or egg noodle with meatballs, chicken porridge, fried rice until fried noodle are also available. If you are a sweet tooth, traditional lolly pop and cotton candy could be a perfect choice.

chicken porridge with crackers

Souvenir Vendors

Ondel-ondel is originally a giant puppet having 2.5 meters high used for welcoming important guests. The tradition belongs to Betawi folk, the indigenous people of Jakarta, and ondel-ondel the icon of Jakarta. Nowadays, these puppets are also produced in smaller sizes to take home. They also appear in the form of illustrations on t-shirts, mugs, bags and more, but mostly sold in outlets at shopping malls.

Other vendors sell masks, bubble solutions, non-branded and counterfeited branded bags, shoes, shirts, jeans, belts, as well as bras and underwear. Besides, there are trumpets, confetti and other new year related goods.

bubble solution
the masks

Additionally, vintage bike spare part stall is also quite popular because the members of Vintage Bike Community or Komunitas Sepeda Onthel have a gathering every Sunday morning on Car Free Day. And these items don’t come that cheap since their availability is rare nowadays.

vintage bike spare parts

Odong-odong Rider

odong-odong rider and a couple

In this picture, Odong-odong is kid’s rides assembled on a modified rickshaw or motorcycle. It usually comes with fast-paced music like dangdut or kid’s songs the attract future customers, who are obviously children. The rate per ride may vary, between Rp. 2000 ($0.10) and Rp. 5000 ($ 0.40).

Street Artists

Street artists usually wear costumes of famous cartoon characters or imaginary creatures they create themselves.

Posing with street artists is a fun activity, too

However, you will find more than one street artists dressing up like pocong. Pocong is an appearance of a dead body whose soul is trapped in its shroud and one of the most popular ghost characters showing repeatedly in Indonesian horror movies. What they need to do is to stand still until somebody wants to pose with them.

get ready to work
pocong off duty
Kid: “Mom, can I take a picture with her?” Mom: “No, honey, she’s too scary. Leave her alone.” Ghost Lady: “You should try harder, kid. I need some money to eat.”


The main cause of Library on the Go or Perpustakaan Keliling is to encourage local citizens to have more interest in reading. Librarians are assigned to serve walk-in customers who wants to borrow some books for certain period of time or read them on the spot.


If earning some money is not the purpose, what do the rest of people do on Car Free Day?

Walking the Dog

Human beings are not the only ones who need some exercise, after all.



Cycling is a sport that you can either do it individually, with a group of friends and families or gather in a cyclist community.


We specifically drew our attention to the members of Komunitas Sepeda Onthel or Vintage Bike Community, who labelled themselves as onthelist. The community incorporates people with common interest in cycling and old bicycle called onthel bikes, the type of bikes used in Jakarta during the Dutch colonization period until the year of 1970’s.

Unlike other cyclists with their sportswear, onthelists outfits are replicas from the old generation era, such as KNIL soldier, traditional Betawi and Javanese clothing, World War II pilot and many more. Many of the outfits are custom made since it’s hard to get the right style and fitting from the stores.

Moreover, onthelists are born to be cool  models.




Posing with some of the onthelists, why not? They are nice people and proud to be captured with someone else’s camera. Simply ask for their permission and there’s no need to sneak and chase them just for a picture. Before we left, one of the onthelists reminded us to watch our bags since he has witnessed several daredevil pickpockets regardless the gender.

Last but not least, I’m not sure in which community this kid belongs to, but I think he looks cute in that outfit.

DSCF1941 copy


During Christmas and New Year holiday, a lot of Jakarta residents are either traveling to other cities within the country or overseas, affecting the decreasing amount of participants on Car Free Day.

car free day jakarta
not as crowded as usual

Unexpectedly, we heard a woman’s voice at around 8 am, probably one of the Ministry of Transportation officials, saying that there was no car free day on that day and she warned everybody on the street to leave the spot. Get real! A lot of people, including us, were confused and disappointed since there was no official announcement beforehand.

Fortunately, we were about to leave the spot and continued our journey to the Port of Sunda Kelapa. Although sometimes things just don’t happen like the way we want to, we still cherished the day to conclude the year of 2017.

Happy new year and may all of you be blessed in 2018!



6 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve: Morning Walk on Car Free Day in Jakarta

  1. Wonderful photos! I loved reading about the “onthelists” – a tribe I haven’t heard of before. I was in Jakarta for a short stop in early December, but I wish I could have been there on a Sunday/Car Free Day! I also wish that Bali would adopt this enviro-cleanup kind of day; one day a year (Nyepi) is just not enough to clean up the tons of smog on this island…kasihan!


    1. Even car free day once a week in jakarta is not enough to cut pollution. It’s just 5 hours per week and there are too many cars already in general. The onthelists have indeed drawn a lot of attention because of their vintage bike and outfits. And interesting subject for human interest photography. Thanks for visiting my site. I haven’t visited Bali for several years until now. Have a great new year!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Its very well described. Really interesting as I never pay attention to it myself until you wrote it. Excellent pictures as well


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