Located adjacent to its infamous brother, Mangga Besar, Mangga Dua conceals charming urban villages and authentic locals on the fringe of historic North Jakarta. An urban village is an independent community or ‘village’ located within a larger city. While urban villages have been constructed in various forms throughout the western world, in Asia they are more an adaptation to local conditions. While some are easily mistaken for slums or urban ghettos,  indeed they may appear untouched by the hands of urban planners, they exhibit more permanence in both infrastructure and social structure and resist falling into this category of urban living. Urban villages exist as both a consequence of urbanisation and as a response to government neglect in the areas of affordable housing, public services and employment opportunities. Think of a close-nit neighbourhood with an urban economy of small businesses from cobblers to cafes to mechanics and marketeers, artists and craftsmen, and you get the picture.

Unfortunately, most of these villages have a tenuous future. Their ‘handshake’ dwellings (so named because they are so close they literal shake hands with each other) are often made with substandard materials and their ‘renovations’ can be somewhat of an eyesore. But pivotally, they occupy valuable real estate and thus are always on the radar of developers. While some urban villages have become associated with gang violence, petty crime, drug abuse, and prostitution the reality is often far different. These places are above all residential in nature and often controlled by village elders not crime lords!

Urban villages are not on any tourists’ itineraries and visitors will no doubt be overwhelmed by their peculiarities: the smell of raw sewerage flowing into a runoff; precarious cobwebs of power-lines illegally tapping into the main grid to name but a few. However, locals are not hostile to outsiders indeed the personalities you might meet: proud, family orientated, defiant in the face of adversary, make a compelling case for experiencing them.