Jakarta is the thriving bustling heart of South East Asia’s largest economy. A true cosmopolitan melting pot where people from all over this archipelago of 17,000 islands come together. This fusion of cultures has produced great food, fine dining, bustling markets and karaoke. It’s also a great place to take a city tour, but more about that in a bit.
Where is the best place to stay in Jakarta?
If you’re planning on visiting Jakarta then you should consider choosing between staying in either Menteng or Kemang. While Kemang has the small cafes, trendy bars and great nightlife Menteng is the old colonial suburb of the city that over time has become its new administrative centre. With some of the few green parks to be found in the city and one of the cities most exclusive shopping malls, this is a place for those with money and connections.
Located just off one of the busy backpacking favourites, Jalan Jaksa, is a nice hotel and gallery offering a simple room and comfortable double beds for Rp 350,000 (US $40) per night. This place is popular with businessmen planning to spend a few weeks in the city, so you know that it’s a good choice. Don’t worry, the fact that it’s popular with businessmen doesn’t mean you’ll be meeting boring people; on my last stay here I bumped into a professional treasure hunter!
Mid to Luxury Accomodation
With the number of millionaires skyrocketing in Indonesia, Jakarta is the perfect city for a bit of pampering. Hotel Indonesia, the oldest five star hotel in the city also happens to be the best. It is located on the roundabout of the same name. Attached to Grand Indonesia shopping mall and with a rooftop swimming pool this is one of the most luxurious hotels in Jakarta, rooms’ start from Rp 1,800,000 (US $200) per night.
How do you Get Around?
Transportation in Jakarta is notoriously bad. Cars clog the cities arteries leaving commuters stuck for hours in horrendous traffic jams. The only form of public transportation currently available is a mixture of old private buses and the Trans Jakarta public buses. My advice is skip public transport altogether and take either taxis or motorbikes to navigate the city. Motorbike drivers normally know the roads and are significantly faster than taxis, but there is no fixed fare, so be prepared to haggle. On the other hand taxis normally have meters, but there is every chance your driver has just come from a village in central Java and knows about as much about the city as you do.
Best Places to Eat and Drink
Indonesia is famous for its barbecued chicken and lamb sates with peanut sauce, which is served with peanut sauce and hot spicy sambals. Rice is also a staple. A popular Indonesian saying is, “if you haven’t eaten rice that day you haven’t eaten.” As a result Indonesians have become imaginative when it comes to cooking their favourite staple. There is red rice, yellow rice, coconut rice and fried rice, so be assured there is plenty of rice to choose from. One of the most famous food chains for sate in the capital is Sate Senayan.
If you are looking for things to do in Jakarta then try eating on the sidewalks. There are approximately 300,000 street vendors that ply their trade in the city selling all types of local food. A great spot to pick up some late night tuck is at the main park in Menteng, where there is a nightly food market.
Indonesia has plenty of traditional drinks to try. One of my personal favourites is avocado juice. Mixed with chocolate and sweetened milk, avocado juice is surprisingly delicious and a combination that I didn’t expect would work. One of my favourite places to go is cade Excelso on the third floor of Grand Indonesia.
If you fancy a nice beer after a long day of sightseeing then you could do no worse than head to Melly’s on Jalan Wahid Hasim. This has long been a favourite hangout for the NGO crowd because of the cheap price of beer. Over the last few years the bar has turned into a trendy hangout for young students and urban professionals.
Activities or Tours you Should Not Miss
There are many great things to do and places to see in Jakarta. Luckily for tourists most of the main attractions (monuments, government buildings and other places to see) are handily located in the same area of the city. One of the highlights is Monas, the countries national monument. When you climb the lift to the top of the monument to take in the view of the city, try to imagine that just thirty years ago this was the tallest structure in Jakarta and could be seen from almost any point in the city.
Among the other sites that are worth seeing if you are thinking about things to do in Jakarta, are the Istiqlal Mosque and Taman Mini. The Istiqlal Mosque is South East Asia’s largest and has enough room for almost 200,000 to come and pray. Whatever you happen to think about religion, this is an impressive structure. With a beautiful domed roof and lovely arched colonnades it is a great place to walk around. Make sure to where the appropriate clothing though because this is a house of prayer and shorts are not considered appropriate attire.
Taman Mini is the brainchild of the wife of the ex-dictator of Indonesia. A large park with replicas in miniature of building styles from all over the country, a scale model of the archipelago in a large lake and a theatre, this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.
Best Kept Secrets
If you are thinking about things to do in Jakarta, one of the cities best-kept secrets is the Thousand Islands. These group of islands located off of the coast of the city are actually still considered a part of the Jakarta municipality and are a popular weekend break for people weary of the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you don’t want to go quite as far as the thousand islands, but still want to see the sea, another great place to check out is Ancol. This area on Jakarta’s coastline has been developed as a resort destination. With nice bars and beachside restaurants it is a great place to spend a relaxing evening.