With 14,440 people crowded into each square kilometer, Indonesia’s busy capital is a melting pot of culture.
For the majority of its residents, Jakarta is a city of promise. The lure of jobs and a better life has caused the city’s population to blossom to 9.5 million, with some 14,440 people crowded into each square kilometer. It has the same warts as the capital cities of other nations – especially traffic jams – but counterbalancing its hectic pace is a rich cultural life with an abundance of performing and visual arts. Particularly alluring is its a laid-back, courteous persona.
The heartbeat of Jakarta is its Central Business District along Jalan Thamrin-Sudirman. Further north is Old Town (Kota Tua), originally called Batavia by the Dutch. What remains of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) headquarters is centred there and is gradually being renovated into a heritage site filled with museums and cafes. In between is Menteng, its tree-lined boulevards and stately homes were once occupied by colonist elites. To the south and north are affluent neighborhoods edged by villages.
There’s something to appeal to nearly every visitor in Jakarta. There is an abundance of eating and shopping options, nightlife, cultural attractions, theatre, three symphony orchestras, and cinemas. The challenge is locating them and enduring traffic to get to them, but thanks to the friendliness of the melting pot of people who call Jakarta home, just asking will produce solutions. The key to enjoying Jakarta’s many treasures are indeed patience and a sense of humour. With those on board, relax and enjoy the adventure!
Jakarta is a great place to visit year-round, but January is usually the wettest month so steer clear then if you want to keep dry.
Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. Visitors from many other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival at Jakarta for US$25.
Indonesian rupiah, IDR, locally denoted as Rp.
Avoid the touts at the airport and head for the taxi queues outside the arrival area. Recommended are Blue Bird, its more expensive sister Silver Bird, and their affiliates Pusaka and Morante (both blue). Also good are Gamya (green) and Express (white). Shuttle buses from the airport into town take longer, but are more economical. Look for the DAMRI ticket booth outside the arrival halls.
The most efficient way to get around town is via one of the taxis mentioned above, but Jakarta also has an efficient bus system, called TransJakarta, using dedicated lanes in the city. Network maps can be downloaded from www.transjakarta.do.id. It is advisable to avoid travelling during rush hours, 7am and 4pm. Other public buses are not recommended.
For scooting around neighborhoods, Jakarta's version of the Thai tuk-tuk is the bajaj, bone-rattling, exhaust-fume-emitting little motorbikes with a cabin in the back. (New regulations are gradually replacing them with more eco-friendly versions.) Be prepared to weave through traffic and squeal with delight. Ask a local what fare to pay so you don't get over-charged.
As with any major city, watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas, thieves in cheap hotels, and the occasional scam artist. Report and theft immediately to police or security officers. English-speaking tourist police, in specially marked uniforms and cars, are trained to handle foreigners' questions and lend assistance.
As everywhere in Indonesia, don't drink the tap water. While there is very little danger of contracting malaria in Jakarta, there is a potential risk of dengue fever, particularly towards the end of the rainy season, so do your best to avoid mosquito bites.
|How are you?||Apa kabar?|
|Fine, thanks||Baik, terima kasih|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Permisi!|
|Thank you||Terima kasih|
|What's your name?||Siapa nama anda?|
|My name is…||Nama saya…|
|Nice to know you||Senang berkenalan dengan anda|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Anda ada di Facebook/Twitter?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Warnet [warung internet] di mana?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Di mana saya bisa mendapatkan taksi?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Stasiun bis/kereta di mana?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Tiket sekali jalan/pulang-pergi ke…|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Ada kamar untuk satu/dua orang?|
|When's check out?||Kapan waktu check-out?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Bisakah anda menyarankan restoran/bar yang bagus?|
|A table for two, please||Tolong meja untuk dua orang|
|A menu, please||Tolong minta menunya|
|The bill, please||Tolong minta bonnya|
|Where's the toilet?||Kamar kecil di mana?|
Destination content brought to you by Insight Guides
MONAS (National Monument)
A Jakarta landmark, MONAS, the National Monument, rises from the centre of Freedom Square (Medan Merdeka) as a symbol of its success in gaining independence from colonial powers. Crowned with a huge flame encased in pure gold, in the base are dioramas depicting Indonesia’s history from prehistoric times. An elevator rises to the observation deck for a 360-degree view of the city. On weekends, the park is crowded with people and vendors.
Fronted by a bronze elephant statue presented by King Chulalongkorm of Siam in 1868, the National Museum was founded by the Batavian Society for Arts and Sciences. It contains valuable collections of books and ethnographic artefacts acquired by the Dutch during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Treasures include Hindu-Javanese stone statuary, prehistoric bronzeware, Chinese porcelain and a stupendous hoard of royal Indonesian heirlooms. The Ceramics Room features the largest collection of Southeast Asian ceramics under one roof. Guidebooks are available at the Indonesian Heritage Society shop (Jl. Asia-Afrika, No. 8), which also offers free tours in several languages.
Sunda Kelapa Harbour
No nostalgia tour into Jakarta’s past would be complete without visiting the old spice trading seaport, Sunda Kelapa Harbour, a relic from the past that still thrives today. Early morning is the best time to walk along the 2km (1.25-mile) wharf among colourful wooden pinisi schooners to see one of the world’s last remaining commercial sailing fleets. Filled with the romance of a bygone era, watch barefooted men loading cargo up narrow planks as they go about their daily work. The boats are built by the seafaring Bugis of South Sulawesi, once feared pirates.
Protecting a collection of nearly 2,000 pieces, the Textile Museum (Museum Tekstil) is a gold mine of information about thread preparation, hand-loomed and non-woven cloths (such as bark and fur), fabric ornamentation and garment-making. In addition to changing exhibitions highlighting textiles from throughout Indonesia, it also has a permanent Batik Gallery, a natural dye garden, and a workshop where you can try your hand at batik. The building was erected in the early 19th century by a Frenchman and was converted to a museum in 1976.
Jakarta’s Chinatown (Glodok), was established by the Dutch in 1740 when all Chinese in Batavia, as the city was then known, were banished to an area outside the city walls. Today Glodok is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. Take a walk through its alleys and thoroughfares to see herbal medicine shops, old architecture, two ancient temples, and life at its busiest. Glodok shops and malls are also known for their wholesale-priced electronics.
The Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari) is housed in a former warehouse built by the Dutch in 1646 and used to store coffee, tea and Indian cloth. Inside are displays of traditional sailing craft from all corners of the Indonesian archipelago, as well as some old maps of Batavia. Down a narrow lane behind the museum lies the Fish Market (Pasar Ikan) and numerous stalls selling nautical gear. Continue walking south to a 19th-century Dutch lookout tower (Uitkik).
At times it seems that Jakarta is trying to out-glitz itself with new high-end shopping malls and lifestyle centres popping up everywhere. All the big brands are found within their climate-controlled confines, along with some of the city’s best restaurants, kids’ activities and supermarkets. For the best of the best, go to Plaza Senayan on Jl. Asia Afrika which also has a bowling alley and a wonderful musical clock in the atrium that performs every hour. Nearby is Senayan City with its over-the-top cinema complex and opulent jewelry stores.↵↵Beneath the Grand Hyatt on Jl. Thamrin is Plaza Indonesia, with two Indonesian designer outlets, House of Obin and Butik Iwan Tirta, and across the street is Grand Indonesia, one of the largest upscale lifestyle centers in Southeast Asia.
If it’s local goods you’re looking for, to take home as gifts or souvenirs, Sarinah is just up the road to the north on Jl. Thamrin and is dedicated to Indonesian handicrafts and textiles. In the suburbs at Blok M, Jl. Iskandarsyah, is Pasaraya which similarly has an entire floor dedicated to all things made in Indonesia. For some serious browsing head to 'antique row' on Jl. Surabaya near the Central Business District. Dutch lamps, vinyl records, and wooden puppets are among the curios for sale here. Buyers beware: Not all the 'antiques' are, well, antique.
Plaza Senayan, Senayan City, Plaza Indonesia, Grand Indonesia, Sarinah, Pasaraya, Jl. Surabaya.
For a glimpse into Jakarta’s past, take a stroll through Old Town (Kota Tua), which came to life during the Dutch colonial era in the 1620s as a tiny, walled town modelled on Amsterdam. Most of the original settlement – then called Batavia – was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century, and only the town square area survived. Its heritage buildings are currently being restored, and it is now known as Fatahillah Square (Taman Fatahillah).
Facing the square are several museums. The Jakarta History Museum (Museum Sejarah Jakarta) was formerly the city hall, completed in 1710. It now houses memorabilia, notably 18th-century furnishings, along with many prehistoric, classical and Portuguese-period artefacts. Dungeons visible from the back of the building were used as holding cells where prisoners were made to stand waist-deep in sewage for weeks awaiting their trials.
The Puppet Museum (Museum Wayang) is on the western side of the square and has many puppets and makes, some of them rare buffalo-hide shadow puppets (wayang kulit), along with a collection of topeng masks, both popular Indonesian art forms. There are also tombstones of several Dutch governors.
Occupying the former Court of Justice building, completed in 1879, is the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum (Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik). Its collections include paintings and sculptures by modern Indonesian artists, and an important exhibition of rare porcelain, featuring many Sung celadon pieces, ancient Javanese water jugs and terracotta pieces dating from the 17th century.
Old Town, Jakarta History Museum, Puppet Museum, Fine Art and Ceramic Museum.
Kids will enjoy the tropical outdoors by spending the morning at the Taman Botani Perdana (Perdana Botanical Garden). Popularly known as the Lake Gardens, this green expanse is full of wildlife attractions. The large covered aviary that is the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park is home to over 200 species of birds, and feeding time and the bird shows are fun to watch. Another covered attraction is the Butterfly Park. Here, hundreds of species of butterflies and moths flit about a beautifully landscaped garden. Visitors get to see the insects in all stages of development, too. Meanwhile, the Deer Park is one of the few places in the country where it is possible to see the world's smallest deer. The mouse-deer is the size of a cat and extremely shy.
As the day heats up, head to the air-conditioned Petronas Twin Towers, where there are family-friendly eateries and activities for children. Inside the mall, the two-storey Petrosains discovery centre has great interactive displays on science and the oil and gas industry. Fun exhibits include a prehistoric section featuring an animatronic dinosaur. Children can also experience a real-life oil rig and 'drive' a racing car. Alternatively, music-lovers should head to the Ground Floor of Tower Two to check out the offerings for kids by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Their family fun days and music appreciation sessions are popular and affordable.