Contrasts, chaos and contradictions abound in the packed city of Jakarta. Indonesia’s capital and economic hub may not have the idyllic beaches and tropical scenery for which the country is renowned, but the city that never sleeps bears a laid-back optimism that is impossible to resist.
Formerly a collection of villages on the north coast of Java, Jakarta is a mass of super highways and frantic roads, which, for the uninitiated, can abruptly turn into narrow lanes (sat nav or a good map are recommended). Today, the megalopolis is home to 9 million people, with another 2 million commuting to the city daily for work. The people of Indonesia flock to Jakarta in search for prosperity, bringing with them traditions and cultures from the country’s thousands of islands. The result is one, frantic city, filled with a cross section of Indonesian cultures. Despite the pollution, gridlocked traffic and architectural chaos that are the inevitable result of rapid growth, Jakarta possesses an undeniable lure. The city still bears an innocent charm that is simultaneously guileless and fearless; those willing to scratch beneath the surface will be rewarded with a delightful combination of culture, acceptance and sanguinity that is just impossible to resist.
Direct flights to Jakarta will bring you to Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (JKT), 12 miles from the city.
Jakarta’s tropical climate means that it is warm all year round, with temperatures in dry season (May – September) hovering around 30°C. If you plan your trip during wet season you will, unsurprisingly, encounter floods, increased humidity and tropical downpours. If you are looking for cheap flights to Jakarta, avoid school holidays, Christmas and Ramadan; plan your trip at either end of the dry season for a relaxing climate, good deals on flights and accommodation, and fewer crowds.
Whether you are stopping off for a weekend in Jakarta on your way to an Indonesian beach holiday, or you are planning a longer trip to Indonesia’s capital, a trip to the Museum Nasional is a must. Nicknamed “Ganesh Museum”, for the imposing elephant sculptures that flank its entrance, the museum is spread across a four-floor modern wing and original 19th Century colonial buildings. The museum a fantastic insight into the history of mankind in Indonesia: feast your eyes on glittering displays showing ancient treasures, as well as artefacts dating back thousands of years. The tranquillity of the Jakarta War Cemetery contrasts starkly with the non-stop city of Jakarta; a contrast that adds to the poignancy of the cemetery itself. The cemetery marks the resting place of thousands killed in and around Jakarta during WWII, each from different walks of life,from countries across the world. The cemetery was established by the Dutch and UK, on behalf of the Commonwealth, shortly after WWII and is a fitting tribute to lives lost. If you are a lover of museums, you are in for a pleasant surprise on your trip to Jakarta! Drop into Museum Wayang, the puppet museum; admire the Art-Deco architecture of the Museum Bank Mandiri, conveniently located next to the Museum Bank Indonesia; or take in over 1700 works of art in the Galeri Nasional. One thing is for sure: amid the chaos, there is plenty of culture and history just waiting to be discovered.
While the array of museums and galleries represent the city’s various influences and often turbulent journey to the current day, Jakarta’s architectural mishmash can also be seen as a metaphor of its past, with gaudy new buildings nestling incongruously alongside temples, and derelict structures littering the less salubrious neighbourhoods. Dating back to 1755, The Chinese Buddhist Temple, Jin de Yuan is adorned by two pearl-eating dragons. Filled with the scent of incense and incredible feats of architecture and sculpture, the complex is a serene escape from the city. For a whistle-stop tour of Indonesian architecture, take a trip to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, where you will be offered the unique opportunity to explore the different architectural styles from each of Indonesia’s provinces. Here, you can see full-scale traditional properties as well as regional crafts and clothing. In addition, the 100-hectare park also features theatres, museums and even a cinema, all of which incur an additional admission fee. If you want a few minutes to get your bearings and watch the world go by, head to Taman Fatahillah, the cobblestoned square which is flanked by impressive colonial structures, including the erstwhile town hall. If the square gives you a taste for classic architecture, it is worth visiting Lapangan Banteng. Dating back to the early 1800s, when it was established by the Dutch, and called Waterlooplein, it is home to some of the finest examples of building inthat era. Here, you can book tours, trips and bike hire, or simply sit with a drink, relax, and revel in being in Jakarta.
With Jakarta’s burgeoning economy, food from all over the world is available, and there are continually new restaurants and cafes popping up. However, based on the tenet that, in order to enjoy a country, you should experience its food, the best place to start on your trip to Jakarta is with a little hawker food. Fresh, cheap, and good enough for the locals, street food (or hawker food) is sadly often overlooked by tourists, who mistrust the hygiene, quality, low prices, or a combination thereof. The great thing about street food is that it allows you to sample a little of everything, without spending a fortune. Once you know what you love, as well as what to avoid, you can go to restaurants and order with confidence. As always, if in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions or advice, and enjoy! Due to the mass migration to this huge city, you will be able to sample authentic food from across Indonesia and from further afield, including China and Thailand. Food tends to be fresh, spicy, and accompanied by rice. You can choose from backstreet restaurants and street food stands frequented by the locals, which are a little spit-and-sawdust but easy on the wallet, or opt for pricier restaurants, complete with air-con and “authentic” dishes tailored to the Western palate: the choice is yours. One thing is certain: once you sample the authentic Indonesian cuisine on offer in Jakarta, nothing else will compare. The fast-moving city of Jakarta is like no other: its soul, sun, sights and scents combine to produce a dizzying cocktail that is impossible not to love. Fancy a trip to Indonesia? Travangelo can help you to find cheap flights to Jakarta.