love it or hate it Jakarta

Written by Donovan April 2, 2016 Category: Asia, Indonesia Tags: , , , , , Comments

Jakarta is a typical metropolitan city in Asia, filled with congested roads that can drive you crazy, shrouded with smog everyday and skyscrapers being built at an alarming rate as the city expands. It is a dynamic city filled with rickety slums built around train tracks to the glitzy upmarket gated communities around Menteng or Pondok. Of course, one can lead a comfortable life in Jakarta if you just stick to the comfortable air-conditioned shopping malls, living the high life sipping drinks at sky bars or partying the night away.

For me, I think that two days is more than enough to see Jakarta city. There are many more beautiful landscapes in Indonesia that deserve your time, such as Yogjakarta, Bali, Bandung, Bromo, Rinjani etc. Of course, for many first-time travelers to Indonesia, Jakarta could be the gateway to the country as the capital is home to the largest airport in the country.

the National Monument

First of all, do visit the Monumen Nasional or “Monas” as it is more popularly called. It is one of the monuments built during the Sukarno era of fierce nationalism as Indonesia tried to gain independence from the Dutch colonial rulers. The top of Monas has a freedom square and offers a nice panoramic view of the city. However, since it was the Good Friday long weekend, many people also came to take a look at Monas and the queue to go up the tower was around two hours. I did not want to queue, so we just visited the museum in the basement to learn more about the country’s history and its road to independence.

some exhibits inside the National Museum

From Monas, you can cross the road to visit the National Museum. It has several interesting exhibits and artefacts from the various provinces. As you know, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, so its culture is very diversified, especially from the tribal people in East Timor or Papua. There was also a Saudi Arabian joint exposition during my visit, so I made use of the opportunity to get my name written in Arabic and also to sample some dates.

Istiqlal mosque, which looks like the White House
Jakarta cathedral, which is located just opposite the mosque

The largest mosque in Southeast Asia, Istiqlal mosque, can also be found in Jakarta, just a short walking distance from Monas. It was prayer time when we visited, so the guard told us to return again around 2pm. Just across the street is the Jakarta cathedral, so it is interesting how these places of religion can co-exist. It reminds me of Singapore, where we can find a Chinese temple, Hindu temple and a mosque all along the same street in Chinatown. Since it was Good Friday, the cathedral was packed and we could not enter to see the interior of the cathedral. When we returned to the mosque after 2pm, we had to don some robes as we were wearing short sleeeves. We could go up to the second level of the mosque, but there was nothing spectacular about the view. I was disappointed because I wanted to see the interior of the mosque with its rich interior, but the prayer area was forbidden to tourists.

dressing appropriately inside the mosque

Also, take the commuter train to Jakartakota, home to the old town (kota tua). Here, you can slowly admire the Dutch architecture still omnipresent in the buildings around the old square. Locals relax in the grand plaza, having a picnic on the ground, shopping at the local flea market or cycling around on colourful bicycles with big wheels which they rented from the street vendors. It is such a convivial place to spend the afternoon. It is actually quite hard to imagine that the boundaries of Jakarta were once confined to this small area here known as Batavia in the past.

locals cycling around the big square

For a taste of the night life, my friend brought me to Skye, a bar on the 54th floor of Grand Indonesia shopping mall. It was too cloudy and we could not see far. Furthermore, the building opposite was UOB, so it feels like the same view when I go up to 1-Altitude in Singapore. (*UOB being a Singapore bank). Anyway, drinks here are not too expensive (around $8-$12 for a beer to cocktail). Luckily, the skies cleared after and we could enjoy a better view of the city from the top.

just chilling at the rooftop bar and enjoying the night view of Jakarta

Lastly, I would also recommend a Korean restaurant named Sinsa Ramyun Bar.

Address: No. Mampang Prpt., Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibuk, Jl. Taman Kemang 1 No.6, Jakarta, DKI Jakarta, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta, Indonesia

It serves Korean dishes at affordable prices. I had dry Kimchi noodles, but what is more enticing is their buy-1-get-1-free beer promo every night. If you want to go local in Jakarta, you can try the various street food from as little as $1 for a complete meal. There are several options such as mee bakso, mee soto, chicken rice, fried chicken, gado gado etc. For more comfort, you can always head to the air-conditioned malls which offer a plethora of food options or go to the foodcourt if you are on a budget.

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