One of the world’s greatest megalopolises, Jakarta is a dynamic city of daunting extremes that's developing at a pace that throws up challenges and surreal juxtapositions on every street corner.
The city is certainly no oil painting, yet beneath the unappealing facade of high-rises, relentless concrete and gridlocked streets, Jakarta has many faces and plenty of surprises. Its citizens are remarkably good-natured, optimistic and positive, and compared to many of the world’s capitals, crime levels are very low.
From the steamy, richly scented streets of Chinatown to North Jakarta's riotous, decadent nightlife, the city is filled with unexpected corners. Here it’s possible to rub shoulders with Indonesia’s future leaders, artists, thinkers and movers and shakers in a bohemian cafe or a sleek lounge bar and then go clubbing till dawn (and beyond).
Jakarta certainly isn’t a primary tourist destination, but parts of the atmospheric old city (Kota) offer an interesting insight into the capital’s long history. There are a handful of good museums and dozens of swanky shopping malls.
A city in the fast lane, life is lived here at a headlong pace, driven by a surging economy and an industriousness and optimism that's palpable.
Best places to stay in Jakarta
The old town of Batavia, now known as Kota, was once the hub of Dutch colonial Indonesia.
Jakarta to Ubud
Don’t be fooled into thinking Indonesia is ‘just another island getaway’, because the scale of experiences you’ll have in this magical country are truly epic. Miles of empty beaches, steamy verdant rainforests, volcano studded valleys, culture rich cities, ancient temples - and that’s just the places they tell you about.
Just before the entrance to the museum is a watchtower, built in 1839 to sight and direct traffic to the port. There are good views over the harbour, but opening hours are haphazard – ask for the caretaker if it is closed.
Indonesia - Java (Chapter)
Boasting a dazzling array of bewitching landscapes – iridescent rice paddies, smoking volcanoes, rainforest and savannah – as well as megacities and profound traditions in art, spiritualism and learning, Java is the most complex and culturally...
Hidden Jakarta Tours
Want to see the other Jakarta, away from air-conditioned malls? Jakarta Hidden offers tours of the city's traditional kampung , the urban villages of the poor. These warts-and-all tours take you along trash-choked riverways, into cottage industry factories and allow you to take tea in residents' homes.
While many Jakartan restaurants lack atmosphere, that accusation could never be levelled at Lara Djonggrang – as you enter it's easy to think you've stumbled across some lost temple. Stunning decor combines Indonesian tribal artifacts and colossal temple statues with North African touches. Expect perfectly executed and creatively presented imperial Indonesian cuisine.
Indonesia shopping tips
A Thorn Tree member asked on the South-East Asia branch: What are the best things to buy in Indonesia, and what is the shopping etiquette? Here is nasuhime's excellent reply: What is the proper/polite way to bargain in Indonesia? Smile, smile, and smile. And bargain for only what you really want to buy...
Kopitiam Oey Sabang
Gorgeous little cafe, modelled on an old Chinese teahouse, complete with antique tiles and vintage prints on the walls. There's a great selection of drinks, from Vietnamese coffee to tumeric tea and snacks that reflect Indonesia's heritage, including Dutch croquettes and Padang-style roti .
Opposite Blok M Mall, this department store has two huge floors that seem to go on forever and are devoted to batik and handicrafts from throughout the archipelago.