Most visitors head straight from Jakarta to Merak on their way to (or from) Sumatra, simply because there’s not a lot in this area to attract your attention. Banten, however, can be an interesting if not happy diversion if you have time to kill. Once set on the edge of a lush network of rice fields, the fishing town of Banten was a great maritime capital, where the Dutch and English first landed in Java to secure trade and struggle for economic supremacy.
After many years floating in obscurity, Banten and surrounding towns (including nearby sprawling Serang) are today becoming major ports and virtual Jakarta suburbs. If nothing else Banten is a perfect example of warp speed, globalised development, as what's left of this once ever-green breadbasket gets gobbled up, one shovelful at a time.