One of the world’s greatest megalopolises, Jakarta is a dynamic and vibrant city. Its chaotic charm and juxtapositions can be found on every street.
An organism unto itself, Jakarta is a town in the midst of a very public metamorphosis and, despite the maddening traffic, life here is lived at speed, driven by an industriousness and optimism that's palpable. With this fast developing pace come challenges. It's no oil painting, yet beneath the new high-rises, relentless concrete, gridlocked streets, smattering of slums and a persistent blanket of smog, Jakarta has plenty of pleasant surprises, including a world-class food and coffee scene. Its citizens – even the poorest among them – remain good-natured and positive, and compared to many world capitals, crime levels are low.
City of Contrasts
From the steamy, potent streets of Chinatown and Glodok to Kota’s vestiges of a colonial past, the old city is the prequel to Jakarta's development. The newer Merdeka Square is where Indonesia presents the face it wants the world to see: bold and confident. Further south, luxurious mega-developments are plopped next to humble neighborhoods, with pockets of emerging art scenes and bohemian coffee shops. Across the city it’s possible to rub shoulders with Indonesia’s future leaders and thinkers in sleek restaurants and roof-top bars. Hedonists can go clubbing and drinking 'till dawn, much to the dismay of the current administration.
In Jakarta, you can find all of Indonesia. It’s not just that people pour in from all corners looking for a better life (as they’ve done for centuries), it’s that they bring along their wonderful melange of cultures, beliefs and desires from the nation’s 17,000 islands. Walk down an alley with food stalls and you’ll find a huge diversity of flavors, while the glitzy malls and hotels offer fine dining from around the archipelago and the world. Meanwhile, goods come in from all over and are sold at shops and on street corners around the clock.
Temptation & Allure
Jakarta is where Indonesia puts on its best face. It has the country’s top museums, the greatest diversity of restaurants and public spaces in countless shopping malls that rival anything in Singapore or Bangkok. You can stroll the grand boulevard of Jl Thamrin when it's closed to vehicles on Sunday mornings and marvel at all that’s been built. Although religious pressure has slightly dimmed Jakarta’s reputation as a place to party beyond bounds, it is still a city where people can enjoy long nights in lounges and clubs or linger with gatherings of friends.