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. Why I Love Jakarta By Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Writer Jakarta embodies one of my favourite qualities of the rest of Indonesia: it has an amazing spirit.
East Java (Jawa Timur) is a wild, rolling region of dizzying peaks, smoking volcanoes and unspoilt panoramas. Dotted across this landscape you'll discover ancient temples being swallowed by a riot of vegetation, national parks where growls, barks, and squawks echo from the undergrowth, and stunning beaches with world-class surfing.
Many tourists only experience the lush, volcanic panoramas of West Java (Jawa Barat) through the murky window of a lumbering bus or train, but this dramatic, diverse region has plenty to detain the inquisitive traveller who enjoys breaking away from the standard Java traveller circuit. Historically, it's known as Sunda, and its people and language are Sundanese.
If Jakarta is Java’s financial and industrial powerhouse, Yogyakarta is its soul. Central to the island’s artistic and intellectual heritage, Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’ and called Yogya, 'Jogja', for short), is where the Javanese language is at its purest, the arts at their brightest and its traditions at their most visible.
A city of punks and prayer, serious religion and serious coffee. Here are teeming markets and good shopping, thriving cafes in reclaimed Dutch relics, palpable warmth and camaraderie on street corners and traffic everywhere you look. Almost everything great and terrible about Indonesia can be found in Bandung.
Central Java’s north coast doesn't feature on most travellers' itineraries, but this steamy strip of land is not without its charm. The towns dotting the north coast are steeped in history. For many centuries the coast was the centre for trade with merchants from Arabia, India and China, who brought with them both goods and cultural values.
Surabaya is like a bottle of wine: it gets better the more you get to know it. Give it time and you'll discover that Surabaya has many quixotic corners of interest. Its historic Arab Quarter is a fascinating labyrinth of lanes, and the city has one of Indonesia’s biggest Chinatowns and some impressive, though disintegrating, Dutch buildings.
Arguably the epicentre of Javanese identity and tradition, Solo is one of the least Westernised cities on the island. The city’s long and distinguished past as a seat of the great Mataram empire means that it competes with its eternal rival Yogyakarta as the hub of Javanese culture; though this conservative town often plays second fiddle to its more contemporary neighbour.
Steamy Semarang, bustling and strange, with bosomy hills, a somewhat restored historic core and rapidly developing, affluent outskirts is home to a huge middle class, Chinese population and a massive north-coast port. Taken with a wide angle, this sprawling, schizophrenic city can feel charmless, but zoom in on its best pockets and there is life.
With leafy, colonial-era boulevards and a breezy climate, Malang moves at a far more leisurely pace than the regional capital, Surabaya. It’s a cultured city with several important universities, and is home to a large student population. The central area is not too large and is quite walkable.
Situated on a narrow isthmus, with a broad stretch of sand on either side and a thickly forested national park on the nearby headland, Pangandaran is west Java’s premier beach resort. It's built-up, especially toward the south end where a jumble of concrete block towers stand shoulder to shoulder across the channel from the national park.
‘A romantic little village’ is how Sir Stamford Raffles described Bogor when he made it his country home during the British interregnum. As an oasis of unpredictable weather – it is credited with 322 thunderstorms a year – cool, quiet Bogor was the chosen retreat of colonials escaping the stifling, crowded capital.
Together with Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur ranks as one of the great cultural icons of Southeast Asia. Looming above a patchwork of bottle-green paddy fields and slivers of tropical forest, this colossal Buddhist monument has survived volcanic eruptions, terrorist attack and the 2006 earthquake.