…in one sentence, Jakarta is a city where luxurious cars, motorcycles, bicycles, street sellers, bajaj, and people sharing the same road while being so cooperative to each other.
If you have been following my blog, you know that I left my nine to five job and backpack across South East Asia. It was early in the morning that my close friend dropped me off at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and I flew directly to Soekarno Hatta International Airport (CGK) at Jakarta, Indonesia. The flight took me 20+ hours including transits and delays. It was not that bad since I have been waiting for this moment. Little that people know, even though I was born in Indonesia, I have never spent more than 48 hours in Jakarta + my Indonesian is bad (at least I know how to write Bahasa Indonesia). With that, I’d love to assume that this is my very first time visiting Jakarta, Indonesia. Hi Jakarta!!!
Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and also recently claimed the crown of “The city with the worst traffic jams” according to Thrillist issued on February 2nd, 2015. Despite all the mad driving skills in any kind of transportations, Jakarta is still definitely worth visiting.
Here are the 12 reasons why you should visit Jakarta:
1. Go to the top of Monas (Monumen Nasional / The National Monument)
The construction of this National Monument began in 1961 and it opened to public for the first time in 1975. This monument was built to commemorate the struggle for Indonesia independence. With the height reaching 132m (433 ft), you can literally see the Jakarta skyline from here. The top of Monas is covered with a foil of gold in the shape of fire. Entrance costs me Rp. 15000, including the access to the top floor of the Monas.
When you head down to the base floor, you don’t want to miss The National History Museum. It is filled with a lot of miniature nicely made to tell the story of how Indonesia gain the independence. Below show one of the miniature when Ir. Soekarno, the very first president of Indonesia, is declaring the proclamation of independence.
Exit the museum and be creative on how you want to take the picture with Monas.
2. Visit the Malls right next to Malls that is right next to Malls
You have never been to Jakarta if you did not go to the malls. I am pretty sure the locals can easily named 30 malls on top of their heads. What is so special about the malls here is the fact that a lot of malls actually has its own extension. For example, there is one Pondok Indah Mall 1 that was built first before Pondok Indah Mall 2. Well, to connect those two, the developers made a Street Gallery (which is a little awkward according to me) where this place is mainly selling food.
Another great example is a must go Grand Indonesia that may not look so big from the front, but trust me, I walked till I literally dropped crawling to the closest seat available. From the west building to the east building, It is so easy to get lost here. Don’t forget to check out the dancing waterfall inside this mall. If you aren’t satisfied with your shopping or walking experience in Grand Indonesia, hop outside, walk a little less than 30 foot steps and you will be in Plaza Indonesia for another tiring yet fun experience.
Okay, one thing to keep in mind is you don’t mention the full name of the mall to the locals. The people in Jakarta like to abbreviate every single mall that they have, for example: Grand Indonesia will be called GI, Plaza Indonesia will be called PI, Central Park will be called CP, and so on. Not really sure why but blending in with the locals is not that bad, right?
3. Join Jakarta Walking Tour (instagram @jktgoodguide)
I know there are lots of Walking Tour available in Jakarta. I did not get a chance to use any of their services, except from Jakarta Good Guide (check them out @jktgoodguide in Instagram or visit their blog here). It is pay as you wish tour. Check my single post about Jakarta Good Guide.
4. Hit the beach at Ancol
As some of you already know, I am a big fan of beaches. Ancol is slightly a little different than the beaches I have been to. I have a feeling that this place is a little more like swamps than beach, but let’s just called this a unique beach. People playing water, volleyball, and reading books can still be observed here just like typical beaches. As the night falls, more and more people come to this place with their partners to watch the stars.
On the other sides of the area is the theme park called Dunia Fantasi (DuFan). Well, I did not take any of the ride since I prefer to spend my time at the beach. There are hotels, cottages, golf field, oceanarium, and restaurant surrounding this area. Seafood lovers, make sure you stopped by “Bandar Djakarta”, a restaurant that serves freshly caught seafood cook as you requested. Gurame Bakar (Grill Gurame fish) is still my favorite of all time.
5. Hop on to various public transportations
This is my favorite part about Jakarta. They have various public transportations that you can take. It depends on how you enjoy it. During my stay, I took ojek, transjakarta, bemo, uber, taxi, and car. If you are lucky, you can even hop on a rubber boat. I will break into more details about each transportation on my future post.
6. Old Town is a must destination
Also known as Oud Batavia, this area hold a lot of historical events during the Dutch colonization era. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some of you), I am not here to talk about the history of Indonesia. Let’s just get to the exciting places in this area.
- First, Toko Merah (literally translated as Red Shop)
Probably one of the oldest building in Jakarta that once served as the residence of the Dutch government. If you walk around Old Town, most likely you will not miss it, especially with the distinguish red color — well obviously, that’s why the name is Toko Merah. Not sure what this building is used now but some locals told me that it is now serving as a function hall for exhibition.
- Second, Fatahillah Square & Museum Sejarah Jakarta (Jakarta History Museum)
At the center of the Old Town, you will notice there is a big square where a lot of people (from tourists, locals, people who wear mascots, etc) gather. Make sure to look around because you do not want to miss some historical buildings here: Kantor Pos Fatahillah (Fatahillah Post Office), Museum Wayang, Gedoeng Jasindo, and Jakarta History Museum. If you have enough time, go into the museum. It holds a lot of history.
- Third, Stasiun Jakarta Kota (Jakarta Kota Railway Station)
A short walk from Fatahillah Square will lead you to this station. This place was not supposed to be in my to-go place but I just got lost on my way to another destination. No regret at all, I was here on the peak time at 5PM when people just finished work and this place is super crowded. Walk inside the station and it will be like you are transported back to the old time. The building is so old that you can see a lot of cracks. Rumor has it that the government is starting to convert this place into a strictly historical building. I guess no more train will be functioning here in the near future.
NOTES: Be very careful when crossing the street
7. Visit the surrounding cities
Yeah, there are many cities surrounding Jakarta that can be reached with public transportation. I actually took a train ride to reach Bandung to meet a close friend of mine and also to Bogor. Aside from these two, there are still many cities worth visiting. So if you have spare time, check out the surrounding cities. Who knows that city will be your favorite place in Indonesia.
8. Try various different food
Indonesia is a very rich country in terms of spices and culture. With Jakarta acting as the capital cities, you can find almost all variety of food, from the very traditional food, fusion food, until the western food. For me, I like to blend in with local when I travel, so I decided to try a bunch of traditional food. Even though Jakarta might not be the best place for foodie, it is still worth trying. Foodie lovers –> Go check out Medan and Bandung!!!
9. Enjoy the bustling nightlife
Hey Big Apple, you have a great competitor right now. Jakarta a.k.a Big Durian is no longer just a daytime hustling city. Walk outside during the nighttime and you will realize the city actually never sleep. Any tips on the night activities? Probably I am not the best person to answer this but just go with the pace and enjoy it. Soon enough the sun is up for another brand new day.
10. Hop on – Hop off Jakarta bus
I am hearing rumor that Jakarta will be the Venice of Asia in the future. With the rapid growth of the infrastructure (thanks to the new government) and the effort to attract more tourists, Jakarta now officially implemented the FREE double decker city bus tour for international and domestic tourists. The bus operates from 7AM to 7PM passing 10 major stops. You can check out the route here.
11. Get into one of the museums
There are lots and lots of museum in Jakarta and throughout my trip, I actually stopped by about 10 museums. My favorite: Museum Bank Indonesia. Here they display the history of Rupiah along with the economical ups and downs that Indonesia ever faced. Also, you can find unique type and nominal value of Rupiah that you might never think of. For example: a coin that has the value of Rp 25000,-. Trivia question: Can you guess what is the biggest nominal of money in coin that Bank Indonesia has ever released??? Answer is in the last picture of this post.
Despite the fact that Museum Bank Indonesia was listed as my favorite, does not mean that other museums are bad. In fact, all of them are really interesting. It is up to you to choose which one you want to go. Your trip — your choice.
Whoaa… I did not expect to write this long and I am pretty sure there are still tons of attractions that I missed or have not done due to the time limitation. Any cool and interesting things that you want to add to the list or suggestion for my future travel to Jakarta? Just let me know. For now, I guess it is time to say ‘See You Later, Jakarta’. In the mean time I will practice my Bahasa Indonesia so that I can speak better in case I come back again.