It’s true that the traffic in Jakarta is notoriously frustrating, but don’t let that put you off spending time getting to know this amazing city. An enormous melting-pot incorporating the full scale of extremes, the only thing that is constant is change. In a comfortable compact car like the Honda Brio you can enjoy the ride despite the queues.
It’s fast-paced, dynamic, noisy and fun. It might not be the most attractive megacity, but this is more than made up for by the friendliness of its locals, superb food and low crime rate.
We think you’ll love it, and here are five experiences not to miss in the Indonesian capital…
The National Museum
You cannot visit Jakarta and not visit the National Museum. Dating from 1862, it’s one of the best in the region with incredible ancient statues, Dayak puppets and a wealth of textiles.
A new wing documents the origin of humankind in Indonesia over four floors and don’t miss the treasures of Central Java: a quite staggering collection of gold jewellery and trinkets.
English language tours are free and run on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1030 1330 and are highly recommended if your Indonesian is a tad rusty.
This area of town is home to some of the finest colonial era architecture in Jakarta. The Catholic cathedral with its striking twin spires is across the street from the main mosque which is even more extravagant.
You don’t have to be a Muslim to visit the latter (nor a Catholic for the former). In the case of the mosque you just have to sign in first and then you’ll be accompanied by an English-speaking guide (free, but a tip is expected and justified).
Other buildings of note include Gedung Pancasila, the former Dutch army commander’s pad, the colonial Ministry of Finance Building , formerly the Witte Huis (White House), which dates from 1809 and was the administrative centre for the Dutch and another religious site, the Emanuel Church, which dates from 1893.
A little out of the centre but worth a quick visit, the old port of Sunda Kelapa is full of beautiful Makassar schooners. The dock scene here has barely changed for centuries, and porters unload goods from these sailing ships by hand and using trolleys. Unfortunately the port itself is rundown and its waters heavily polluted now, but it provides an enticing snapshot of the past.
Ancol Luar Biasa
In the waterfront area, Ancol Luar Biasa is a landscaped recreation complex popular with families. There are amusement rides as well as sporting and leisure facilities, including bowling. Prime attractions include the Pasar Seni (Art Market), which has sidewalk cafes, craft shops, cable-car rides, art exhibitions, and live jazz every Friday, and the Atlantis Water Adventure water-park complex, which costs an additional 150,000Rp to enjoy a wave pool, waterslides and a slide pool, plus artificial beaches.
Note that you will definitely not be alone at the weekend here.
The Gondola, a cable-car system, provides great views of the bay. The huge Dunia Fantasi fun park includes the Halilintar twisted roller-coaster ride and Kora Kora (swinging ship).
Cheekily known as “Sukarno’s last erection”, this 132m-high National Monument is simultaneously Jakarta’s principal landmark and the most famous architectural extravagance of the former president. Though work started in 1961, Monas was not completed until 1975. Constructed from Italian marble, it is topped with a sculpted flame, coverd in some 35kg of gold leaf.
When visiting Jakarta, be sure of a comfortable stay by booking the five-star Merlynn Park Hotel – for the best rates, use Traveloka.com.