Jakarta, one of the Asian megapolis, a city with a fast economical and population grow, with a modern and westernized lifestyle, with the usual social gap between the rich and poor, where the upmarket malls contrast with the poverty of the suburbs.
Jakarta is known as the “big durian”. I don’t know from where this nickname came from but maybe because Jakarta is more like an agglomeration of cities that could resemble the inside of the durian, compact and dense… and with a spiked shell that usually keeps away the tourists, that just see Jakarta as a necessary stopover when arriving to Indonesia or before leaving to other destination.
It’s a big city with 10 million of inhabitants, long avenues, wide roads and intense traffic, but where the people still keep a gentleness that is less and less common in the big cities, where people usually don’t avoid eye contact and can answer with a smile!
Maybe Jakarta doesn’t have much to offer to a tourist that just arrives in Indonesia, but for people traveling for a long time, Jakarta (as also Yogyakarta) offer an urban and modern lifestyle, trendy and sophisticated places, with plenty of choices that are a nice break on the low key places that I found along this two months in Indonesia.
And like a durian, that are not such a popular presence in the markets, Jakarta left a mix of feelings, between seduction and loathing!!!!
Jakarta doesn’t have the appealing of Yogyakarta, and the interesting places can be a bit far out from each other’s, but still can be an interesting way to spend the time in the “big durian”. Skipping monuments, churches and museums, that for me are usually a bit boring, here is a list of the sight that I found interesting and that free to visit!
Walk along the Jalan Surabaya (close from Cikini train station) and let yourself lose in the thousands of objects, from statues, coins, fabrics, jewelry… but watch out that not everything is an antique just because it look old and dusty!!! If you are tired you can have a break on the Gianti Coffee, just opposite of the antique shops.
Colonial quarter (old Batavia)
The area is called Jakartakota, or simply Kota, and Fatahillah Square (Taman Fatahillah) is the center of a group of old building left by the Dutch colonization, most of them transformed into museums, but others are simply abandon. Despite the rehabilitation of the area, that is the central tourist attraction of Jakarta, the area around has a certain depressed appearance, like around the canal where you can find a metal drawbridge.
The Chinatown of Jakarta, where you can find a lot of Chinese culture, from restaurants, tea houses, shops and the market with the usual bizarre products. To reach Glodok area you can take the train to Jakarta Kota and from there you can walk.
- The Jin De Yuan Temple (Jl. Kemenangan) was seriously affected by a fire 2 years ago that destroy seriously the building including statues and the rooftop, and what remains from it has a strange, although atmosphere, something between desolation and charming abandon.
- The Glodok Market (Jl. Kemenangan) is a must see in the area.
- Along Jalan Pintu Besar Selatan you can see many painters working on the canvas or simply selling paintings… is a mix of styles where the portraits dominate… a bit cheesy and sometimes with doubtful taste but worth a look on the way from the trains station to Glodok.
This is not much of a market but more a street with shops, mostly fabrics and cloths shops… is a bit lazy during the mornings but gets better later on. Not impressive if you are not in the mood for muslim style cloths, but still you can find some sarong shops and spot some traditional shops that keep the classic style.
Pasar Muara Angke
This is located a bit far out on the north of Jakarta, and is mainly focus on the fish, with lots of warehouses and small markets that run very early in the morning. During the day is an poor and depressed port area, with same activity connected with storage and fish processing. Nearby is the Baywalk Mall, a modern shopping area with international brands and a huge massive concrete structure of apartments overlooking the sea.
Pasar Muara Angke
The malls… yes! There is a lot of money in Jakarta, and the malls are a good way to see it! There are many shopping areas in the city, but the Plaza Indonesia is maybe on of the most sophisticated and posh one, with a concentration of the most luxurious international brands. It worth a visit to this side of Jakarta, away from the smelly and shabby market of Pasar Muara Angke.
Where to sleep in Jakarta:
The “official” backpackers area of Jakarta is nearby Jalan Jaksa.
But following the advice of the owner of the homestay where I slept in Bogor, I stay at Cikini (pronounces xikini), where the Six Degrees Hostel stands by the reasonable prices and the good conditions offered. There are several types of dorms as also rooms, safe lockers, free fast and reliable wi-fi, free water, tea and coffee, the breakfast is included…. there’s also a kitchen and a roof top that change to a bar, but where the party don’t disturb the sleep of anyone. The rooms don’t have windows (but all with air-con) what is good for travelers that what to recover from the jetlag… and avoid the noise that comes from the street (Jl. Cikini Raya). The staff is friendly and can help you with moving on and around!
The Six Degrees Hostel is located about 5 minutes walking from the Cikini trains station. Around there’s restaurants and many street-food options, mainly after the sunset. You can have a meal for 10.000 Rp (street-food) or for 100.000 Rp (midrange restaurant) depending on your choice. There are also nice cafes and bakeries around for the delight of a sweet tooth.
Where to eat and hang-out around Cikini (Menteng):
As any capital, Jakarta offers a lot of choices For someone that just stayed in this mega city for 4 days will be pretentious to give tips about best food and cool places to chill in the “big durian”… so this is just an overview of Cikini area where I spent most of the time:
- Bakoel Koffie… good atmosphere, good coffee but not so good cakes. Can be busy and noisy at lunchtime. My favorite place to chill and read a book and blogging!!!
- Gianti Coffee… a bit hidden at Jalan Surabaya (not far from Madam Chin restaurant); has different areas with nice decoration and cozy environment. But too noisy around lunchtime.
- Cheesecake Factory (Jalan Cikini Raya)… a super posh place with high-quality products. The cheesecake that I try was perfect! The prices are high but not much more than you can find in others trendy coffee shops of Jakarta. It worth if you are in the mood for a treat!
- On the ground floor of the Ibis Budget, there’s a food court with. I try the Riung Sunda, a sundanese food restaurant. Is expensive and you can find better in some of the street stalls nearby, for 10 times less the price!!!!
- Street food…. its’ everywhere along Jl. Cikini Raya, particularly after 5 p.m. Cikini Raya is famous for martabak (Indonesian pancake). During the day you can find a good nasi campur at Jl Cikini 4, as also gado–gado.
- Surya Minang… a masakan padang at Jl Raden Saleh (before you reach the Sedahna restaurant) with tasty, simple and cheap food. Is better arrive before 1 p.m. as the runs out quickly! Sedahna restaurant is a reference for padang food but doesn’t have many vegetarian options and is more expensive.
- On the corner of Jl Cikini Raya with Jala Ciliman there a very popular restaurant that gets full around lunchtime with the local population. Apparently, it doesn’t have a name but is easy to spot with some hawkers selling juices in front during the day. This eatery works on self-service system… a huge meal (vegetarian) cost me 30.000 Rp.
How to move around in Jakarta:
- TransJakarta: modern and comfortable buses that have the advantage of using dedicated lanes in some parts of the city. Unfortunately, the single journey tickets are not longer available and you need to buy a monthly card that is not really an option if you stay just for a few days in Jakarta.
- Train: if your accommodation is nearby a train station this is maybe the easier and cheapest way to move. I stay at Cikini and this line has trains every 10 or 15 minutes to Jakarta Kota, the “center” and old colonial quarter. The tickets cost 3.000 Rp for trips inside the city. You need to buy a card (10.000 Rp) that you charge for each trip, and in the end of your stay you can give it back and get the 10.000 Rp return… but the train doesn’t reach the airport yet, but the line is supposed to open in August 2017.
- GoJek, Uber, Grab… all these companies offer moto-taxi services. They are everywhere and are the best way to move through the intense traffic. You just need to download their app and have an Indonesian SIM card. The most efficient way to move around if you are alone. It’s ok to travel with your backpack! Usually, the trips inside de city cost around 10.000 Rp. The ojek (independent moto-taxis are easy to find but with them, you need to deal the price).
- On foot… forget about it!!!!! Everything is too far, and the hot and humid climate makes a short walk during the day in a sweaty experience.
- There is no subway in Jakarta!