One of the most populated cities in the world, Jakarta is an example of a clearly divided city. While the northern part of the city center, from the old town to the National Monument Park is inhabited by slums, dirt and chaos, the part south of the Park dominated by luxurious hotels and gigantic shopping malls, has a very different vibe. It is a huge city that has little respect for public transportation or its only valuable treasure – the old town Kota, with its splendid colonial heritage. Nevertheless, there are enough interesting sites to visit, so you should include it on your Indonesian itinerary.
Although Jakarta was the capital of the Dutch East Indies, the area of the original city is very small and does not define its actual form. Just like in Bangkok there is no well defined center, and the so-called center is organized around the National Monument Monas. The urban grid is pretty chaotic, and intersected with a few wide and long avenues that connect most of the city with two freeway belts. The main street Gajah Mada – M.H.Thamrin goes from north to south, and connects the Old town Kota tua to the National Monument and the shopping district. To the north end, the city opens itself to the sea at the Jakarta Bay.
In spite of its vast extension, there are not that many interesting places to visit in Jakarta. The main architectural spot is the abovementioned Kota area, the centre of the colonial Batavia. Many beautiful buildings are located there, although most are not in good shape. The Bank of Indonesia, the Jakarta History Museum, the Museum Mandiri and the Museum Wayang are the best examples of the Dutch colonial heritage. In the same area the Old harbor and the Chicken Market drawbridge are also worth a visit. In the center, the National Museum of Indonesia, the Istiqlal mosque and the Jakarta Cathedral stand out for their shape and size.
When looking for a place to stay in Jakarta one has to choose between being well connected and surrounded by slums, or to be in a nice area far away from the old town. There is another, in between option, near the National Monument in Jalan Jaksa, but only budget hotels and pensions are located there. For a bit more upscale options the Gajah Mada area is not the fanciest one, but its location between the old town and the monument area is great if you are short on time. Most of the high class hotels are located south of the Monument, near M.H.Thamrin Boulevard.
Jakarta is not the best place to enjoy walking around or riding a bicycle. The public transport is fairly undeveloped and strangely the tuc-tucs are not allowed to go everywhere. While walking in certain areas is the best option, distances may be a problem. The main boulevards have many overpasses, which make it a bit safer, but are not suitable for people with reduced mobility. Biking in Jakarta is not recommended because of the heavy traffic, and taking a taxi can be annoyingly time consuming for the same reason. Perhaps the best option is to use the Transjakarta Busway, which operates on special reserved lanes, even though it’s not always reliable.
Jakarata is not one of Indonesia’s most interesting places. If you were talking about the beautiful cities of the world, you would definitely not mention Jakarta. If you are looking for order, relaxation and want to have a peaceful holiday, then this is not the place for you. Even great partying, that Jakarta was famous for, is now in question, since authorities have decided to shut down some of the best clubs. But if you like to meet local people, chat with them and exchange experiences, you would be surprised by the friendliness of its inhabitants. And if shopping is one of your favorite activities you will certainly enjoy the great offer of Jakarta’s newest shopping malls. Hopefully the beautiful Old Town will soon receive the attention it deserves. It will give us architectural heritage lovers a reason to visit Jakarta.
Jakarta Travel Guide
- Stay in Gajah Mada area. Happy Frog recommends Novotel Gajah Mada
- Some of the museums in the old town area;
- The Istiqlal mosque and the Jakarta cathedral;
- The National Monument and walk around the park;
- The market place in Surabaya street.
- Have breakfast or lunch at Batavia restaurant in the Old town.
- On foot, by Transjakarta bus, tuc-tuc or taxi.
- Go on an excursion to the colonial Bandung.
DO NOT MISS:
- Stroll around the beautiful Old town Kota tua;
- Shop at Plaza Indonesia or Grand Indonesia;
- Discover the few left underground clubs;
- Take a tuc-tuc for an exotic adventure;
- Enter the presidential palace on a weekend.