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Jakarta

At first glance, the Indonesian capital of Jakarta can seem like a smog-choked concrete jungle, but spend a little time here and you’ll fast come to recognise its charms. A wild array of restaurants offer the best of Indonesia’s varied cuisine. There’s also a fascinating dock district that is well worth exploring, and markets that rival those of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. This, remember, is one of South-East Asia’s largest cities, so there is plenty here for the independent traveller. A large chunk of Jakarta’s populace are immigrants from the other parts of the island of Java and the rest of Indonesia, so the capital is a vibrant mix of Javanese and Sundanese languages, culture, customs and traditional foods, making it an interesting city to get to know.

Kuningan and Jalan Sudirman make up Jakarta’s main CBD, and this is where you’ll find the gleaming skyscrapers, clean streets, Western malls and restaurants, and a huge variety of nighttime entertainment.The endless gridlock and haze of smog might take a little getting used to. It’s no coincidence foreign residents nickname Jakarta ‘The big durian’ – the tropical fruit that has both a strong odour and is an acquired taste. However, there’s no denying the city is a bustling urban metropolis that never sleeps.

Jakarta’s Chinatown (Glodok) is a landmark neighbourhood that is well worth a visit, full of tantalising restaurants, markets and a wealth of interesting shops to explore. Getting there is fairly easy because it isn’t far from Jakarta Kota Station and, when you’re finished, you can wander around Fatahillah Square in the town centre or explore the beautiful orchid garden at Slipi.

The Jakarta History Museum, housed in the old Batavia Town Hall, is an interesting look at Indonesia’s past and one of the city’s solid reminders of Dutch rule. Jakarta is also home to plenty of rather odd monuments and giant statues – a legacy of former President Soekarno’s socialist ideals. One of the most impressive is the 132m flame-topped National Monument.A 10-minute walk from Taman Fatahillah, the old port of Sunda Kelapa is home to a flotilla of magnificent Makassar schooners. The bright-painted ships are a key transport and freight delivery link between Jakarta and the outer islands.They’re also one of the capital’s main tourist attractions.

While it’s not oozing late-night discos and clubs, Jakarta nevertheless has a thriving after-dark entertainment scene, particularly in Kemang, where there are a number of good pubs. Kemang’s main rival is Jalan Jaksa, which as well as being home to good pubs and clubs, is also a good place to find cheap hostels and accommodation.

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