One of south-east Asia’s largest cities, Jakarta has plenty of attractions 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.
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 odor and is an acquired taste. However, there’s no denying the city is a bustling urban metropolis that never sleeps.
Jakarta’s Chinatown is a landmark neighborhood full of tantalising restaurants, markets and a wealth of interesting shops to explore that is well worth a visit, despite the fact it has not fully recovered from deadly riots that erupted here in 1998.
When you’re finished there, 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. 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 an 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. The most popular bars and clubs are around Jalan Jaksa, which is also a good place to find cheap hostels and accommodation.