My first trip to Indonesia was just a couple of days spent lazing by the pool in the pretty island of Bintan. At the time I didn’t think much of the country and just enjoyed my few days of leisure with a bunch of friends. It’s much later after reading several blogs that I realised Indonesia has much to offer specially if you’re looking for an idyllic beach holiday. Having been to Bintan, Bali and even Komodo island I experienced firsthand the beauty I had only read about. While you can’t take away the lure of pristine beaches, ideal diving and snorkeling spots or funky beach shacks and cool cafes, I think one of the most under rated places in the country is their very own capital city. At first Jakarta comes across as loud, noisy and incredibly annoying when you’re stuck in their never ending traffic. Much like Mumbai, Manila or even Bangkok with the hecticness, the heat and over all onslaught on your senses. Just like those cities, if you give it a chance, Jakarta will surprise you and you’ll realise that this is one city that has much to offer its tourists and travelers but gets over shadowed by the more alluring islands. If you’re headed to Jakarta ( for work, pleasure or even just a layover ) take the time to get out and explore! These are some of my personal highlights from a recent trip there.
Eat Street Food – Jakarta has a great variety of incredible street food and it will certainly take more than a couple of days to understand and explore Indonesian cuisine but you can start with a quick trip to a local street side food cart. Everybody knows Indonesia’s famous Nasi Goreng but it was only once I hit Jakarta thanks to my awesome friend Munmun from Indiohoy that I realised there is more than just one type of Nasi Goreng. She took me to try some of her favoruites ( this was post dinner so I was really being over indulgent ) and even managed to wash down a bottle of the local favourte Tebottle which is a popular Indonesian beverage.
National Monument – While I didn’t get a chance to go up close and take a better photo, I ended up driving past the National Monument a number of times. The National Monument is a symbol of freedom that celebrates Indonesian independence from the Dutch that ruled them. The National Monument or MONAS for short is a tall obelisk and is quite stunning. There is a park and large open space around it so ideal to spend some time enjoying the outdoors and greenery. I noticed a couple of stalls ( closer to the museum side ) that had popped up giving it a sort of flea market vibe if you’re in the mood to shop.
The National Museum – This is a great place to visit if you want to learn more and understand Indonesia’s past and history. The museum highlights the heritage of Indonesia and has a lovely collection of ancient relics and artifacts. Old stone statues, an entire section dedicated to their gold artifacts and Dayak puppets are just some of the treasures in the museum I’d recommend spending a couple of hours here to walk back in time and understand Indonesia better.
Get A Massage ( Kokuo Reflexology ) – I always thought Thailand was massage central but it would seem that I have to change my mind about that. I managed to make the time and indulge in a full body massage which was incredibly therapeutic ( I’m extremely picky with my massage so I know when it’s a good one ) and the best part is that they are incredibly cheap! The entire cost for a full body massage which was about an hour and a half long was a grand total of about 150,000 Indonesian Rupiah or approx 15 USD so yes THAT cheap !
Indulge In Some Shopping – Jakarta is a haven for shopaholics and what’s better is that there is a price range for everyone. The city is flooded with malls some quite fancy even and there is plenty of affordable shopping as well. It is relatively inexpensive specially if you compare it with European countries and a great destination to buy all sorts of things. My greatest regret was not having enough time to indulge but fear not, I shall make the time on my next visit!
Old Town Square – While Jakarta is a hub for business and has morphed into this mega buzzing metro, Kota Tua, Jakarta’s old town is a complete contrast. It’s a travelers delight as Indonesia’s old colonial roots can be seen here. There are plenty of beautiful old buildings, distinct colonial architecture which is still maintained to give you an insight of what Jakarta use to look like under the rule of the Dutch East India Company. Apart from exploring the square I’d highly recommend popping into the popular Cafe Batavia which gives you a glorious taste of the past.
Istiqlal Mosque – I knew that the majority of the population in Indonesia are Muslim but what I didn’t know is that Jakarta is home to the largest mosque in South East Asia. Istiqlal Mosque is a beautiful and incredibly peaceful place and really is the calm oasis in the middle of this chaotic city. Calling the prayer hall inside massive is a gross understatement and I’m told it can accommodate nearly 20,000 people at a time ! I’m glad I went when it wasn’t a busy day but it’s really large enough to make you feel incredibly small. It also photographs really well and if you’re interested in knowing more about the mosque there are guided tours in English that will help you. The mosque was built to celebrate their Independence but what I like the most is that it was specially commissioned to be built right across the street from the stunning Jakarta Cathedral to symbolize religious tolerance and harmony which I think is something we should all have more off specially in the world today.
Jakarta Cathedral – The Cathedral is right across the street from the mosque and is built in classic Neo Gothic style. It is over a century old and another beautiful reminder of the Dutch rule. The architecture is stunning and I’d highly recommend going inside to have a look. It also photographs spectacularly.
Bintang – It’s odd to name this as something to do but if you’re anywhere in Indonesia not just Jakarta I highly recommend sampling the local brew and Bintang is my favourite. I mean you make the effort to eat local cuisine why should the beer be left out 😉
Disclaimer : This post was done as part of a campaign called #TripOfWonders and I was hosted by the Indonesian Tourism Board. As usual all thoughts, ideas and opinions are my own
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