October 2019


Jakarta: City of Steel and Wonder
October 2019




Clover leaf-shaped Semanggi interchange connects all the major routes of Jakarta.

Jakarta is Indonesia's pulsating metropolis of over nine million. You will soon learn to navigate the traffic gridlock and venture into the city's pulsating heart in no time.

Words: Marco Ferrarese.

Jakarta is Indonesia's massive heart, a daunting giant of glass and steel that extends along the northwest coast of Java island. Its constant traffic gridlock, blaring car honks and strenuous human flow most often intimidate first timers, and for a good reason. But behind its bustling surface, this metropolis has plenty to offer the visitor.

Monas Tower, the National Monument, is a popular starting point. This obelisk stands proud in the well-tended and quiet meadows of the Istana Merdeka, or 'Freedom Square', commemorating Indonesia's 1945 liberation from Dutch colonial rule.

But the face of modern Indonesia, and especially Java island - a forward-looking and yet profoundly Islamic place - is best represented by the Istiqlal Mosque. Believed to be the biggest in Southeast Asia, it soars near the Monas Tower. Its main hall, adorned with intricate ornaments, can host up to 120,000 believers.

Jakarta's former historical legacy is best preserved in Kota Tua, or Old Town Batavia, the original part of town near the sea. A world away from the activity of the city, Batavia is a delightful and compact bohemian quarter set around a cobbled square fringed by white-washed colonial architecture. Beyond coffee houses and people gazing, check the Jakarta History Museum, the former Town Hall, for a lesson in history and an example of finest colonial architecture. The Wayang Museum nearby is a great introduction to Indonesia's ancient culture of traditional shadow puppetry.

Backtracking six kilometres south along Jalan Hayam Wuruk one stumbles in Glodok, Jakarta's own China Town, and one of the biggest in the world. It started in the 17th century, when Chinese traders visited the Indonesian archipelago in search of better fortunes. The district is famous for its traditional architecture, Pasar Ikan (Fish Market) and is one of the largest electronics markets in the city. The Jin De Yuan temple built in 1775 is a focal place of worship for the local Buddhist community.

Visit Jakarta History Museum, the former Town Hall, for a lesson in history and an example of finest colonial architecture.

The sun and beaches can be accessed from the city centre. For starters there's Ancol Beach, a part of the wider Jakarta Ancol Bay City set nine kilometres east of Sunda Kelapa port. People come to this stretch of golden sand to relax on loungers and escape the city's chaos. On a very hot day, nearby aquatic theme park Atlantis Water Adventure boasts water slides and a range of swimming pools to satisfy every age group.

At last, for an idyllic - and frankly unexpected - tropical island getaway check out Pulau Seribu. Meaning 'one thousand islands', this cluster of blue-ringed islets is a few hours out of the city. Jump on a ferry and hop between islands, and make a stop at Pulau Macan, where you can indulge in fine dining and cocktails.

Jakarta is also a perfect destination with children in tow: start at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, a park boasting replicas of the traditional homes of the many people who inhabit Indonesia's sprawling archipelago of 17,000-odd islands. You can continue to Dunia Fantasi, Jakarta's own Disneyland, a full-fledged theme park with over 30 different rides and attractions. At last, Ragunan Zoo, set over an impressive 185 hectares, has 3,600-odd species, including Komodo dragons, orangutans and tigers.

For shopping, visit Taman Anngrek Mall in West Jakarta, one of the biggest, where up to 10,000 shoppers flock daily to enjoy international retailers, food and beverage outlets. Meanwhile, the district of Menteng, has a flea market packed with cheap bargains, ranging from traditional wooden carvings to old vinyl records.

So, did we say that Jakarta is all blaring honks and traffic? You may as well have forgotten about it, with all that it has to offer.

 

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    Jakarta History Museum, The Former Town Hall.

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    Ancol Beach is ideal to enjoy stunning sunsets.

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    Discover diverse wildlife at Ragunan Zoo.

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    Istiqlal Mosque is known to be the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia.

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    Taman Mini theme park is great for a day-out.

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