Indonesia is a huge, diverse country with something for every kind of traveler. Adventurers, backpackers, surfers, honeymooners; all can find something to enjoy in Indonesia. Most travelers head to the paradise of Bali but there are plenty of reasons to also checkout the capital city, Jakarta too. Although crowded and suffering from pollution, those who visit will find it to be a lively, bustling city with something to discover around every corner. Here are Top Ten Reasons to visit.
10 – The delightful old town
Kota is the old town of Jakarta and contains a number of fabulous Dutch-style, colonial buildings from the 17th century. The old town is centered around Fatahillah Square where you can find three museums, the Jakarta History Museum located in the former headquarters of the Dutch East India Company, the Wayang Puppetry Museum which occupies the site of a church built in 1640 and the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics. Step away from the main square and the streets are lined with street performers. You can hire a horse and cart to take you on a ride around the square which is an excellent way to see the old town of Jakarta.
9 – People watching
Something which is fun to do in Jakarta is exploring the city life. There is always something going on in Jakarta and you can kill hours just walking around the cities markets and streets watching the locals go about their daily lives. Shops set inside living rooms, friendly food sellers and locals haggling over wholesale clothes. It’s completely different from the Western way of life. Just pick a direction, walk and explore. Jakarta is a great city and the locals are a fascinating bunch.
8 – Monas National Monument
Monas is the National Monument of Indonesia and is a 433 ft high tower in the center of Merdeka Square. It is topped by an iconic, gold flame. Underneath the monument is the National History Museum which features a number of well made dioramas displaying scenes from Indonesian history. There is also the Hall of Independence located inside the “goblet” part of Monas which contains the original text of Indonesia’s Proclamation of Independence. The highlight is the observation platform at the top of the tower which allows for some excellent views of the city. A must-see on your visit to Indonesia.
7 – Cultural and religious sites
As with any big city, there are a number of cultural and religious sites in Jakarta to enjoy. The most impressive is the huge Istiqlal Mosque. The biggest mosque in South East Asia, it has a capacity of 120,000. Free tours with friendly guides are available. There is also an excellent cathedral to visit. Saint Mary of the Assumption Cathedral which is built in a Neo-Gothic style and was constructed in 1901. Other noteworthy cultural sites are the open-air antique market on Surabaya Street and the Jakarta Fair.
6 – Excellent shopping
There is a lot of shopping to be done in Jakarta. The city contains a staggering 174 shopping malls and is considered to be the city with the most malls in the world. Luxury brands can be purchased from the malls of Plaza Indonesia, Grand Indonesia and Plaza Senayan. In addition to the main shopping malls, there are also a number of markets to visit. The Mangga Dua complex is the most noteworthy. It features massive indoor markets where a number of goods can be bought at cheap prices. Electrical items, dvds and fake designer gear can all be bought here. Haggling is a must.
5 – Exciting nightlife
Many people say the nightlife in Jakarta is the best in Asia and for good reason. The more upscale bars include the popular Blowfish, X2 and Potato Head Garage. As well as the upscale joints, there are a large number of smaller, seedier places which offer excellent DJs and good beer at low prices. Expats in Jakarta tend to head to Blok M, a long street packed with pubs, bars and nightclubs which are all aimed largely at male, western visitors to the city. If you are looking for an alternative party destination to the usual haunts of Malia, Magaluf, Bangkok or Bali, then Jakarta and Blok M would be an excellent choice.
4 – Perfect base-camp for Yogyakarta and it’s famous temples
Jakarta is an excellent destination to reach Yogyakarta with cheap bus, train and flights to this excellent city. Yogyakarta is a must visit for any visitor to Indonesia. A large town full of colonial era buildings, it is located next to two fantastic temple sites. Borobudur is a Buddhist site dating back to the 8th century. It is one of the world’s greatest ancient monuments and the view of the nearby volcano, Mount Merapi is spectacular. The second temple complex is Prambanan, a Hindu temple from the 9th century. This is possibly even more beautiful than Borobudur and deserves to be world famous.
3 – The intriguing Taman Mini Indonesia Park
Taman Mini Indonesia is an excellent cultural park. Covering over 250 acres, the park presents all aspects of daily life from all of Indonesia’s provinces. Examples of architecture, traditional costumes, tools, weaponry and more can be seen from all the native people of Indonesia. There are also regular shows showing traditional dances and songs from across Indonesia.
Taman Mini Indonesia also features a number of gardens, an aquarium,a bird park and an excellent reptile park which features a number of snakes and lizards which can be found across Indonesia. The highlight are the parks two, lazy Komodo Dragons. There are 14 different museums to visit at Taman Mini Indonesia including the East Timor Museum, the Indonesia Museum and a vehicle museum which has examples of trains, cars and trucks from Indonesia’s past. You can spend a number of days at Taman Mini Indonesia and still not see everything this fabulous park has to offer.
2 – Gateway to the gorgeous Thousand Islands
The Thousand Islands are located off the coast and accessible from Marina Ancol. There are a huge number of islands, many privately owned but many of which are open to tourism. The closest island is Pulau Bidadari which is located just 20 minutes from the coast and is purely a resort island. You can rent a bicycle here to get around and explore. Traveling Top Tips however recommends visiting Pulau Pari Island instead. Although further ashore, it is far less crowded than Bidadari and makes for a far better experience. It is an inhabited island with friendly people. There are no hotels on the island but many of the houses are home stays offering rooms to tourists for low prices. The water surrounding the island is crystal clear and there are a few beautiful beaches to relax on. Starfish Beach is the most secluded, away from the town and, as it’s name suggests, is famous for the number of starfish to be found in it’s clear waters.
Must do activities are snorkeling, hiring a boat to visit some of the smaller neighboring islands, taking a ride on a banana boat and of course relaxing at the beaches. The snorkeling spots at Pari Island are excellent with a wide range of tropical fish to see. Even the boat journey back to Jakarta is exciting with the chance of seeing whales and dolphins.
1 – Friendly, welcoming people
Finally, the main reason to visit Jakarta is how friendly and welcoming the locals are. A walk around any street in Jakarta and you’ll be greeted by a number of “hellos”, Mosque elders inviting you in for a cup of tea and a chat, friendly kids asking you to join in their game of soccer and even random people wishing to take a photo of you. The locals are friendly and take delight in welcoming you into their part of town, especially if you explore the side streets away from the usual tourist sites. If you visit during the Independence Day celebrations you will definitely get invited to join in the festivities by the locals. Eating contests, tugs of war, games of football, dances; all take place during Independence Day and if you are in the city during that time be sure to have a walk around. Indonesians would love for you to take part in the celebrations with them.