Jakarta, the capital city of the Republic of Indonesia is a city of Contradictions; Mansions and chalets stand together, beggars, guides, hawkers hover outside the gleaming offices on the main road, the wealthy and the starving, the pious and the practical, the conventional and contemporary all co-exist in perfect harmony like the well oiled machinery of one of the many metro minis that adorn the road, all prevailing together in this hustling metropolitan. The diversity extends to the Javanese people as well where a variety of diverse ethnic and cultural groups have come together over a period of thousands of years to stain the country in the rich colors of their individual heritage.
The strategic location of Indonesia as a trade route and a connecting water way between the mighty Indian and Pacific Oceans has resulted in a brilliant potpourri of various cultures, religions and people mingling to form a new group of people. From the fifth century, merchant ships from China and Vietnam besides other islands stopped to trade at the port at Ciliwung. Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese traders also stopped to barter goods at this small town. Besides that a strong influence of the colonial powers has left traces of their dominance in this country. Jakarta truly is a melting pot of cultures and heritages from the east and the west.
Jakarta is not a popular tourist attraction and unlikely to figure on your list of vacations, but this centrally located city is the perfect gateway to explore Java. Not devoid of its own attractions, it is famous for the national monument, History museum and the Sunda Kelapa. Situated near the Indonesian Thousand Islands, the multi-religious temple city of Yogyakarta in Central Java and the popular cities of Bogor and Bandung, it can be used as a base while you travel to the many surrounding destinations.
“Betawi” is taken from Batavia, the old name of the capital during the Dutch administration. The native Orang Betawi emerged in the 19th century from the influences of various cultures, suggesting the level of influence that spread in the city over the centuries. A gradual process that spread over thousands of years, that involved a unique blending and borrowing of Chinese, Arab, Portuguese and Dutch influences and years to perfect that tradition resulted in the Betawi culture. The Betawi culture is famous for the influences of other cultures that can be immediately recognized by looking and listening to its art form, you can catch a glimpse of the culture and tradition by visiting the Jakarta pavilion at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park) which has long been showing Betawi ceremonies such as the Betawi wedding ceremony, the circumcision procession, the baby head - shaving ceremony etc. Today the Betawi culture has a distinct personality of its own.
Jakarta is a paradise for shoppers and has something to suit every pocket. In addition to traditional markets, modern shopping centers and supermarkets exist all over the neighborhoods of the city. From Sarinah to Plaza Indonesia to the dozens of little shops in Mangga Dua, you can spend a day going through formal Paul Smith shirts to printed skirts and handicrafts. These are not standard shopping center stores -- they are very small shops like cells. Shops with like items tend to be clustered in groups, which makes it easier to compare and bargain the prices down. Jalan Surabaya is a bustling flea market offering a wide range of goods, some of them antiquities, including ornate lamps, porcelain, brass-ware, handicrafts, A must go for souvenirs. There are a few more recent centers with standard stores, especially for high-end brands. Visit the modern shopping malls such as Pasar Raya, Plaza Senayan, Plaza Indonesia, Pondok Indah Mall, and Taman Anggrek, 1 of the largest mall in South East Asia if you don’t mind shelling out some serious dough on designer labels. The best shopping for electronics is in Mangga Dua Electronics Center I West Jakarta or Ratu Plaza in South Jakarta. The Pasar Seni Art Markets in Ancol is a good place for paintings and other handicrafts. An interesting place is the Jatinegara gemstone market, with a huge range of precious and semiprecious stones. The Pasar Baru area presents many traditional textile shops which showcase the rich textiles of this country.
Jakarta is every foodie’s dream come true. All you need to do is step outside your house and in this case hotel room to sample something from the many carts that roam the city. Called ‘gerobak makanan’ or carts with many kinds of meals they serve piping hot food at very cheap prices. The ultimate seafood restaurant in Jakarta is in Muara Karang, all seafood is served 'fresh from the ocean'. The restaurants only have steamed rice with many various kinds of sambals or sauses. So you can choose your favorite seafood from the fish market opposite the restaurant and ask them to cook it… Sweet and sour jumbo crabs, fried crabs with butter and oyster sauce, grilled prawn and calamari, served with steamed rice and chili-mango sauce plus belacan sauce, the list is endless. Similarly Pasar Ikan Fish Market is a must see, this colorful neighborhood is a bustling fish market by day and serves up fresh grilled fish by night.
The best restaurants in Jakarta are the ones that are on the sides of the streets. Do try Soto Madura (beef soup with yellow spices) in Jalan Roxi and Lamb Satay in Jalan Gereja Ayam. For those who like spicy food, try the 'nasi goreng' which is Fried rice with sausage, egg and crackers. If you prefer a coffee shop or a restaurant head to Café Batavia for its colonial ambience, with pictures of Elton John to Jawaharlal Nehru adorning the walls of this exclusive colonial club, it serves a range of juices, smoothies and snacks.
Jakarta's architecture reflects to a large extent the influx of outside influences which came and have remained in this important seaport city. Dilapidated colonial mansions, crumbling British buildings, every piece of architecture has a story to tell. Over the last several decades Jakarta has developed into a business centre. Jakarta's skyline is covered with concrete sky scrapers, dazzling shopping malls, extravagant restaurants and discotheques have now become a common sight in the city. Having undergone dramatic growth it boasts of the largest and most modern airport in the country, the most important harbor in Indonesia and a well-connected network of good roads to other destinations in Java, Sumatra, and Bali
If you are keen to view the remnants of the Dutch architecture then head to Old Batavia.
The charming old town of Batavia is the oldest reminder of the Dutch influence in Jakarta. The once impressive shoreline fortress surrounded by a wall and a moat was destroyed by the government in a bid to start things afresh but there are still plenty of Dutch influences in this part of town. A few of Batavia's old buildings are still in use - some were restored in the 1970's and now stand as museums. To the west is the Kali Besar, the great canal that formerly marked out the influential residential area of Batavia, and on the west bank of the canal stand the last remaining large private homes dating from the early 18th century. Following the canal north you'll see a small 17th-century Dutch drawbridge, the last one in the city, named the Chicken Market Bridge. The Taman Fatahillah Restoration Project, begun in the early 1970s has restored Old Batavia to approximately its original state.
Jaya Ancol Dreamland is right out of some (somewhat warped) fantasy. This fantasy Land, a 9.5 hectares entertainment park located inside the Ancol Dreamland is Jakarta's largest and most popular recreation park. It is built on reclaimed beach land at the Bay of Jakarta, having, sea and freshwater aquariums, swimming pools, an artificial lagoon for fishing, boating, bowling, and an assortment of nightclubs, restaurants, a steam-bath and massage parlors. The present facility takes them on an imaginative tour of Old Jakarta, Africa, America, Indonesia, Europe, Asia and the Palace of Dolls. Each of the areas is designed to give the visitor a feel of the region he is visiting through features and architecture of the area at a certain period of its history and by the use of animated puppets.
The Jakarta History Museum is housed in the old Batavia Town Hall and initially served as the Dutch East Indies Company's Town Hall. Completed in 1627, the building Additions and renovations including a stone gate, offices and renovations were added between 1705 and 1715.
It served as the administration centre of the city, the law courts, and even housed Batavia's main prison. The building was used as military barracks and offices when the Jakarta City Administration decided in the early 1970s to make it the focus of a restoration plan of old Batavia Today, it's the place to go if you're into heavy, carved furniture and other memorabilia from the Dutch period. Now a museum, it provides the historical background of Jakarta through displays of old maps and antiquities including furniture and porcelain used by the Dutch rulers.
Indonesia in Miniature Park is an extensive park built to get a glimpse of the diverseness of the Indonesian archipelago. One of the most interesting tourist attractions it is popularly called "Taman Mini". It has its own orchid garden in which hundreds of Indonesian orchid varieties are grown. There is also a bird park with a walk-in aviary, a fauna museum and recreational grounds with a swimming pool and restaurants.
Built to portray the variety of cultures found within the many islands contained in the Republic of Indonesia, this open-air museum comprises the many architectural forms of arts and traditions of all 27 provinces. A richly decorated building in Balinese architecture, it houses contemporary arts, crafts and traditional costumes from the different regions of the country
Sunda Kelapa, better known as Pasar Ikan which means fish market is located at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. It was formerly the harbor town of Sunda Kelapa where the Portuguese traded with the Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran in the early 16th century. Sunda Kelapa is at present an important port. Tall mast Bugis schooners from South Sulawesi anchoring there offer a picturesque scene. They belong to one of the last-fleets of sail boats in the world and still sail the seas between the islands, as they did centuries ago, carrying merchandise.
The old port of Sunda Kelapa is home to the sailing ships - the magnificent Makassar schooners. These brightly painted ships are an important means of transportation and freight delivery between Jakarta and the outer islands
A bustling fish market at night, the fish catch of the day is auctioned in the early morning at the old fish market. The street leading to it is lined with shops selling all sorts of shells, dehydrated turtles, lobsters and mostly everything the seafarer might need.
Among Soekarno's great legacies are his heroes-of-socialism structures. The most impressive of these is the 132m or 433ft National Monument Construction of the marble-and-gold project started in 1961 and took 14 years to complete. The phallic symbol topped by a golden flame symbolizes the nation's strength and independence.