Indonesia Capital – Jakarta, unexpected gem
Indonesia is not only Bali! Also Jakarta, the Indonesia capital, was an interesting place to visit!
As you already know, I spent a few weeks in Bali in December 2015, and I fell in love with it, so I decided to explore Indonesia further: Bali was just the starting point of a trip along this beautiful country!
Jakarta is on the island of Java, one of the most densely populated areas of the world. The metropolitan area of Jakarta hosts over 30 millions of people; the city of Jakarta itseld hosts 10 million of inhabitants!
Tourists usually prefer to avoid the chaos of Jakarta: the city is very well known for its traffic jams and polluted air! My personal recommendation is: spend at least a couple of nights in Jakarta, draw your own conclusions! I am really glad I decided to visit the Indonesia capital!
Most of the touristic attractions are in the northern part of Jakarta, around Merdeka Square. Medan Merdeka (in Indonesian) is considered the largest square in the world, with an area of one square kilometer! It is without any doubt the most touristic attraction of the city.
In the center of Merdeka Square stands the Monas (the Monument Nasional), a tall tower (137 m or 433 ft high), symbol of the fight of Indonesia for independence. The Monas is a marble, bronze and gold torch representing the indomitable spirit of Indonesian people, who fought for independence from the Dutch domination. Indonesia became a Republic only in 1949.
Most touristic attractions are very close to Merdeka Square. You can get around the city easily by bajaj, the two-stroke motorised rickshaws typical of Jakarta. Bargain with a good driver and ask him to tour you around Jakarta for one full day: that is definitely the best way to explore the city and to make sure not to miss its most beautiful sights.
Walking distance from Merdeka Square is Jalan Jaksa, the most western part of the city: many UN offices and foreign embassies are around this street. This area became famous worldwide recently: in its streets a series of bombings occurred in January 2016, a mere three weeks after my visit. The attacks left at least 8 people killed.
Indonesia is a strange mix of cultures, a melting pot of different religions that live side by side: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic traditions, among the others, have all a presence in the country, at times a difficult one.
Jakarta symbolizes the coexistence of these different souls. Around Merdeka Square, one in front of the other stand both the majestic Catholic Jakarta Cathedral, and the biggest Mosque of the Southern Hemisphere, Istiqla Mosque. In my travels around Southeast Asia I have visited many Mosques and temples belonging to different religions. I must admit that the visit to the Jakarta Mosque was a truly unique experience!
I was really impressed by the majesty of the Mosque and its fine construction: the building is a gigantic beautiful structure of steel and concrete. Its interiors are decorated with different materials: its beautiful marbles stand out.
From Merdeka Square you can easily reach by bajaj the Kota Tua district. The Old Batavia (as it was called in the past), was once the center of the Dutch trading empire. The area features many buildings with classic Dutch and European features. It represents nowadays the Old town of the Indonesia Capital, and gets very lively during Sundays and public holidays. I visited it on Christmas Day and as you can see the area was full of people (locals and tourists) enjoying the (very!) sunny day outdoor.
If you are lucky enough to find a good local guide, you can discover many beautiful sights around the Kota Tua district, disseminated with many remains from the Dutch empire. I loved the Kota Intan Bridge, the only authentic drawbridge from the 17th century remaining in Jakarta.
From there, my guide drove me to discover the port and the market of the Indonesia Capital: an authentic local experience not to miss.
Most of the backpackers and western travelers look for accommodation in one of the many hotels and hostels around Jalan Jaksa, the most Western district, not far from Merdeka square. The area features also a good choice of stalls and restaurants to choose from. If you are looking for good value (and good quality) local food, you will find the best Indonesian recipes at the stalls along J HA Salim. You can also enjoy good Italian food (and a great pizza) at Ocha & Bella: you won’t be disappointed!
Just one warning: there is not a visible gay life in Jakarta. The gay scene is relatively small and discrete. The only gay bar (and club) I am aware of is Apollo, in the Bellagio Boutique Mall. It is a bit ar from the area where I was staying in, so I didn’t get to visit it. Although I heard it is a nice place with a friendly atmosphere.
Did I convinc you to visit Jakarta, the Indonesia capital? If you still are in doubt or need more information, do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
Date of last visit: December 2015