Presenting ‘Jakarta, Indonesia’ in partnership with Traveloka
From a distance, the madness of Jakarta may feel a bit daunting to say the least. But the capital of Indonesia and the gateway to the country’s gorgeous natural offerings of volcanoes, verdant rice paddies, and islands filled with dragons is a wonderful representation of everything that is Indonesian. Jakarta continues to celebrate a hard-won independence in the form of monuments and cherishes its culinary identity with streets teeming with food hawkers. If you find yourself visiting, this guide will help you make the most out of your time in the Big Durian, a city that rewards the curious and is loved by the locals no matter its reputation.
1. Catch a live dangdut show
If you want to know what Jakarta sounds like, head over to a dangdut show. Dangdut is a genre of Indonesian music with rhythms, instruments, and harmony heavily influence by Indian music. Indonesians LOVE dangdut, which is why ithe traditionally folk entertainment is now considered popular music. The full-powered bands feature one lead singer accompanied by a worldly collection of musical instruments ranging from sitars, tablas, and gendangs, to the more modern selection of guitars and synthesizers. Get ready to “goyang” i.e. SHAKE IT UP on to the heady sounds of dangdut.
2. Eat from kaki lima
The mobile food vendors, the kaki lima, are the keepers of the city’s street food assortment. You’ll find a heavy concentration of of these moving stores (the geropak) in Pasar Baru, the 196-year-old market aka the oldest market in Jakarta although they’re easily found zigzagging through traffic, which is especially fantastic when wrangling the infamous Jakartan traffic jams. The most universal item on every push cart is gorengan, literally anything fried. For something specific, try martabak, a stuffed pancake of Arabic descent. While it can either be savory or sweet, martabak manis, sweet martabak, is a dessert bomb loaded with things like condensed milk, cheese, or even Toblerone chocolate.
3. Admire the grace of the National Monument
The epicenter of the city is none other than Monas, a 137-meter-high monument that towers over the city situated in the middle of Merdeka Square. The National Monument, topped by a bronze flame, is a symbol of Indonesia’s long struggle for independence from the Dutch. The iconic structure is easily the most popular attraction in town and offers the best sunset views of Jakarta from the observation deck, which is open daily except for the last Monday of the month, from 8 am to 3pm. A trip up costs a mere 15,000 IDR ($1.5 USD) so no there’s honestly no excuse to not visit. At the base of the monument is a hallway housing 51 dioramas of epic scenes from Indonesia History, in collaboration with the Indonesian National History Museum. Fun fact: The dimensions of the design deliberately incorporate the date of the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence: August 17, 1945 (17, 8, and 45).
4. Say a prayer at Istiqlal Mosque
The national mosque and also largest mosque in Southeast Asia, Istiqlal Mosque, is another reminder of Indonesia’s long struggle for independence with Istiqlal meaning “independence” in Arabic. The mosque can host a congregation of up to 120,000 worshippers. Non-Muslim guests must be accompanied by a guide. For those interested in learning more about the religion, you are shortly briefed about Islam before your tour. Dress appropriately: shorts and sleeveless tops are not allowed. The mosque is directly in front of the Catholic Cathedral, which is evident of Indonesia’s tolerance towards all religions and applied interfaith practices.
5. Learn more about Indonesian culture at Taman Mini
One of the biggest hardships for tourists subjected to fast-pace itineraries is not being able to appreciate a new country in its entirety. Fortunately for Jakarta tourists, the Tamam Mini Indonesia Indah exists. The “Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park” was erected at the behest of former first lady Siti Hartinah. The intent of this cultural theme park was to instill more national pride in the hearts of Indonesians and also to celebrate the rich heritage and diversity of Indonesian people. The park is mapped out in sections meant to represent the main islands of Indonesia: Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi, the lesser Sunda Islands, Maluku and Papua. Beyond the replicas of the varying architecture found around the archipelago, you can catch theatrical, musical, and dance showcases. There are also rides, museums, and gardens found all around the premises, a perfect recreational outing.
- Are you a fan of antiquing? Head over to Jalan Surabaya and procure some cool collector’s items but keep a sharp eye out for imposter commodities.
- Get a taste of Japan’s finest by way of Jakarta at the Little Tokyo neighborhood located behind Blok M Bus Terminal.
- If you’re in need of a new talisman, Rawa Bening is your one stop for all things magical. The large collections of stones, amulets and other mystical objects are perfect for those looking for a bit of luck.
- Chinatown in Glodok is home to some of Jakarta’s finest foodstalls. If you’re looking to get lost and/or do a sizeable amount of people watching, the narrow alleyways of this Chinese enclave is your best bet.
- Every Sunday, from 6 am to 12 noon, the main street of Jalan Sudirm-Thamrin is cleared for Car Free Day. That’s right: you can ride your bike without having to bob and weave between cars or worry about breathing too much smoke exhaust!
All photos courtesy of Pullman Hotel Jakarta. Special thanks to Catriona for local insider knowledge.
Disclaimer: This post contains sponsored links by Traveloka. All opinions and graphics are my own.