Monday, May 2, 2011

Going Around Jakarta During May Day

Tips for tourists planning to visit Jakarta: Don't come on May Day. Come the day after.

As I said earlier, I took my friend Nhung and her friends around the city. We left her hotel at 10.15 a.m.  At first, they wanted to take a taxi, but I told them that during May Day, it would be best to stick to TransJakarta busway. And I was right. We were trapped amidst the May Day demonstrations before finally reached the Old Town at midday. The girls were very excited to see the May Day activities, though. They took pictures of the protesters and even waving their fists to support the labors.

Part of the 2011 May Day rally

"We don't have labor demonstration on May Day. There will be some demonstrations during our National Day, but it's not this big," Nhung said.

Perhaps the labor condition in the ex-communist country is better than here. Last week, I met a labor working for a factory producing German sport apparels. The apparels she makes can cost hundreds of thousands rupiah, but she can barely make ends meet. Together with her husband, she rents a three-by-three meter room, where they sleep and cook.

  The photo that didn't make it into the newspaper, because it's so blurry. But I like it for it kinda portrays the labors' blurry condition:) If you like to read the article, click here.

Anyway, back to our 'tour', I showed them the Sunda Kelapa harbor and Menara Syahbandar (the Lookout Tower). But they didn't want to either see the Maritime Museum or peek into the VOC ship dockyard (which is now a restaurant), so we returned to the Old Town, where we saw a huge crowd filling the Fatahillah square.

Sunda Kelapa harbor

Menara Syahbandar

Couples, friends and  groups of teenagers were strolling around. There were ondel-ondel effigies, fire blowers and traditional musical performance. It was a really nice Sunday. It didn't feel like a May Day.

Museum Fatahillah

I took them to Cafe Batavia, which is just across Museum Fatahillah. They also loved it. I soon saw them snapping pictures of the interior, the flower decoration and the food. Cafe Batavia patrons are mostly the blond hair-blue eyes type, and we, as the Asian girls, felt a bit out-of-place.

Inside Cafe Batavia

Nhung wanted to see the local market, but since there isn't any nearby, I took them back to the central area. It was 2 p.m., the demonstration was still on the move. At first, I wanted to take them into Istiqlal Mosque, but after seeing the demonstrations, I decided to take them to Sarinah instead. And again, they were happy to peruse and shop the items there.

After shopping, fatigue kicked in. So we grabbed a cup of coffee in a nearby Starbucks. They insisted to go to this coffee-chain. 

"We don't have any Starbucks cafes in Vietnam, so we want to drink in their cafes everytime we find them abroad," one of them said.

The Starbucks brand ambassadors

Then we walked to Grand Indonesia. They also liked it (Oh wow, either they are happy-go-lucky people or I'm such a wonderful tourist guide?). They said the weather was nice for walking (It was 5.30 p.m., the sun was setting. If we did it at noon, they would melt due to the scorching sun).

We spent around one hour there. More shopping and window shopping. Then we had a taxi ride back to the hotel, because the girls were very tired. We had dinner in a roadside eatery near their hotel, it was Ayam Bakar Ganthari. They ordered grilled chickens and rib soups, while I tried grilled duck. Yum!

Now, I'm thinking to make a complete guide to Jakarta. But I'll need several weekends to work on it. Wish me luck!


  1. Hi,

    I am writing a blog post about Jakarta and I found some nice pictures on your site. Can I use some of them, citing your site as the author? My blog is (in Italian language) and I am writing about various cities, mostly in Europe.


  2. Hi Debora,
    Thank you for the appreciation. Sure, just link the post here, so I can read it :)

  3. Hi Tifa,

    I just finished and published the article about Jakarta. I credited you for the pictures, with a link to your site. I hope it's ok. The article is located at, if you want to give it a look. I hope you will understand it (as it is in Italian), or you can use google translate!

    Thanks again,

  4. Hi Debora,
    Many thanks for the link. It's great! Keep up the good work :).