Monday, June 20, 2011

Jaunting In Jakarta

Source: Wikipedia

I read my friend Mariani Dewi's article on Sunday Post and laughed out loud. Oh how true it is. I guess it's just not fair to compare Jakarta with Bali. After all, one is a capitol and the other one is a holiday destination. Sure, I'd recommend Bali too if you're coming for a holiday.

But if you're coming for business and got a few days to spend in Jakarta, I'd like to recommend some places to visit here. I'll try to sum everything in this one post. If I miss something, let me know:) Here it goes...

Like many big cities in Indonesia, Jakarta was started from a port, the Sunda Kelapa port. Back in its hey day, the port was the main entrance to the city but now, it only serves as a timber port. I love to watch the people downloading the stuffs from the boats.

Just a few meters away from the port, there's Menara Syahbandar (The Lookout Tower). In the past, it was used to give signals to the ships coming into the port. Due to massive pumping of underground water, the tower has been tilting and sinking.

Behind the Tower, there's Maritime Museum and Fish Market. There are eight old warehouses too a few meters walk from the Tower. As far as I remember, the museum does not have many collection, the market is not a touristy spot and the warehouses are always under the floodwater. But those are parts of the port area, it would be interesting to take a look and imagine what life was like back then.

If you're adventurous enough, take a walk into the fishermen's village in Kampung Luar Batang.  

Or you can just cross the road and head to Restoran Galangan Kapal VOC (VOC Shipyard Restaurant). It used to be a shipyard, now it's a restaurant:).

I took Sunda Kelapa area as final assignment to get my university degree so I've been to all those spots. Since the port always has activities and there are thugs everywhere, you might want to have a guide or a local (take me! take me!) to the area.

From the port, let's go to Kali Besar (literally means Big River). There are old buildings on both sides of the river. 

Then head to Fatahillah Square, also known as the Old Town, which is encircled by museums. You can stroll in the square, visit the museums or rent a bike to get around. When you're tired exploring the square, hop into Cafe Batavia, go to the second floor and take a seat by the window. If you'd like to see, I've made a post on a tour around the Old Town.
From the square, you can explore Glodok's narrow alleys. People say that Petak Sembilan is famous. But just take any alley you come across and enjoy the experience:). Glodok is also famous for its cheap and complete electronics shops.

The next part of historical path is around the National Monument, where you can observe Jakarta from above. The whole block is filled with interesting places. The Presidential Palace is on Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara. On Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat there's Museum Nasional, or also known as Museum Gajah (Gajah means elephant, and there's a small elephant statue in front of the museum), houses artifacts on Indonesia's history. City Hall is on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan.

And since you're visiting the world's biggest Muslim community outside the Gulf, I think you'd be interested to see Masjid Istiqlal, the mosque that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited, it's near Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur. It so happened that the mosque is face-to-face with the Cathedral.

After that, why don't you try Italian ice cream at Ragusa? The ice cream shop was founded by two Italian brothers in the 1940s, one was married to the Indonesian cashier and now the shop's management is handled by the wife's brother.  

By this time, you've reached Central Jakarta. I'd suggest you to go to Jl. Sabang, where cafes and restaurants thrive. My favorite is Kopi Tiam Oey, owned by the kind and humble culinary expert Pak Bondan Winarno.

While you're near Jl. Sabang, make a stop at Sarinah. It's one of the oldest shopping centers in Jakarta, and has a wide array of Indonesian souvenirs, such as batik, carvings and other handicrafts. You can get similar things when you visit the regions, but if you can only visit Jakarta, not the whole Indonesia, Sarinah has the souvenirs you need. You can also buy souvenirs at Pasaraya.

Fancy some shopping? There's Plaza Indonesia, eX and Grand Indonesia nearby. But if you like to haggle and want to buy many clothes, Pasar Tanah Abang (Tanah Abang Market) is just the place. I'm not a good haggler myself, but a friend gives a hint: you can ask for one-third or even a quarter of the first price if you buy three or six pieces of clothes.

If you're perusing the malls, do make a stop at The Goods Dept (at Plaza Indonesia) and Level One (Grand Indonesia). Those are where local creative industry claim their space. Some of the stuffs are great! And unfortunately, expensive too (for me)...Other places where you can find creative industry are Manekineko (at Rasuna Epicentrum) and Mazee (at fX) .

The malls have some nice restaurants too. Just take a look around:).But if you want to sample some Indonesian foods, I recommend Lara Djonggrang, Bumbu Desa and Ampera.

While we're on the subject of malls, Jakarta has so many of them. Check them here. I used to think Mall Kelapa Gading is the largest here, but now that we have Gandaria City, Mall of Indonesia and Central Park, I've lost track:P.  

If the big and shiny shopping malls scare you, you may like the friendly atmosphere at markets like Pasar Baru or Passer Baroe, which specifically sells shoes and fabrics and Pasar Kue Subuh Senen, which sells traditional cakes early at dawn (really cheap).

Are you a fan of Barack Obama? Do visit his former school SD Besuki (Besuki elementary), just several hundreds meters away from Hotel Indonesia traffic circle. Or the Fransiscus Asisi elementary school. I've been to both schools (click here to see SD Besuki). Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera when I visited the Fransiscus Asisi school.

If this trip to Jakarta takes place on Sunday, make sure you stop by Suropati Park. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Suropati Park Chamber, a hobby group consisting of students, retirees and street musicians gather and practice their string instruments (violin, viola, cello, guitar) there. They play Indonesian folksongs.

After passing the park, you can continue walking to Jl. Surabaya, a street selling antiques stuffs. Even if there is no place to visit, walking around Menteng area is fun because there are trees, nice pavement for pedestrians and less traffic.

Now that we've explored Jakarta's most historic parts, let's go to the swanky hip area: Kemang. I don't frequent this place as it's always packed and congested. But if you can handle the traffic in Jakarta so far, just give it a try.
It takes some time to fall in love with Jakarta. Hope the list will help you get by:)

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