04 July 2014


Jakarta, a massive city of more than 9 million people, is the big beating heart of Indonesia. It is Indonesia in a nutshell, home to people from throughout the country hoping to make a living. Clearly, a large city such as this will have something to offer, and it's worth spending a few days here for its sights and shopping.

Jakarta is a huge city, with the airport north-west of the center. Some sights, such as Taman Fatahillah, are located north of the center, in Kota, while Lapangan Merdeka (Merdeka Sq) is located in the heart of town. South of the square is the more modern heart of town, with lots of malls, hotels and office buildings.

Jakarta's skyline, with the skyscrapers in the modern south
One key road is Jl Gajah Mada, a north-south road which comes from Kota. It becomes Jl Medan Merdeka Barat when it is on the western side of Merdeka Sq, then it becomes Jl MH Thamrin where many hotels, malls and the Hotel Indonesia roundabout (Bundaran HI) is located. Further south, it becomes Jl Jenderal Sudirman.

Lapangan Merdeka
Lapangan Merdeka, or Freedom Sq, is a massive, nearly 1 sq km, green open area right at the heart of the city. In the 1997 Asian economic crisis, protesters engulfed the entire square, demanding the resignation of President Suharto. His resignation paved the way for the introduction of democracy in Indonesia.

Now, Merdeka Sq is a popular place for locals to just relax in, with its plethora of shops and street food. The square is home to the National Monument, called Monas, a 137 m high landmark which was officially opened by President Suharto in 1975. The top of the landmark is home to a 35 kg gold leaf.

Built to commemorate Indonesia's struggle for independence, the monument was opened to the public in 1975, and is topped by a flame covered with gold foil.


Just entrance to the monument is Rp 5000 which allows you entry to the lower level (which also has good views) and access to the History Museum, located just as you enter the monument. Weekends and holidays can be very crowded; I went the day before Ramadan and the queue to get to the top was so long, the waiting time was 3 hrs! The lowest level of the interior is a history museum.

View from Monas

Lapangan Banteng and around
Very close to the north-east section of Merdeka Sq is Banteng Sq.
The area around is home to the iconic Hotel Borobudur, Masjid Istiqlal (the largest mosque in south east Asia)- it can be seen from Monas, as well as Gereja Katedral (Jakarta Cathedral).

The mosque and the cathedral are bang opposite each other, in fact, the best views of the cathedral are from inside the mosque compound.

Jakarta Cathedral

Masjid Istiqlal

The roads around these squares are very green and parts are beautifully landscaped. If you feel tired of Jakarta's concrete jungle, you really just need to drop into the centre of town!

Gambir station is on the eastern side of Merdeka Sq.

Also located in central Jakarta is the National Museum, and very close by is the Mahkamah Konstitusi (Constitutional Court of Indonesia), both on Jln Medan Merdeka Barat.

Kota is Jakarta's true old town, and is located north of the centre. By road, excluding in the worst of traffic, it should take 30-40 minutes from around Lapangan Banteng.

Kota is home to some well-maintained colonial architecture. Much is around the main square of Kota, called Taman Fatahillah.

Taman Fatahillah is a bustling square, home to various attractions such as the Jakarta History Museum and the Museum Wayang (Puppet Museum).

Jakarta History Museum
Entrance to Museum Wayang is Rp 5000 for an adult and exhibits are really beautiful, truly showing how artistic Indonesian society really is. Maintenance is not top, but the place is blissfully air-conditioned.

The museum is open Tue-Sun 9 am-3 pm. Closed Mondays and holidays.

The square has lots of street food- up to you whether it's safe for you, but the things not using cut fruit/tap water should be fine.

The above list is far from exhaustive: we had only 2 nights. Other places of interest include National Museum, Ancol and Glodok.

We stayed at Hotel Merlynn Park in Central Jakarta, a few kilometers north-west of Merdeka Sq.
Rooms- 8/10 Generally of good quality, but edges in and around the wash basin are not very clean.
Staff- 8/10 Fine staff, no special comment here.
Location- 7/10 Not the best possible location. It is central but many other 5-star hotels are located in the southern part of the centre, which is more modern. However, amenities such as ATMs and convenience stores are closeby.
Breakfast- 7/10 OK breakfast, no special comment here.
Other point- 1/0 Free 4 garments laundry per day per room.
Overall 31/40 Recommended. Rates were good. However I would prefer a similar quality hotel at a similar rate in Sudirman or Hotel Indonesia roundabout area.

Cafe Betawi serves good local cuisine and is located in many malls. We went to its outlet in Plaza Indonesia.

Jakarta is very famous for shopping, with well over a 100 malls and shopping centres. One of the top is Plaza Indonesia, a posh mall at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in central Jakarta. Prices of branded goods are very similar to those elsewhere so there are no great deals to be found, in general.

However, you can get genuinely good discounts and prices for a wide range of clothes (including batik), shoes etc at Blok M, a shopping centre in south Jakarta, not far from Senayan. A must-visit for bargain hunters, in my opinion. Next door is Pasaraya, home to a wide range of handicrafts, souvenir items and clothes etc, but at standard prices.

Jakarta is served by the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK), around 25-30 km from the centre. Travel times depend a lot on day and time, so ask your accommodation to avoid tense moments spent sitting in traffic.

Taxis are available from the airport but they can be infrequent, resulting in large waiting times even for relatively small queues. There are different queues for different taxi companies. Queues for some of the more expensive taxis may be very short. A Silverbird (one of the more expensive ones) should cost Rp 150,000 to 200,000 to the centre.

There are many taxi companies within the city, such as Blue Bird and Silverbird. Other taxi companies, also reliable, such as White Horse, are attached to different hotels. Taxi fares are cheap compared to fares in Singapore or any Western city so travelling by taxi is a viable option. A Blue Bird from Plaza Indonesia to Hotel Merlynn Park (around 4 km) should be around Rp 20,000.

There is no metro but there is a suburban train network.

People are in general friendly but English is uncommon, compared to, say Bangkok. It is wise to learn a few phrases in Indonesian, especially for taxis. There was not a single sign in English at Monas, but signs were in English as well in Museum Wayang.

Know the address of your hotel, as well as a nearby landmark/main road. For example, Hotel Merlynn Park is on Jln K.H. Hasyim Azhari, however few taxi drivers understood this, as compared to a nearby main road Jln Gajah Mada.

Crossing roads requires more awareness of what is going on than knowledge of rules. A time we crossed, absolutely no one obeyed the pedestrian light outside the Jakarta Cathedral- this is because pedestrians do not obey traffic lights either. Cross with care! Take help of locals, or cross at a junction where there are other pedestrians.

Last visit- Jun 2014
No of visits- 1

1 comment:

tuan_walter said...

Congrats on your blog!

For practical info on Jakarta,
check out the links to places I personally like in this city:



Walter, Austria