Jakarta in a nutshell

Jakarta is not what you would call an aesthetically pleasing city.

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Dilapidated buildings, shacks and dirty concrete sprawls for miles along heavily traffic-clogged roads with little greenery interspersed.

Most people completely skip Jakarta altogether. I must admit, Jakarta was not on my list for any particular reason, I was merely there as a matter of circumstance.

My original plan had been to go from Singapore to Sumatra, but the information proved difficult to find in terms of travel there, and in fact, it worked out cheaper for me to fly straight to Jakarta, so that is precisely what I did.

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Jakarta kind of smacks you in the face. I had read a few Lonely Planet pieces on finding hidden gems once you scratched below the surface, so I maintained as much of an objective opinion with some shred of optimism as I could whilst I gazed sullenly out the window.

It’s loud, disorientating, humid, polluted and just trying to cross the street will give you an adrenaline rush.

I’m not a great city lover and Singapore had probably just raised the bar a bit too high for my expectations of subsequent city stops.

There were a few things to do in Jakarta, some of which are not particularly exciting like the very sparse “History museum” in Kota Tua (the “old town”). Which is more of an antique show for Dutch colonial furniture than anything else.

Cafe Batavia is another on the hit list for Kota Tua, a traditional Dutch colonial restaurant which is actually quite pleasant with traditional decor

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They serve good food (though a little on the pricey side compared to other places to eat in Jakarta)

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I chose a platter of “street food style” vegetarian snacks

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There is also a stage for live bands.

The old town is considerably easier on the eye than the majority of the city

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In the square of the old town is what I have dubbed the “fisting cannon”.

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The fisting cannon is a Portuguese cannon which became a symbol of fertility with the locals. The women used to “sit astride” it because they fancied a good fisting wanted to be blessed and increase their fertility.

Things to see outside of the old town include the independence monument…

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Which while nothing spectacular to look at itself, has a 360 view of the city from the top

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and an incredibly detailed bas relief wall in the courtyard.

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Not far from the monument is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, where we fell prey to a rip off “tour guide” who claimed to work there and seemed on good terms with all the staff. Eventually, we negotiated half the price he asked of us though really it was still too much.

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The mosque is spaced over 5 floors (for the five daily prayers of Islam) and houses the largest drum in the world.

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Opposite here, is a gothic Catholic church, which was an odd juxtaposition to see against the backdrop of the rest of the city, and reminded me of many of the churches and cathedrals back at home.

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Once in a while whilst wandering the busy streets, you come across a patch of colour here or there; something that fleetingly grabs your attention, though nothing I can say is considered “bucketlist” worthy.

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Perhaps the reason Jakarta is so unappealing to a Westerner is that the stark contrast of the way of life here is very obvious to see in all of its flaws, with little tourist gimmicks to hide behind.

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

7 thoughts on “Jakarta in a nutshell

  1. I currently live about an hour from Jakarta and avoid it like the plague and only go if I’m going to the airport. I once spent 5 days in Jakarta and quickly learned that it was 5 days too many. I’m glad you got to see some of it’s mildly redeeming places while there!

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  2. It’s not “Kuta Old Town”, it’s KOTA TUA which means “Old Town”. So you may say “Kota Tua” or the “Old Town”. Just a few correction from a guy who live 3 hours from Jakarta in Bandung 😀
    Maybe Bandung would be more interesting for you. Old buildings, parks, cafes, mountains, hot spring, volcano crater, lake, we have them all here.

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