I only spent a total of 10 hours or so in Jakarta. My flight from Medan landed very early in the morning and this allowed me to spend the day taking a look around the chaotic Indonesian capital before an evening train ride to Yogyakarta. However, in those hours I had available to me, I got a good glimpse as to what life is like in this sprawling city.
The National Monument in Jakarta is called Monas. Knowing I had little time in the city, I had a very early start (too early!) but at least I caught the tropical sunrise shining over such an important monument for regular Indonesians. Monas is situated in Merdeka Square in Jakarta, and celebrates Indonesian independence from the Dutch. First opened in 1975, Monas has a museum and an observation deck at the top of the tower. I did not go up as it was too early and had not yet opened for the day.
In Jakarta, there were markets galore. It was interesting to see people setting up their stalls for the day. I wonder if these markets get very busy like the ones in Delhi and Kolkata, or if they stay dreamy and relaxed like those eastwards in Ubud, Bali? One thing I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to do in Jakarta was to try some of the regional street foods here, as I am very partial to some street food wherever I am in the world. Here in Jakarta today I ate some nasi uduk, which is coconut rice, and sampled some kerak telor, which is a spicy kind of omelette. Both were delicious, and I wish I could have stayed another day so I could come back for some more lunches!
I am not a fan of any religion really, but I can respect other people’s choices and lifestyles according to their religion. It is always nice to see buildings such as Christian cathedrals and Islamic mosques side by side in the same city. It indicates that interracial tolerance is expected by most members of modern day Indonesia, which is of course predominantly a Muslim archipelago (save for Bali, which is famously Hindu). However, with its colonial past and struggles for independence from the Dutch and British, it is unsurprising that resplendent cathedrals are here in Jakarta as well. Interestingly, I think Jakarta Cathedral has a strong resemblance to the epic Sagrada Família in Barcelona, which I would dearly love to visit one day (it’s certainly on my bucket list).
The final place I wanted to see in Jakarta within my tight timeframe was Sunda Kelapa. This port in the Kota district of Old Jakarta played a significant role in the history and development of the city, although nowadays it can only handle small boats such as Pinisi. I could sense the history of the place with my imagination, although to be frank the hygiene of the water around these parts of Jakarta were awful, and it felt like every breath I took I was inhaling vaporous germs. Nonetheless, many Indonesians still use this port at Sunda Kelapa for their seafaring livelihood and have probably grown used to the hazards!
For more information and photos from Sunda Kelapa check out this from Rob in the Blog.
I don’t think I would ever recommend Jakarta as a tourist destination in its own right. It is one of those capital cities that is arguably the worst part of its country (a little like Colombo in Sri Lanka, and arguably even Bangkok in Thailand), and usually travellers only transit through here on the way to more exotic places in Java such as Bandung or Yogyakarta like I did. That said, with a little more time at hand, you could conversely experience a few major shopping malls in the city centre, visit Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, or head off to the coast and sail to the so-called Thousand Islands, which have pretty cool beaches and diving opportunities, not least at Sepa Island, which has been brilliantly written about by Traveleggo. However, despite the amazing street foods, I doubt I shall ever be returning to Jakarta any time soon, unless I am in transit.