Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Jakarta is the city a lot of foreign traveler skip when they’re in Indonesia, either because of the traffic, the smog, the lack of touristy sites, or all of them. Unfortunately for these travelers, maybe you included, Jakarta has an airport with most international flights, the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (though geographically it is now located within Banten province, it is administratively Jakarta’s airport). So, fat chance you are going to need to stay for a jet-lag rest 1 or 2 days in Jakarta before continuing your flights or train ride to other destinations in Indonesia.
So. What to do when you are stuck for 2 days in Jakarta against your honest will?
We have some recommendations that you might like. We will update this post anytime we find something better and updated information.
Jakarta is a city that developed from a VOC (an old Dutch company) and then Dutch government in Indonesia. The area that was called Batavia then, now is Kota Tua (means Old City). It is located in the North Jakarta region, with the main area being the Fatahillah Square. Buildings from Dutch colonial era are still abundant in Kota Tua. Some intact, some are poorly maintained. Good news, there is now a private association that’s taking over the revitalization of Jakarta’s Kota Tua called JOTRC (Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corporation).
Right on the sides of Fatahillah Square there are the Museum Sejarah Jakarta (or Jakarta History Museum, more famously known as Fatahillah Museum), the Museum Wayang (or Puppet Museum), and Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik (or Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum). They are open everyday except public holidays, which is a shame because that’s when most people can visit other than the weekends.
Opening hours: Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum 8 am – 3 pm, Fatahillah Museum and Puppet Museum 9 am – 3pm, Mondays and holidays: closed.
The most famous and perhaps oldest restaurant in the area is Cafe Batavia, right across the Fatahillah Museum. Built by the VOC in 1805 as an office, it later switched function to a gallery and now a restaurant. Prepare at least IDR200,000 for a decent meal per person. Since 2014, if I’m not mistaken, two new restaurants popped up on the west side of Fatahillah Square: Historia Food & Bar, and Kedai Seni Djakarte, the first one being more hip and Instagramable.
Average amount of money you’d need to prepare for a decent meal: IDR150,000/person in Cafe Batavia, IDR100,000/person in Historia Food & Bar, IDR75,000/person in Kedai Seni Djakarte.
The Fatahillah Square is almost never empty. Those who have traveled far and wide might sneer at the square for being too touristy and full of tackiness. But I find it amazing that, in such hot, sunny and humid Jakarta, it is so alive with many people walking around, riding rented bicycles, taking photos and selfies, snacking, and simply hanging out. In the weekends the square becomes undoubtedly crowded with more people, street food, knick knacks, living statues, even street puppeteer. By sitting by the window of Cafe Batavia or simply on the stone benches in the square, you can enjoy the various activities and the kind of actions Jakarta people would do.
Warning: groups of students often come to you and ask questions in usually broken English for their school assignment on English subject. They’d even ask to take photos with you, so there’s a moment of your superstardom.
Transportations to Kota Tua:
A little bit to the south from Kota Tua, you’ll find Petak Sembilan in the Glodok area. It’s one of a couple of areas in Jakarta that’s dominated by the Chinese descendants or as we call them the Tionghoa people. From the main road Jalan Pancoran, take a left to Jalan Toko Tiga and then just go straight from there. Explore the alleys and old shops, you’ll never know what surprises are waiting for you.
Pasar Petak Sembilan (pasar means market) is an area of shophouses with various goods vendors taking the space in front of them by the already narrow street. Goods ranging from sea cucumbers and meat to clothes and lanterns are available in the market. Watch where you’re going because there might just be a becak (trishaw) full of cabbages on the sea or someone riding a bike carrying a galon of water coming at you.
The market is most alive very early in the morning, around 7 a.m. Coming close to Chinese New Year and Cap Go Meh you’ll see so many Chinese decorations are sold there.
Entering the alley (gang means alley), you’ll be greeted by fruit stalls and mix rice stalls. Gang Gloria is famous for the legendary Tak Kie iced coffee, the noodles, and my personal favorite: the curry at Kari Lam and cakwe at the same foodcourt. You can also find sweets, the kind that 90’s kids of western Indonesia would find nostalgic, at the shops near the alley’s entrance.
Come here at Chinese New Year and you’ll be disappointed because most shops will be closed.
Average amount of money you’d need to prepare for a decent meal: IDR50,000/person.
In a chinatown, predictably there is at least a temple. In Petak Sembilan, there used to be one very famous temple called Wihara Dharma Jaya or Toa Se Bio built in the 18th century, that was accidentally burnt down early in 2015. While it is still being renovated, you can also visit the other temple, Kim Tek Ie, which is the oldest temple in Jakarta, located in Wiihara Dharma Bakti.
Non-Buddhists are welcome to visit, just make sure you pay respect for those praying by not being noisy and not taking pictures in front of the praying devotees.
Transportations to Petak Sembilan:
– Transjakarta busway, the Blok M – Kota Tua route. Stop at Glodok. Check the Transjakarta route map here.
Short for Monumen Nasional, Monas is the symbol of Indonesians’ struggle for independence. Built in the 1960s, it was initiated by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, who loved to build iconic buildings. As Jakarta’s expanded from the north to the south, west and east, the area where Monas is located is now the centre of Jakarta.
This obelisk monument might just remind you a little bit of the Washington Monument in the US. Having directed by the flamboyant Sukarno, Monas is a little bit fancier, with gold coating for the flame on top. Inside the monument, there is a museum of independence at the base floors. The top deck, just at the neck of the gold fire, is open for public to view Jakarta from above – but I need to recheck on this.
Opening hours: Monday: closed. Tuesday – Sunday: 8 am – 9 pm, Puncak/Top is closed between 4 – 7 pm.
Entrance fee: IDR5,000 for the museum and lower levels, IDR10,000 for observation deck. More information about visiting Monas, click here.
Museum Nasional as it’s called in Indonesian or Munas for short, is much more popular by the name of Museum Gajah (Elephant Museum). This is due to the small copper elephant statue standing in the front yard, a gift form Chulalangkorn, a Thailand King in 1871. Inside, you can see collections of things historic, ceramics, archaeologic, ethnographic, and golden. Exhibitions, usually culture-related, are also often held here. National Museum is located on the west of Monas, right across the road on Jalan Merdeka Barat.
Opening hours: Tue-Fri 8 am – 4 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am – 5 pm, Mon & national holidays: closed.
Entrance fee: IDR10,000/person for foreigners.
Guided tours in English and a few other languages are provided by the Indonesian Heritage Society. Schedule for the guided tours: heritagejkt.org.
Address: Jalan Merdeka Barat 12, Jakarta Pusat.
Transportation to Monas:
MENTENG & CIKINI
Having a history as the first suburb late in the Dutch’s colonial era, Menteng is still one of the most elite areas in Jakarta. Mansions, including those of ex governors, politicians and ambassadors are lined up along the shaded streets with a few well-maintained parks. Many of the buildings have also turned into commercial places, like restaurants, shops and hotels. Cikini, as a part of Menteng district that borders with East Jakarta, also houses many historical buildings, some are better maintained than others.
Established in a century old building, Tugu Kunstkring Paleis is a high-end restaurant that serves Indonesian food. An art gallery occupies the 2nd floor, though the whole place is actually one big awesome art gallery, carrying mostly Indonesian antiques, including in the antique shop. Their regulars are mostly high profile such as ambassadors but as far as I know the staff is friendly to all kinds of visitors. If you’re feeling laid back but still wants to feel the classic, Kunstkring’s Bread Corner is a great choice. My personal favorite would be having my own tea time accompanied by their Bluder bread originally from Blitar and old jazz music, while reading or drawing until the day gets dark.
Opening hours: Everyday 11 am – 12 am.
Average amount of money you’d need to prepare for a decent meal: IDR200,000/person, or IDR70,000/person if you’re just having some bread and tea.
Address: Jalan Teuku Umar 1, Menteng, Jakarta Pusat.
It is the largest art deco building complex that remains in Jakarta. Metropole was built as a cinema and it still functions as so until now, though ownership has changed a few times. The building has recently been renovated, looking fancy but the design stays the same. Other than the cinema, there are two dining places within the complex, with the one in the main building, Roemah Kuliner, is fancier than the other.
Price for a decent meal: IDR70,000/person at Roemah Kuliner, IDR40,000/person in the other place.
Movie ticket: Metropole XXI IDR40,000/50,000/60,000 for Mon-Thu/Fri/weekend, Metropole Premiere IDR60,000/80,000/100,000 for Mon-Thu/Fri/weekend.
Address: Jalan Pegangsaan Timur 21, Cikini, Menteng, Jakarta Pusat.
Humble shops of antiques line up on one side of Jalan Surabaya. It has existed since 1974 and still attracts vintage lovers until today. Though some are newly made, they make them as antique as they can appear. Here you find vinyls, tea pots, wayang, compasses, even underwater helmets and canons! Behind the shops are regular houses, and across the street are also houses and some cafes/restaurants like the Giyanti and Madama Ching.
Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm.
Haggling is advised.
Transportation to Menteng & Cikini:
The P20 bus goes through some of the routes in Menteng. It starts and ends at Lebak Bulus and Senen terminals, but doesn’t specifically pass Kunstkring, Metropole nor Jalan Surabaya.
It’s not doubt that when you’re going through a place walking you’re bound to see a lot more details than you would in a vehicle. When in Jakarta, walking might not always seem like a good idea due to the pollution and lack of safe sidewalks in some areas. But there are a few organized walking tours that we can recommend you. These guys have operated since … and have a few routes from which you can choose to join.
So. Are you still having doubts about spending a day or two in Jakarta?