Jakarta is more than just a stopover

Each time I visit Indonesia, I have a wildly different experience than the time before. The first was a crazy post-graduation trip to Bali with 50 of my classmates. The second was an über luxurious tour of Bali and Lombok’s exclusive hideaways. My most recent jaunt took me to the city of Jakarta. My time there proved once again that there is always something new to discover in Indonesia.

National Monument

I’d heard Jakarta was a big city, but a trip to the top of the National Monument put things in perspective for me. The skyscrapers continue well past the distant haze that swallows them up. From up here, it’s easy to imagine a population of 10 million spread out over the city. That is, until I got back to ground level and attempted to drive across the city at peak hour. Traffic is a part of life in Jakarta and it quickly taught me a great lesson in patience. It also taught me that the TransJakarta bus is a much faster option.

National Monument (2)

When I travel, I tend to navigate the world through my tastebuds. Even with dietary restrictions, Indonesia never disappoints. Some of my favourite dishes are Gado Gado (fresh veggies, tofu and peanut sauce), Nasi Goreng and Es Cendol (Indonesia’s twist on the humble snow cone).

Dinner at Kunstkring Paleis

Like other Southeast Asian countries, the tastiest traditional food is found in the street markets. The sizzle of satay skewers and flaming woks is enough to set the senses on fire but do exercise caution – even the most adventurous foodies aren’t immune to the perils of food poisoning.

Tanah Abang Street Market

When it comes to entertainment, you’re pretty spoilt in Jakarta. Ancol Dreamland is a huge seaside recreation park near the main harbour. You could easily spend a few days at Dunia Fantasi theme park, Seaworld and Atlantis Water Adventure. There’s also a great cable park for keen wake boarders.

On the other side of the city, Jakarta’s miniature park lets you explore all of Indonesia in one day. Each pavilion showcases the traditional culture, clothing and architecture of the country’s 34 provinces. There’s also a theme park, bird sanctuary and gondola that soars over a huge man-made lake with small islands that replicate the Indonesian archipelago.

Taman Mini

As for nightlife, there’s an eclectic mix of grungy warehouse parties and high-end cocktail bars. Jack Sparrow’s is a must visit. The list of cocktails, single malts and wines was almost endless. I ordered a J Sparrow and was not disappointed when it came out flaming, literally. I guess gun-powder infused alcohol will do that. My espresso martini that followed was a little less exciting, but just as delicious.

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Jakarta is seen as the gateway to Indonesia, but it’s worth spending a couple of nights here to experience the beating heart of Betawi culture.

My trip to Jakarta was hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. This story will be featured in the Family Travel Summer Issue.