|Jakarta at dusk|
In truth, Jakarta is quite a challenging city for any type of traveler. Due to lack of effective urban public transport and unfortunate town planning, this metropolis is crippled by daily transportation problems. Getting stuck in traffic for hours bother you very much but you simply cannot get out and start walking because roads are not well connected and pedestrian-friendly. Only a small percentage of locals speak fluent English therefore, even simple things such as asking directions, ordering food and taking taxis become arduous and unpleasant. Besides, apart from numerous shopping malls and a few monuments, tourist options are somewhat limited for a capital city.
Having said that, there are indeed a few things I could recommend for first-time visitors or those who are on a short business trip wishing to catch a glimpse of leisurely Jakarta. Because I believe Jakarta, offers a little more than polluted air, gigantic shopping malls and 101 different types of motor and non-motorized vehicles. As a frequent traveler to Jakarta, these are a few of my favorite things.
Old town, Batavia
A cultural promenade
|Ragusa Ice-cream Shop|
Malling in Jakarta can be fun if done in moderation. It not only kills time but also allows you to escape from the harsh reality. Poverty that you see out on the streets of Jakarta does not belong in these air-conditioned designer-branded malls. Acknowledged as ‘the shopping town’, the area where two gargantuan malls, Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia, occupy, offers one-stop shopping from airplanes to needles. (Well, maybe not airplanes but you figure!) As for me, I love mall food; not only scrumptious Javanese cuisines also tasty treats from other islands such as Manado and Sumatra can be enjoyed at anytime of the day. You are spoiled even further for choice with wide variety of Japanese, Italian, Chinese and Korean delights; all inexpensive, clean, convenient and delicious. Once you are tired of widow-shopping, you can either feed your feet to the fish at one of the fish spas, (if that’s your kind of relaxation!) or catch a movie at the cinemas. There is always one Indonesian horror movie and a few Hollywood blockbusters like “Spiderman” showing.
Underneath the stars
Jakarta is at her best when the sun goes down, glittering night-lights switched on and trendy Jakartans come out to play. My favorite hangouts include “The Social House” at Grand Indonesia Mall for casual dining, newly-opened “Skye” at Manara BCA building, Jakarta’s first sky bar, reminiscent of Bangkok’s Labua rooftop bar at State Tower, to view how this concrete jungle transforms into an impressive neon-lit metropolis and of course “DragonFly” for people-watching and booty-shaking alongside the in-crowd aka fashionistas. Forget about pollution as you can no longer see it after 7, replace the sight of open sewer and slums with girls in Louboutins and distract yourself with pounding electro beats; Jakarta can be quite glamorous at night.
Despite the challenges they face every day, be it the mad traffic or the lack of leisure activities, Jakartans, both locals and expats, living in the city have learned to live, if not made peace with it somehow. Many of my expat friends speak fluent Bahasa Indonesian, have learned to drive (or be driven) to office though shortcuts and back lanes and are brave enough to hop onto ojeks (local motorcycle taxis) when traffic gets rough. And, to be honest, what’s traffic anyway when you have a smart-phone? Catch up on news, do your mails or rant about it on Facebook through status update while being stuck in traffic. It’s 2012, people! The smart phones nowadays will get you the attention, sympathy or whatever that you are seeking in a crisis situation like this which I believe can be a good consolation or at least a form of entertainment.