From Matt Kemp:
By Matt Kemp
After four days in Jakarta, my impression is that its only redeeming feature of this city is that it has a large international airport nearby that is serviced by a number of international carriers with lots of outbound flights every day. However, I'm talking from a 'backpacking' point of view. I'm guessing that if you had enough cash to stay at the Hyatt, spend your days shopping in air-conditioned malls and nights getting hammered in stylish bars then it would be a pretty neat destination.
It is worth seeing to experience the traffic, the filth, and the mayhem. Additionally there are a couple of interesting destinations to visit. That said I would not put it down as a must see in Indonesia. Two - three days here is more than enough.
We stayed on Jl. Jaksa, the traditional backpackers haunt in Jakarta. Jl. Jaksa is an easy five-minute walk from Gambir Station. Walk out of Gambir Station and out onto Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur (which is on the opposite side of the train station from the flame tipped national monument). Walk south two blocks until you come to Jl. Kebon Sirih Raya (opposite the large statue of the farmers). Turn right and walk two blocks until you come to Jl. Jaksa.
Jl. Jaksa 'may', at one time have had a little character or charm, but I doubt it. It is now home to a collection of the darkest, most poorly maintained and dodgiest accommodation we have seen in Indonesia . Throw in a few seedy bars, sleazy locals, some really nasty looking expats, a handful of beggars and a dozen hookers and you have Jl. Jaksa.
All of the mainstream guide books are far too kind to the accommodation here. The 40 - 50,000RP losmen (such as Borneo or Djody) are somewhere Id be reluctant to keep my dog. Hotel Tator has very hot standard rooms for 85,000RP and sterile, semi clean aircon boxes for 105,000RP.
We stayed at Hotel Margot (small air-con rooms with double bed, clean bathroom with hotwater) for 150,000RP per night. Apart from doing a significant trade in 'short term rentals' for the streets numerous hookers (as we found out when the police and local 60 minutes TV people raided our hotel at 8am) it was clean, quiet and well maintained. Hotel Margot also has a small mosquito infested cafe attached, but the menu is limited and the quality of the food is poor.
Post, Internet and Banking
The main post office is on Jl. Gedung Kesenian 1, about 2 blocks back from the Freedom Memorial. If you've got some postcards, wait until you get to your next destination. If you really have to send something the easiest way to get there (without blowing 20 - 30,000RP on a taxi) is to walk up to Gambir station, take a train one stop up to Juanda Station and walk down Jl. Pos to Jl. Gedung Kesenan I.
There are several good internet places / wartels scattered along Jl. Jaksa and they are generally open from 9am to late.
BCA bank has an ATM on Jl. Wahid Hasyim. Bank Danamon has an ATM allowing withdrawals of 1,500,000RP just around the corner on Jl. Haji Agus Salim. BNI bank and Lippo Bank have branches on Jl. Kebon Sirih Raya.
Roadside warung food is great in a village square on quiet back street. Sitting half a metre from the road watching about a thousand cars pass you each minute while you chomp down some satay through the smog is not. As such we hit stupidly expensive places like Tony Romas not really for the food, but for the clean air, the soft lighting and the peace and quiet. The only good place on Jl. Jaksa to eat is Ya Udah. The restaurant is clean, well lit and quiet. The staff (who obviously aren't locals) are helpful, friendly and sober, and the portions are generous and tasty. The bread and butter pudding was especially good. Even still this isn't exactly backpacker dining, with dinner for 2 costing about 140,000 (2 mains, 2 drinks, 2 desserts).
When you are sick of fighting the traffic and the mayhem, the best place to relax in Jakarta (that we found) is Cafe Batavia on Taman Fatahillah in Kota . Batavia is an old Dutch trading house that has been converted into a colonial style bar and cafe. The downstairs Music Box Bar is cool and subtly lit with tables around plush, deep couches.
Upstairs, the Churchill Bar, with its mahogany panneling, persian carpets and large windows is light and airy. It opens out onto a large dining room that my credit card refused to let me enter. The staff are slick and courteous, the drinks menus are long, well thought out and very very expensive, (by Indonesian standards) with a 300mL Bintang setting you back about 32,000RP once you've included taxes.
However, transplant this setting and level of service to any western capital city in the world and you'd be looking at 15USD for a beer, so in the greater scheme of things it is very good value. We were more than happy to spend a bit extra for a few hours relaxing in supreme comfort under the swirling ceiling fans, away from the noise and dirt outside. Being Ramadan, Cafe Batavia also took the quaint step of serving beer from white ceramic tea pots.
The large food court on the 5th level of the Mangga Dua 'Pasar Pagi' has a wide range of foods at reasonable prices.
Kemang, the so called 'expat' hub is not exactly crawling with exciting dining and drinking options, as claimed in several guide books (although the fact that several bars and restaurants, including the Salsa Club and The Beat are currently closed may have something to do with Ramadan). A taxi from Jl. Jaksa to Jl. Kemang Raya will cost about 40,000RP, and although the drive through the CBD is quiet pretty, the dining isn't worth the expense and travel.
There is a small 'mini mart' (dodjy mini mart) on Jl. Jaksa, which is a good place to pick up basics (water, snacks etc).
Sarinah Department Store on Jl. Thamrin has a large selection of clothes and handicrafts. It also has an internert cafe on the 6th floor.
The Flea Market in Menteng (close to Cikini Station) is really more a row of stalls selling dubious looking antiques, carvings along Jl. Surabaya. A number of stalls have a large collection of 60's 70's and 80's LP's if thats your thing.
Mangga Dua Precinct (Jl. Jembatan Batu) is about a 1km walk from the main Kota Station. Here there is a large electronics and computer mall, as well as the Pasar Pagi (which seems to be open all day) selling a huge range of clothes, accessories, knock off gear and pretty much whatever else you could think of.
Attractions in and around Jakarta
Jakarta (if you haven't already guessed) is possibly the least 'backpacker friendly' city in Indonesia . My impression is that to see the really good things in the city (assuming there are some) you will need a fair bit of time, quite a lot of cash, and maybe even an expat friend with a lot of local knowledge and a driver.
The very subtle National Monument in Merdeka Square is a good place to visit to escape from the noise of the city. For 7,000RP (3,000RP for students) you can go to the top for a 'view' over the city. For a very one sided pottedhistory of Indonesia (no mention of invading East Timor here) also check out the diaroma museum in the 'Doctor Evil' inspired basement below.
The Taman Mini Indonesia Indah Park (outer ring toll road) is quite literally a 100 hetare 'mini indonesia ' featuring traditional houses from all over the archipeligo, reptile, insect and bird parks and an Aquarium. The also have a large number of museums devoted to odd things like 'telecommunications' and 'oil and gas production'. The park was basically deserted when we visited (even most of the staff were asleep). It was, however, a reasonably interesting place to visit. Basic admission is 8,000RP, and then most attractions cost between 3,000RP and 8,000RP. The cable car ride (which you can't use to traverse the park as it is a 'there and back' ride) gives you a good view of the complex and costs 16,000RP each. A taxi out to the park from Jl. Jaksa costs approximately 50,000RP.
Soekarno - Hatta Airport
There are two easy ways to get out to the airport. We took a taxi from Jl. Jaksa which cost 100,000RP including tolls (about 8,000RP) for this 35km trip that takes about 40 minutes (depening on traffic.....we had a pretty good run)
Alterntively you can take a bus from Gambir Station for 15,000RP per person, although you will have to sit around and wait (sometimes up to an hour) for the bus to fill prior to departure.
Tourists pay a 100,000RP departure tax for interational flights. Indonesians and work permit holders also have to pay an additional 1,000,000 fiskal tax on departure.
JakartaThe following contribution comes courtesy http://www.the-spiceislands.com.
There are a variety of buses, mini buses and angkots (mini vans) plying the streets of Jakarta as well as ojek (motorcycle taxi) and bajajs (three wheelers like tuk tuks) but most people tend to use the ridiculously cheap taxis. Bluebird have the best reputation, Silverbird are their bigger and slightly more comfortable, and expensive brother. One useful bus route is the Busway, garish orange buses that have dedicated lanes and run from the historic Kota through Thamrin near Jalan Jaksa along Jalan Sudirman with its banks and hotels and into Blok M with shops and a slightly sleazy collection of bars.
Things To See
Start off in Kota, the historic area in North Jakarta of narrow streets and turgid canals. Taman Fatihillah has the wonderful Jakarta History Museum in the Old Dutch town hall overlooking the square that was once the centre of Batavia. Beneath the town hall are the dungeons where nasty people who disagreed with the colonial masters were sent. On the other side of the Taman is the Arts Museum. Near Kota Railway Station there is Geraja Sion, an old church dating back to 1695 with some old tombstones. Jalan Kali Besar is where the great and the good lived, check out the Red House. Walk north, go past the old Chicken Bridge under the expressway and you go past the Old Watchtower, a reminder of Jakarta, or Batavia’s, importance as a port. The Museum Bahari is inside old godowns or warehouses and is dedicated to the seafarers that passed through here. Nearby is Sunda Kelapa with its modern vessels that traverse the archipelago.
Merdeka Square is south of Kota, reached on the Busway and is an empty park with the National Monument, Monas, which is tall, phallic and uninspiring. The National Museum though on Jalan Merdeka Barat is well worth a few hours of your time. The small elephant in front of the museum was presented by King Chulalongkorn some 100 years ago.
On the eastern side of Merdeka Square is Gambir railway station, a fairly well organized place from where you can get advance tickets to the major destinations on Java like Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Bandung and Bogor. Just opposite the station is Emmanuel Church, a round church dating back to 1893. Just along that side road, across the river, is Gedung Pancasila, formerly the Dutch Military commanders place but now better known as where the first president of Indonesia, Soekarno, expounded his Pancasila or basic beliefs that form the heart of the constitution.
North east Jakarta has Ancol, an artificial area of fun parks, aquariums and the occasional rave. Very popular at the weekends with Jakartans, it’s their equivalent of Disney World or Alton Towers . For something more cultural try the area round Jalan Surabaya on Sundays where a flea market sells all sorts of bumf. It’s in Cikini, a short taxi ride from central Jakarta .
A Bed For The Night
There is no real middle ground in Jakarta. There is the budget sprawl of Jalan Jaksa a slightly sleazy rundown area of bars and guesthouses that does at least offer a kampong feel for those who get to know it, sitting as it does in the heart of lower income housing. Accommodation here can be had for 5 or 6 dollars up to about 20, but at the upper end you don’t really get much. Jaksa is close to the centre of the city, just south of Gambir station and within staggering distance of Jalan Thamrin and the Busway but it is more Soi Ngam Duplee than Khao San Road. The Ibis hotels on nearby Jalan Wahid Hasyim are better value at about 30 dollars a night with all you would expect from a mid-priced hotel chain.
Jalan Thamrin leads south to Jalan Sudirman while Jalan Rasuna Said is to the east. With Merdeka Square the apex, these two thorough ways form the sides of Jakarta ’s Golden Triangle and here you can find its best hotels and restaurants. The Oriental has a classic location by the Welcome Circle on Jalan Thamrin as does the swisher Hyatt diametrically opposite. Not far are Le Meredian, Mulia, Shangri-La, Sheraton, you name it. Check out Kaha, a hotel booking agency, at the airport when you land, good deals on these places.
Beer, Beer, We Want More Beer
Ah the nightlife. You name it, it's here pretty much, it just takes some finding. Aphrodite is a well decorated bar cum restaurant cum sporting venue just off Jalan Rasuna Said, popular with expats and locals. BuGils, an acronym of bule gila or crazy foreigner, is a Dutch themed bar in Taman Ria Senayan famous locally for its crazy bar maids and frequent wild nights. Mad Dogs is way down south on a commercial estate in Cilandak with good English pub grub. Kelts, near Aphrodite is a Celtic themed hotel bar worth a visit for its decorations. It’s in Hotel Melia. On Jalan Jaksa Romance is an air-conditioned bar while the drag has a multitude of open air dives with cheap beer. Check out Ya-udah which breaks the mould somewhat with their quality food at reasonable prices.
If you want to rub shoulders with the beautiful people, well those who buy wing collared shirts from Next; try Blowfish in Kuningan, Cinnabar opposite the Oriental Hotel, Burgundy in the Hyatt or Dragonfly. If it’s a cover band with rippling torsos and the chance of some, ahem, company for the night then try BATS, Shangri-La or CJ’s at the Mulia, both popular with expats, visitors and lonely ladies. Blok M has some good old down to earth honest sleaze of the freelance variety. My Bar is a multi storey affair with loud music that has grown in popularity since it opened. D’s Place is the granddaddy of them all while Oscars and Top Gun are fraying around the edges. These bars are heavily male searching female. If you want to try this area then Everest and Sportsmans have less of the sleaze while the latter has great food. Everest is one of the friendliest bars in town.
Most Indonesian food can be had from kaki lima , mobile food carts, or warungs, street side cafes, which offer a variety of different menus. For many the best Indonesian food is Padang , a spicy affair where waiters pile your table with plates and you take what you want. The rending is beef in spicy coconut and tastes great. Look out for any Masakan Padang with buffalo horned roof and loads of plates in the window. Alternatively if you are near Jalan Thamrin then try Salero Jumbo, just down from QB World book shop. Upstairs of the bookshop is GM, a restaurant chain that offers medium priced meals. Shopping malls have food courts; one of the best is at Sogo in Plaza Indonesia , next to the Hyatt. Try Spice Garden in there for a culinary journey through the islands.
For Indian food try Kinara in Kemang or Hazara behind the Oriental Hotel. Next door to Hazara is Lan Na Thai, an up market Thai eater. Kemang is a foodies dream come true. Just walk around, carefully, and see what takes your fancy. The hotels have quality Japanese, Chinese, Italian you name it restaurants, for specials look out for a copy of Jakarta Kini, a listings magazine found in bars or some bookshops.
Getting there and away
Indonesia recently introduced a Visa on Arrival system for selected nationalities who arrive at selected ports of entry, most western countries are covered, and you pay 25 USD and get a full page sticker that lets you stay a month. Check the web for sites like the message board on Lonely Planet as this is pretty fluid and changes frequently.
Most people will arrive at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatto International Airport, miles west of the city. There are airport buses that can take you to Blok M, Gambir, Bogor etc which cost about 10,000 – 12,000 IDR. Alternatively look out for a Bluebird or Silverbird. It’s a toll road in to town for which you pay extra. Costs from Bangkok are about 300 USD return, in theory you must have an onward ticket when you arrive in Indonesia. A cheaper way of getting there would be to get a cheap flight to Singapore then get a ferry from the Harbourfront to Batam Centre which is an Indonesian island 45 minutes south of Singapore, take a taxi to the airport and plug into the domestic airline system.
It is possible to get from Jakarta to the port of Gilimanuk on the north west coast of Bali for about 10 US Dollars. The schedules below show you how the connections pan out. These services are not aimed at budget travelers but at poorer Indonesians and while you may not get much comfort or sleep you will probably end with a sore bum and a sense of achievement.
You do get a bit of a stopover in Surabaya between trains, you may want to find a cheap guesthouse to crash awhile. Alternatively you can break your journey at any station from Lempuyanganon to Surabaya. From Banyuwangi there are regular ferries across to Bali
This information comes from the Indonesian Railways website and is provided as reference. If you wish to do this journey you are advised to double check as times change, especially at peak season
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