Unlike New York which is a good place to visit but a hard place to live, Jakarta is a bad place to visit but you can live like a king. The people are wonderful, friendly and not as mercenary as Balinese and the food is fantastic but the city is one of the most unloveable in the world. The traffic is impossible and impassable; there is no concept of personal space (claustrophobics, be warned); the smog hangs heavy (bring your inhalers); and the worst part is there isn’t any attraction worth visiting. Even the locals don’t know where the attractions are! It was days of frustration asking the locals where a place was.
If you’re still reading and insist on visiting the unlovable city, it’s best to plan just 3 days 2 nights. We were there for 5 days 4 nights and on the third day, we found nothing to do and just wanted to stay in our hotel.
A Violent History of Jakarta
Started as a trading port for a Hindu kingdom in 14th century, the British and Dutch fought over it in 1617. The Dutch won. In 1740, the Dutch massacred 5000 Chinese for rebelling against the government oppression.
The unfair treatment of the Chinese is continued in Jakarta’s history. Indonesia gained its independence at the end of WWII in 1942 and in 1967, all Chinese schools were shut down, and Chinese characters were banned until 1999. Hence, most Chinese-Indonesians do not know how to speak Chinese.
With the economic collapse in 1997, Jakartans rioted in 1998, raping, looting and murdering the Chinese. The atrocities done to the Chinese are heartbreaking that even now Chinese daughters are locked away or carefully guarded. Why would Jakartans commit such terrible deeds to people who have been living there for 300 years and who contribute to the society? It’s senseless.
In 2009, terrorists targeted Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels, which is why even now, there are security checks as you enter hotels and some shopping malls.
Jakarta (661 sq km) is slightly smaller than Singapore but has 10 million people. Claustrophobia, anyone? I nearly went insane there.
Budget for Jakarta Trip
Not cheap at all. A bowl of noodles at a stall can cost 30, 000 rp (S$3-4). We generally feel the value is better when you at fancy places. A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant about 250, 000 rp (S$30) while at fancy restaurants, 800, 000 rp ($100 for two).
Tipping isn’t necessary but Huccalily tipped everywhere because her Indonesian friend tips. In general, I feel that if the country doesn’t practise tipping, then don’t tip. This is because (1) it is degrading to people who receive tips as if their jobs aren’t as good as yours and (2) it cultivates a bad habit to the people who receive tips as they expect you to reward them for something that is their job.
Depending on your budget, you can live from as little as 300, 000 rp a day ($40).
Eating in Jakarta
Like Shanghai and Tokyo, smoking is allowed in restaurants so request for a non-smoking area. They don’t serve free water, so you’ll have to order drinks.
Getting Around Jakarta
The subway is targeted to complete building in 2015.
It is not worth figuring how to take the bus for a 3-day trip but you may want to take note of Line 1, the Red Line (click to enlarge). It runs through major tourist attractions. The bus is actually very fun to take and quite comfortable. Unlike Singapore which has bus lanes on the most left, their bus lanes are in the middle of the road. The stops are on a raised platform, so it’s like taking a ferry. There is a station control that you buy the tickets and enter (like MRT). All journeys cost 3500rp (less than S$0.50), whether it’s just one stop or from one end to the other. Because vehicles are prohibited in bus lanes, buses may be the fastest transport in Jakarta.
The most comfortable and perhaps safest transport is to take taxis which are really quite inexpensive. 6000 rp (less than S$1!) when you hop on, and it’s usually around 20, 000 – 50, 000 rp (S$2-$6). Take only Blue Bird, which is blue in color and has wings for the logo. Beware of imitations.
The other transport you can try for short distances is the bajaj, like a three-wheel motorbike or like the Bangkok tuktuk. Each trip should cost about 10000-20000 rp (S$1.50-$3).
Inside the Bajaj
(Click map to enlarge)
Jakarta is divided into 3 parts:
1. North Jakarta (from the sea to Monas): tourist attractions.
2. Mid Jakarta (from Monas to Grand Indonesia Shopping Town): Shopping and business
3. South Jakarta: food and clubbing.
Where to Stay in Jakarta
Depending on your purpose (see above “orientation”), pick your hotel accordingly. My advice is pick mid Jakarta where Grand Indonesia Shopping Town is.
We rented Casablanca Mansions at about $$100 a night, which is a residential apartment at South Jakarta beside Kota Casablanca Mall. Overlooking the city, it has three rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchenette and a living room. 5 people can comfortably live here. It is quite old but everything else was fine.
Jakarta Itinerary Part II: Sightseeing and Food Day
Jakarta Itinerary Part III: Shopping and More Food Day
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.