Jakarta – A City of Contrasts

Jakarta – A City of Contrasts

Chaotic, crowded and polluted. Known for its heavy traffic and high level of pollution, Jakarta doesn’t sound like a typical holiday destination. And yet here I was, in my BlueBird Taxi, making my way from the airport to the heart of the city. Sitting through multiple traffic snarls, I still wondered why I chose to start my trip here. What does the city have in store for me. I have never heard a lot about Jakarta as nobody really spends time here for holidays. Having done zero research on the place, I just decided to go with the flow.


Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and a home to millions. The city thrives on a mixture of cultures, languages and religions brought by people from different corners of the country. The smog filled city is not a place for you, if you are in a holiday mood and you are looking for a place to relax. If you land in Jakarta, expect yourself to be pulled into the fast paced way of life. The city will cover you in dust and smoke. The grid locked streets will confuse you at every turn. But the city will never cease to surprise you.

From the scented streets of Chinatown to the remains of the colonial past in Kota Tua, the city has a lot to offer for travelers who are in search of the underrated attractions of a place. The Dutch Influence can be clearly seen in the old city of Kota Tua. Even though the more modernized areas like Merdeka Square pull more tourists, the charm of Kota Tua was something that I loved exploring. Even though the history of the old colonial origin of the city has been washed away by the modernization around it, the place still stands its ground surrounded by dutch architecture and the numerous museums in the area. One such historical gem is Cafe Batavia, a 19th century building which sits across the Old City Hall. It has just been 20 years since the building was transformed to a restaurant but it still manages to embrace the days gone by. Visit the restaurant if you want to travel back in time.

Another place that I came across was Sunda Kelapa, the old harbour town. All thanks to my Dutch roommate, I came to know about the history of Jakarta and the significance of Sunda Kelapa during the Dutch colonial era. The Dutch schooners left behind are still being used by the locals. Old and weather-beaten, these deteriorating ships are now part of Indonesian history.

If you ever land up in Jakarta, don’t forget to treat yourself to the authentic Indonesian cuisine. As you move towards the touristic islands, the authenticity of the cuisine degrades and blends in with European dishes. So make sure you try out the purest form of Indonesian food in the capital. Let the Nasi Gorengs run riot on your taste buds.

The night life in Jakarta is pretty popular but my partying was limited to my party hostel. Capsule Hotel Old Batavia is one lively place with a friendly staff. It is a great place to start off as a solo traveler. Late night partying, lame card games and sleeping at 3am had become a norm while staying there. Don’t forget to meet Dimas, the official DJ of the hostel who makes sure that everyone is having a great time. The hostel also had one of the coolest sleeping pods I have ever slept in. Overall my stay at the hostel was a great experience to say the least.

Even though Jakarta has its share of unappealing facade of high-rises and traffic clogged streets, the people here are extremely helpful and friendly. The optimism and the vigour with which people lead their lives is nothing less than motivating. I hate getting stuck in traffic jams but sometimes these jams lead to new friendships. A 2-hour taxi trip back to the airport on my last day in Jakarta, ended with me being Facebook friends with the driver. The drummer-turned-taxidriver did have one hell of a story to share. It was one of those moments when you realize that the city has accepted you.

Each city has a pulse and you just need to tap into it to find out what a city really has to offer. My dream of chasing new cities and meeting new faces continues…..

66 thoughts on “Jakarta – A City of Contrasts

  1. I’d love to try a proper nasi goreng someday. I’ve just relocated to Vietnam, so I’m definitely going to be headed to Indonesia at some point in the next year or so!! Glad to know the tradition still remains in Jakarta as the islands have become quite touristy, ya?

  2. Love the look of the Cafe Batavia, and Sunda Kelapa looks so photogenic. For me, I’d be particularly keen to experience the local cuisine as you did. I think it can be easy to overlook places that are often transit hubs to get elsewhere but looks like Jakarta is worth a stop too.

  3. I’m thinking I need to visit this city. My sponsor child lives there and it would be great to catch up with her. Sounds like you had fun

  4. I kind of love that you didn’t do research beforehand. I find that can be overwhelming sometimes, so it must be good to be able to go with the flow. Really like the mixture of the old and new here – and of course would like to try the food!

  5. I’d love to have my taste buds run riot on in Indonesia! Also digging your approach to visiting cities that maybe don’t have the easy appeal…there’s always something worth seeing/doing. I’ve found that oftentimes the places that are less clean or desirable require the locals to go to extra lengths to make up the difference with food or party atmosphere.

  6. I didn’t realize there was such a strong Dutch connection but that makes sense as in Holland there are many Indonesian food dishes. The National Monument looks very impressive by night.

  7. I love your photo of the men doing maintenance work on the boat! So colorful! Thank you for the wonderful review – I’m going to put this on my bucket list to visit!

  8. Looks like an interesting place to visit! The like the National Monument lit up in red, so different. All your photos are fantastic and the food looks good!

  9. Such a fascinating place Gokul. Ahhh…Bluebird Taxi. I recall many Bluebird rides in Bali before we went full on motorbike. Lots of these transports throughout the Island of the Gods too. I have a few friends in Jakarta who beg me to visit. Certainly will one day.

  10. Never have been to Jakarta and would love to get there! The National Monument is quite odd – tbh somehow reminds me of a thing that would be from North Korea haha. Would love to see the harbour first from looking at your shots!

  11. I would love to visit Jakarta sometime–looks like a great city and it does sound like it has a ton of contrasts! Sunda Kelapa sounds like a neat spot and I would have never guessed it would be in Jakarta. The food looks amazing too!

  12. Jakarta seems like a great place to visit. The National Monument looks so cool, plus great food and nightlife! Amazing. I am going to Bali this year but I don’t want it to be the only place I visit in Indonesia as I know this beautiful country has so much more to offer !

  13. I absolutely love Indonesian food, so Jakarta would be a heaven for me 😀 definitely interesting place to explore in terms of mixed cultures and history.

  14. Jakarta might not be rating as a top tourist destination compared to the other Indonesian Islands but I have to say I’m quite intrigued with the city after reading your post. The old cafe sounds like a perfect place to blend in with the cities culture. I love visiting such coffee shops on my travels! Thanks for sharing all the delightful memories from the city.

  15. I haven’t been to Indonesia and Jakarta yet. It seems it’s quite full of people. I love your picture of the National monument. So plain and colorful. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even realize Jakarta was the capital of Indonesia! I’d love to try their traditional dishes – I’m always wondering authentic food can be when it’s in a tourist spot.

  17. Interestingly I have been to Indonesia, not once but twice but never to Jakarta. Your post makes me realize that there is indeed a difference between what I have seen so far and what I can see here. Thanks for sharing this.

  18. I really like your conclusion, “Each city has a pulse and you just need to tap into it to find out what a city really has to offer. ” People often think only of Bali when someone mentions travelling to Indonesia, but from your article, I’ve realised Jakarta also has its own charm 🙂

  19. Jakarta looks like a very modern, vibrant city. I’ve actually never had Indonesian food before, and that nasi gorengs looks awesome! I’m even more excited to visit now 🙂

  20. I’m a big fan of research – but it sounds like you made do very well by winging it! I’ve never been to Jakarta, and it sounds like there’s a bit of a mixture of things to do – the National Monument is stunning, and the Dutch Schooners look intriguing, but I could almost smell the delicious-looking food from your great photos 😀

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