Whoops… I visited Indonesia quite a while ago, but I just never got around to writing about it. But I hereby pledge I’m going to start, I promise! At the end of November I spent about 1.5 week on Java, which was just great. It was a press trip, which meant that the whole itinerary was set in stone. As you can imagine, this had its pros and cons. But it definitely gave me a good idea of all the things you can do on this island, and whether or not I would’ve made the same choices if I would’ve gone alone.
Our journey started in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, where we spent two days. Jakarta has a bit of a bad reputation amongst travellers. Some people feel there’s not a lot to do and it’s too crowded. If you want to know what I think, read on! But first I will share my travel guide with you: how to spend 24 hours in Jakarta!
I found that Jakarta was an interesting place to start my trip. It was the first place in Asia I ever visited! I can imagine some people don’t really like the city, but I didn’t feel the same. If you consider traveling to Jakarta, I would recommend spending at least one day here. Just to get the experience, and – especially for Dutch travellers – to learn a bit about the Dutch history here. Jakarta truly lives. It gives you the opportunity to experience the Indonesians’ daily life here, which is something I really liked.
True: the city is extremely busy, and therefore the air quality isn’t that great and you’re always stuck in traffic. But that’s part of Asia, right? And then again, there’s lots of things for you to see. If you decide to travel through Java I’d definitely recommend to spend at least one day in Jakarta before you move on to places with more nature and temples (which is probably why you came here).
But what to do during your day in Jakarta? Well, maybe you can pick one of the following things:
Jakarta History Museum
One of the reasons why I found Jakarta worth a visit, was because I wanted to make more of an effort to learn about the colonial history and Dutch domination. We learned quite a bit about it in high school, but the tone of that was more one of glamorisation of our colonial history, and I felt there must have been more going on below the surface than we were told. In the Jakarta History Museum you can learn more about the founding of Jakarta and its development throughout the centuries.
If you’d like to know more about Jakarta’s culture and traditions, you should visit the Wayang Museum, which is located next to the Jakarta History Museum. You’ll hear about how people used puppet shows as a way of entertainment and to teach people about norms and values. You can also see the difference in puppets in different parts of Indonesia.
Have lunch in the Batavia Cafe
If you’re visiting the museums around lunch time, I can highly recommend the Batavia Cafe. They offer all sorts of cuisines, so you can take any craving you have this way! The cafe offers a great view of the square, and the building has a colonial atmosphere and decoration. Don’t be scared you’ll end up with tourists: you’ll find a lot of locals getting some food too.
Culturally speaking, batik plays a big role in Indonesia. Batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. It looks really colorful and elegant! You can buy batik clothing all around Java and there’s even a Batik museum in Jakarta. But you can also take some classes and actually learn it yourself. I wasn’t really good at it, but it sure was a lot of fun!
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Funnily enough, this was one of my favorite spots in Jakarta. This park is a miniature park, though by “miniature” they actually mean you can find all sorts of houses and buildings in different Indonesian building styles. So the meaning of miniature is actually that you can find all of Indonesia in one park. The houses are actually life-sized. You can visit them, which I found super interesting! It’s fascinating how the building styles are so different with every area and island. It made me really excited to discover the rest of Indonesia.
If you’re looking for a nice view you should go to the National Monument in Jakarta. This 132 meter high tower symbolises Indonesia’s independence. You can take an elevator to the top, where you’ll get a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Below the ground you’ll also find an interesting exposition about Indonesia’s history.
If you’d rather spend the day in a theme park, make sure to make your way to Ancol Dreamland. It’s a big park with different complexes: from a beach to a golf course and, of course, a theme park. It was really funny to experience an Indonesian theme park for once. I went for a ride on the ferris wheel and on the water slide, which left me completely soaked, up to my underwear. Luckily the weather was nice and hot! Indonesians don’t kid around when it comes to water rides :-)
Dine at the Skye Bar & Restaurant
The coolest bar/restaurant was definitely the Sky Restaurant in Jakarta. This rooftop bar/restaurant offers you a magical view of Jakarta and I really felt cosmopolitan, floating high above this big city. The bar has a hip design all around and the food tastes delicious. The restaurant offers a western cuisine. It’s definitely worth a visit, but make sure to dress accordingly. Finish your night in style and travel on to your next Indonesian destination the next day!
Hotel in Jakarta
If you really want to spend the night in luxury, but pay ‘normal’ European prices, then you should take your chance in Indonesia. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental hotel and I felt like a real princess. Not one, but two king size beds, a luxurious bathroom with a rain shower and a bath tub, a living room with tv, a desk for me to work from and to top it all off a wonderful view of the city. The breakfast was amazing too and I had plenty of options to choose from (western, eastern, exotic fruits, you name it). I will never forget this stay for the rest of my life, and I was really surprised by the affordable prices. Especially if you want to treat yourself after a long flight!