Jakarta, Indonesia credit Eko Herwantoro on Unsplash
Unlike most capital cities in Southeast Asia, Jakarta rarely appears on travellers itineraries other than changing planes as they head to other destinations.
Known as the “Big Durian”, Jakarta is the largest city in Southeast Asia with a population of more than 10.5 million people. When you include the population of the wider metropolitan area that increases to 35.9 million, the second largest in the world. It lies on the island of Java, the most populous island in the world.
In common with many large cities in the region, Jakarta is a busy, bustling city, packed with traffic and people but crime levels tend to be lower than many other cities despite the poverty found in some areas.
In 2019 the BBC reported that Jakarta was the fastest-sinking city in the world and was at risk of being entirely submerged by 2050 without drastic action being taken.
Jakarta does however present the opportunity to experience the incredibly diverse people and cultures found in the city which represents the broad spectrum found through Indonesia and its islands. This makes it a wonderful location for food lovers, with its range of cuisine and flavours. Coffee lovers will also love the local coffee scene.
This huge square is a focul point in the city for locals and tourists alike and is a must visit even for the people watching opportunities.
The square includes some wonderful gardens, wooded areas and water features as well as the National Monument.
The square is the perfect spot to base yourself as you visit a number of the sites either in the square or very close by.
Entrance to the square and park is free but there is a small charge if you want to enter the monument and take in the views from the viewing platforms. The charge also covers entrance to the National History Museum.
Monas – The National Monument
On most visitors bucket list in Jakarta is the National Monument or Monas (Monumen Nasional).
Completed in 1975 it commemorates the Indonesia fight for independence from the Netherlands.
Standing in Merdeka Square and 132 metres (433 feet) high, the cup and tower structure represent the Hindu symbols of lingga and yoni, the male and female energies and are used to represent harmony, balance, fertility and eternal life.
With over 160,000 relics, artefacts, fossils, artwork and ancient weaponry, The National Museum of Indonesia has something for, almost, everyone.
Many locals refer to the museum as the Elephant Museum due to the elephant statue at the front of the building.
Istiqlal Mosque is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia.
Built in 1978 this incredible mosque has a capacity of 200,000 people and features a wonderful marble courtyard, minarets and an incredible central dome decorated with Islamic reliefs and iconography .
Also built to celebrate independence from the Dutch its name translates to “independence”.
Built in 1901 the cathedral is dwarfed by the nearby Istiqlal mosque but is an important religious site for many of the 3% of Indonesians who are Catholic.
The design of the cathedral, both inside and out, is very much in the European style and well worth the visit.
Centred on Pintu Road and also known as Glodok, Chinatown is an important area for the Chinese community in Jakarta and is an essential stop for food lovers or for those exploring the smaller temples and market stalls.
Kota Tua (Old Town)
The original centre of Jakarta features Dutch style buildings dating back to the 17th century when the area was the centre of the Dutch India Company and the spice trade.
The area is well worth exploring on foot or by renting a bicycle.
The Jakarta History Museum is an essential stop during your exploration of Old Town and features relics dating back hundreds of years.
The name is not quite accurate, there are nowhere near a thousand islands, but certainly don’t try and explore all of them.
An excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital with plenty to explore or just take the opportunity to relax and soak in the sun, sand, sea and sights.
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