I wasn’t expecting much from Jakarta apart from chaos and congestion. The chaos and congestion is certainly here (it probably has the worst traffic of any city so far), but so are some pleasant surprises:
1) My hotel, The Arcadia, has a delightfully designed interior, everything from the lobby and bar, the room doors & door numbers (I want those for my place) to the little wirework pyramid next to the TV holding vodka shots, chocolate and crisps.
2) The Ya-Udah Bistro nearby. Its Swiss run, has a fabulous long menu including many central European favourites, has excellent waitresses and is reasonably priced. A bowl of Hungarian Goulash, stuffed full of tender beef and mushrooms is less than a pound. It is one of my favourite eateries of the entire trip.
3) The older Kota area of town has pleasant open squares and colonial architecture, an incredible contrast to the concrete and tarmac nightmare of the rest of the city. On one side of the main square is the Batavia Cafe, described by Newsweek as one of the world finest bars. I’d have to agree, the colonial style building giving a fabulous atmosphere like few other places (the Foreign Correspondents Club, Phnom Penh and the Killermont Polo Club, Glasgow spring to mind). It pricey though so a quick, elegantly served beer is all I can afford.
Also in the Kota area is the National History Museum that seems to make little attempt to actually tell the history of the country. From what I could gather there were a few Bronze Age people, some others (or maybe the same??) carved the shape of feet in some rocks, in the 16th century the Portuguese turned up and nothing has happened since. You can find out far more history from the background information in any Rough Guide or Lonely Planet. Most of the museum is taken up by a collection of 18th century colonial wooden furniture. Fascinating…..
One thing, Jakarta is hot & very humid; we are only 6 degrees south of the equator here and the wet season seems to have hung on longer than normal. My Scottish/Irish blood means have to head for air-con for the hottest hours of the day if I’m not to get drenched in sweat. Indonesia has very few travellers at the moment, apart from at Danau Toba every westerner I’ve met is an ex-pat working here. Its interesting talking to people who’ve made a life here as opposed to just passing through.