48 hours in Jakarta

JAKARTA, May 31 (Reuters Life!) – Got 48 hours to explore Jakarta? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short stay in the Indonesian capital.

FRIDAY 7 p.m. – Start the evening with drinks at Face Bar. Housed in a converted Dutch-era building and dotted with Asian artifacts, the bar has become the de facto gathering place for foreign correspondents. It also has a decent Thai and Indian restaurant — Lan Na Thai and Hazara — to spill over into later for dinner.

9.30 p.m. – Try the Blora area to get a taste of some Indonesian dangdut music. Blending Arabic, Indian and Malay influences, it consists of an eclectic band of musicians and an array of singers, often sexily dressed, crammed into small dark clubs where the air is thick with traditional clove cigarettes.

11 p.m. – Top the evening off by heading to the slick Red Square bar near the huge Plaza Senayan shopping mall. Billed as Jakarta’s first vodka bar, it quickly heats up on Friday evening to a point where half the expat and local clientele are dancing precariously on table tops.


8 a.m. – If you make it up in time, head to Medan Merdeka (Freedom Square), a rare piece of green in central Jakarta flanked by the National Museum and various palaces. At the centre is the National Monument, or Monas, a towering column commissioned by President Sukarno in the early 1960s. Known by some as “Sukarno’s last erection”, there is a lift to take you to the top, although it was not operating recently.

10 a.m. – Head through the leafy Menteng district, home to the family of former president Suharto, to Jalan Surabaya. The “antique” market sells wood carvings and bric-a-brac from all over the diverse nation. For no obvious reason, some shops also specialize in vinyl records and brass navigation equipment.

11.30 a.m. – Grab an early lunch at Plaza Indonesia. The capital has an amazing number of sprawling malls and many Jakartans seem to use them as places to hang out given the few open spaces in the city.

1 p.m. – Take a trip to Taman Mini Indonesia, a theme park devised by the late widow of former president Suharto. Its exhibits, some pretty tacky, include a mini version of the Borobudur temple complex and other sights from around the archipelago. Its about 30 minutes drive from the centre of town.

8 p.m. – Dinner at Dapur Babah or Payon to get a taste of Indonesian food. The first, with an atmospheric interior more akin to a gallery, is in downtown and the latter, a simpler interior in the trendy Kemang area, serves east Javanese food.

10.30 p.m. – Grab a drink at Jaya Pub, a unique bar owned by a veteran Indonesian movie and TV star. Serves Dutch and other European food and has a series of raucous bands doing variable quality covers.


10 a.m. – To reawaken the spirit visit St Mary’s cathedral, a Catholic church with imposing spires built in the 19th century.

Opposite St Mary’s is Mesjid Istiqlal, one of the biggest mosques in Southeast Asia. Brief tours of the massive white building are generally available but make sure you’re not too casually dressed.

11.30 a.m. – Head north to Chinatown in the Glodok area via the new expressway to beat the traffic. The area suffered badly during the riots of nearly a decade ago and scars remain, but several atmospheric temples exist in the narrow lanes. Bustling malls also offer electronics and pirated DVDs.

1 p.m. – Lunch or brunch at Cafe Batavia. A grand Dutch-era building set on a square in one of the oldest parts of town. Varied menu ranging from what is described as “modern Australian” to dim sum. Close by is the Wayang museum, with a large collection of traditional puppets and occasional shows.

2.30 p.m. – Further north is the old harbor of Sunda Kelapa. Most sea traffic has shifted away and the place is quite run down, but well worth a visit to see the fine wooden schooners that bring in goods from Borneo and are unloaded by hand. Small boats can taxi you around, although best not look too closely at the polluted water.

4.30 p.m. – Finish off the day with a visit to Sarinah department store where several of the upper floors have a huge collection of Indonesian textiles and souvenirs. Another shopping mall, Pasa Raya, has an even bigger collection.



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