Jakarta's history began as a flourishing port north of the city and developed southward over the centuries. Five autonomous municipalities emerged, together offering a veritable city of contrasts. As overwhelming as the crowds and congestion may be, the metropolis contains pockets of attractions that make a gratifying stay for those who plan their trip well.
Central Jakarta: The Moneybag
Embassies and businesses tend to gravitate towards Central Jakarta, the capital's nucleus. Indonesians from all over the archipelago flock to the city for a share of commerce. Most companies choose to establish their base along Jalan M.H. Thamrin. This district, with its close proximity to the concentration of government offices at
For the leisure traveler, Central Jakarta showcases some of the best museums in town and plenty of photo-taking opportunities. The
Several monuments grace Central Jakarta's busy traffic circles. In the middle of the
The avid shopper hunting for designer labels will find absolute delight in the luxurious
South Jakarta: Glitz and Glamor
South Jakarta covers an extensive area, stretching from the Golden Triangle financial district to Pondok Indah far south. It is synonymous with glitz and glamor, a description partly supported by the classy shopping complexes dotting the district—Blok M Mall, Blok M Plaza, Pasaraya,
The prime residential districts of Pondok Indah, Kebayoran Baru and Kemang are also situated in South Jakarta. Plush restaurants, cafés and bars abound, catering to the discriminating residents in the neighborhood.
East of the municipality lies the modest
North Jakarta: Timeless
North Jakarta is also the historical district, where visitors can uncover the origins of the capital. An archaeological excavation near the
Many locals also equate North Jakarta with recreation.
West Jakarta: Glodok
In 1740, Dutch antipathy towards the Chinese community led to the massacre of at least 5,000 Chinese.
East Jakarta: The Hodgepodge
Of all the five municipalities, East Jakarta is the most difficult to epitomize, as it contains a bit of everything. Some of its popular spots include the Bird Market and
Archaeological findings trace the history of modern-day Jakarta back to the fifth century. The ancient monument at Tanjung Priok Port (close to Cilincing Coastline) disclosed that by the 16th century, it became a thriving port city known as Sunda Kelapa Harbor. At that time, the Hindu kingdom of Pajajaran ruled the area from a place now known as Bogor, in the hills outside Jakarta.
By the time Columbus headed to the East in search of spices, Sunda Kelapa had already developed into a major trading port. Among the first foreigners to set foot here were the Portuguese. In 1522, they made a mutually beneficial agree ment with the Pajajaran Kingdom; in return for access to valuable spices, the Portuguese defended the Hindus from the Islamic sultanate of Demak.
Nevertheless, on June 22, 1527, the Javanese Prince Fatahillah of the Demak Sultanate successfully defeated the Portuguese armed forces at the site of the Sunda Kelapa Harbor. The city was then renamed Jayakarta, meaning "a glorious victory." This eventful day came to be acknowledged as Jakarta's Founding Anniversary, and Fatahillah Park was named after the heroic prince.
The Dutch Years
The end of the 16th century recorded another milestone: The Dutch landed at Sunda Kelapa port in 1596 and established the United East India Comp any (Vereinigde Oost Indies Compagnie or V.O.C.) in 1602 to join the lucrative spice trade.
Years passed, and the V.O.C. grew stronger. At the pinnacle of its strength, in 1635, the Dutch transformed Jayakarta, or Batavia as they called it, into a walled canal city covering some 700 hectares of land. A ride down the Ciliwung River evokes the nostalgic aura that once divided the city in two parts: east and west. The Dutch-style Jembatan Pasar Ayam, originally engineered to bridge both sides, remains preserved today as a historical landmark.
During the 18th century, Batavia grew into an overpopulated city and the quality of life deteriorated. Of particular concern to the Dutch was the rapid growth of the Chinese community, which threatened to tip the ethnic and economic balance of power. Attempts by the Du tch to suppress the number of Chinese resulted in a bloodbath in 1740. At least 5,000 Chinese were killed, 500 in Batavia City Hall, now the Jakarta History Museum. The Chinese were then confined to ghettos, the site of today's Glodok.
In the early 19th century Governor-General Herman Willem Daendels developed a new residential area called Weltevreden, the center of which is now the Lapangan Merdeka.
The British Years
In 1811, the British arrived and took over the land previously controlled by the Dutch. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who governed from 1811 to 1816, resided in Bogor Palace, where his first wife Olivia died. She was buried at Taman Prasasti. As a memorial, Raffles erected a special monument in Bogor Botanical Garden .
After only five years in Batavia, the British handed the land back to the Dutch, who ruled until Japanese occupation during World War II.
The New Beginning
By the early 1900s, young Indonesian scholars began to question Dutch dominion. Historians refer to 1908 as the "Year of Awakening," when a group of medical students founded the first independence organization for the people's political aspirations, Budi Utomo. These students held meetings in the medical school which is now STOVIA Museum of the History of National Awakening.
During Japane se occupation, the fight for independence intensified. Paramilitary Indonesian youth groups held regular meetings in a house in Menteng, now converted into the Museum of the 1945 Struggle for Independence.
When the Japanese finally surrendered on August 14, 1945, Admiral Tadashi Maeda brought Soekarno and Mohammad Hatta—the founding fathers of modern Jakarta—to his house on Jalan Imam Bonjol. Here, they drafted the Declaration of Independence. On the morning of August 17, 1945, the manuscript was read aloud at Jalan Proklamasi, a spot marked by the Soekarno-Hatta Monument. The next day, Soekarno became the first president of the Republic of Indonesia and Mohammad Hatta the first vice-president.
A number of ambitious development projects were undertaken during Soekarno's presidency, inclu ding Hotel Indonesia, Senayan Sports Complex and Sarinah department store. Towards the end of his tenure an attempted coup resulted in the murder of a number of army generals, allegedly by communists. In memory of the massacred generals, the Lubang Buaya Memorial Park and Museum was established.
After Soekarno's administration ended in 1966, General Haji Mohammad Soeharto brought economic and political stability to the country after years of chaos. Under his unilateral leadership, Indonesia developed a self-sufficient rice crop. His power came to an unfortunate end, however, as a result of a prolonged financial and economic crisis triggered by the Asian economic meltdown in 1997. In a subsequent wave of public protests and riots, he was left with little choice but to terminate his 32 years in power. On May 21, 1998, he ha nded over presidential control to his vice-president, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie.
For the first time in history, a democratically elected government led by President Abdurrahman Wahid now rules the republic. In a more open society, Indonesians hope that the country will once again return to the path toward prosperity.
Jakarta is a fascinating city of wide contrasts, a melting pot of cultures from across the Indonesian archipelago and beyond. It therefore comes as no surprise that you can find a wide range of entertainment to suit most tastes, from cheap and cheerful bars in Jalan Jaksa to expensive nightclubs where Jakarta's flashy young and urbane hang out. Plush cinemas in modern, air-conditioned shopping malls screen the latest Hollywood blockbusters, as well as Indonesian films and the occasional Hong Kong kung fu movie. For more highbrow options, check out the regular traditional Indonesian performances such as wayang kulit (shadow puppet shows) and gamelan (traditional Javanese) music, in addition to Western art forms such as classical music and ballet.
Very popular among expatriates, Tanamor prides itself as Jakarta's best-known discotheque. Although not for the claustrophobic, this unpretentious, down-to-earth and rather raucous disco makes the perfect place for letting your hair down, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when a full house ensures a great atmosphere. Only the most danceable techno music is played, so you could be on your feet all night. Other well-patronized discotheques include the stylish Jalan Jalan and Garasi, the favored haunt of financial executives and stockbrokers.
Glodok in the north of the city, hosts many nightclubs and karaoke bars —Sydney 2000 and Hailai International, to name but two. Also in this area across the square from the Museum Fatahillah, but quite a different sort of establishment, is Cafe Batavia. A great place to enjoy a drink or two amid an unequaled historic setting, the café takes you a step back into Jakarta's colonial past.
Of course, a myriad of hotel bars exists in Jakarta. Pitstop Club in the Sari Pan Pacific, Chequers in the Mandarin Oriental, B.A.T.S. in the Shangri-La and O'Reilly's in the Grand Hyatt all come to life in the evenings, providing live entertainment. Tiga Puluh Music Bar and Restaurant in Le Meridien claims to revive the 1930s' spirit of joie de vivre, with its nostalgic décor and jazzy tunes.
Being the capital of Indonesia, international franchise bars are well represented. The most notable include Planet Hollywood Café, Fashion Café and, of course, Hard Rock Cafe!
The expatriate enclave of Kemang, south of Jakarta, boasts great nightlife, including TC's, which plays jazzy and classical tunes.
Of course there are a few bars that appeal to homesick expatriates. The Irish pub in the Gran Melia Jakarta, Kelts, stands out as the best place in town for a pint of Guinness. Also check out Bugils Cafe, a Dutch-style bar located at Taman Ria amusement park, between the The Sultan Hotel and the Gedung MPR-DPR. Overlooking a lake, this must be the only bar in Jakarta where you can drink ice-cold beer while relaxing on a Dutch-style terrace.
Tucked away in the vicinity of the Blok M shopping district are a few small bars. Enjoy live broadcasts of sporting events at Sportsmans or pop in to Oscars, which claims, with probably not much truth, to be the only bar in Jakarta with a smile!
On the north coast lies Taman Impian Jaya Ancol (Ancol Dreamland), a huge marine recreational resort, which kids, especially, will love. A 40-lane bowling alley, an 18-hole golf course, a Fantasy World with fearsome rides like the Big Dipper, and the huge Gelanggang Renang (Ancol Water Park) all guarantee endless fun and excitement. If you go, stop in to look at some of the diversity of Indonesia's marine life at Sea World.
Taman Ria amusement park is centrally located and much quieter than Ancol. It offers a few rides like the Big Wheel, which affords spectacular views of Jakarta. On the weekends there is live outdoor music. Tuck into a meal at one of the many restaurants, such as TGI Friday's.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah should be on every tourist's agenda. Here, full-sized replicas of traditional houses from all of Indonesia's provinces portray the incredible diversity of this vast nation. Each acts as a mini-museum, displaying many fascinating artifacts. The park accommodates many other attractions, including the Keong Mas Imax Theater, which features films focusing on Indonesian culture and nature, a huge bird park, and the wildlife and natural history museums.
Festivals and the Arts
Taman Ismail Marzuki Arts Center, (TIM) is a complex of art galleries, cinemas and theaters. Get its programs from the box office, tourist office or at select travels agents and hotels. TIM also shares its premises with the recently refurbished Jakarta Planetarium.
Pasar Seni in Ancol showcases live gamelan music, dangdut (Indonesian pop music with a strong Indian influence) and occasional cultural performances. The annual arts festival at the Jakarta Arts Building presents one with a superb opportunity to see world-class dance, music and theater performed by local and foreign artists.
For the film buff, award-winning pictures from various countries are shown during the annual Jakarta Intern ational Film Festival (JiFFest), offering viewers a rare chance to enjoy quality films that would otherwise not make it to the big screen in Jakarta.
Visitors planning to explore Jakarta's every nook and cranny are often advised two things: dress comfortably and avoid the buses. The blistering sun may make for a unpleasant journey if you intend to do a fair bit of walking, so remember to put on light clothing. Arm yourself with an umbrella, too, in case you get caught in a tropical downpour. As for the buses, they are the working grounds for pickpockets. Taxis offer an inexpensive yet safe alternative. Renting a car gives you extra flexibility, but unless you are familiar with the chaotic streets, it is better to get one with a driver.
The tours below incorporate the some of the main activities and sites in Jakarta. However, they only hint at the wealth of what Jakarta offers.
The historic northern part of the city is still known as or Batavia, as it was known during colonial times. The Sunda Kelapa Harbor still operates as the port of call for colorful Bugis schooners. Pass through the Fish Market on your way to the Lookout Tower for sweeping views of the port. You can also catch glimpses of the past by visiting the Maritime Museum and the V.O.C. Warehouses, which once belonged to the Dutch United East India Company.
A short distance to the south of Sunda Kelapa HarborJakarta History Museum, Fine Arts Museum and the Puppet Museum stand surrounding Fatahillah Park, Batavia's old town square. If you come on Sunday, be sure to arrive at the Puppet Museum around 10a for a dose of Indonesian ethnic entertainment—a wayang kulit puppet performance. During lunchtime, make a beeline for the historic Café Batavia. Afterwards walk southward to the colonial-style Kota Train Station. Further away at Jalan Gajah Madah is the National Archive Building, a window to the opulent lifestyle of well-to-do Dutch colonists in the bygone era. Finish up with a ride eastward to the National Monument in the Lapangan Merdeka. Visit the museum at the base of the monument to learn about Indonesia's struggle for independence, then take an elevator to the top for exhilarating views of the cityscape. Refresh and rest after wards at Warong Shanghai Blue 1920, one of the oldest restaurants in Jakarta.
Tropical Fun at Jakarta Bay
Ancol Dreamland on the north coast of Jakarta is one of Southeast Asia's largest marine recreational resorts, which kids, especially, will love. If you are trave ling with children, make Fantasy World your first destination. Set aside four hours to enjoy the thrilling rides, including the fearsome Big Dipper. Adults might prefer to pick up some artwork at Pasar Seni, get a portrait made, or just observe the artists at work. Many restaurants and food stalls in the area provide delicious offerings at modest prices, or head over to Raja Kuring for cuisine from North Africa in an old colonial warehouse. In the afternoon, witness the incredible diversity of Indonesia's marine life at Sea World. After that, take a boat from Ancol Marina to the offshore islands of the Thousand Islands mini-archipelago and explore until su ndown. In the evening, treat yourself to some seafood delights in Hailai International Executive Club for dinner, dancing or even private room karaoke.
The neighborhood around the National Monument has the multi-ethnic signature of post-colonial society. Please note that to enter several of the landmarks in this tour conservative dress is required and women wearing trousers may not be allowed to enter. Along the central square are historic churches, mosques, and more. Start out admiring the organ in the Gereja Immanuel, a Baroque style church dating to the 18th century. Next walk across the National Monument square to the cool gardens of Ist ana Mendeka, Jakarta's Presidential Palace. Adjacent to the gardens is the Istana Negara State Palace, where the peace treaty between the Indonesian and Dutch was signed. After admiring the Dutch colonial architecture, cross Jalan Veteran to Jalan Pecenongan to sample snacks such as frozen coconut and avocado or thick pancake-like bandung. Afterwards, continue eastwards along Jalan Insinyur Haji Juanda towards the Mesjid Istiqlal to admire its elaborately decorated floors and walls and the towering minaret that can be seen all around Jakarta. Afterwards, skirt the eastern end of the National Monument again as you make your way to Gereja Katedral, Jakarta's neo-gothic Catholic church. The basement museum has exhibits about the church's construction and Catholicism in Indonesia. Finally, make your way down Jalan Ridwan Rais to Aryaduta Hotel and what may possibly be Jakarta's best Japanese restaurant, Shima.