Here’s a list of 10 of the best things to do in Jakarta if you’re travelling on a budget. These activities are all outside the Cikini area, and all easily day-tripable. Here are some suggestions on what to do in the area around Six Degrees in Cikini.
Note that the following list is in no particular order, and number 1 is not necessarily the best (it’s not). Why not see or do them all, and tell us which ones are your favourite?
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Promoted as “Indonesia’s different cultures all in one place”, Taman Mini (or TMII) is a sprawling 300-acre park originally thought-up by the wife of ex-dictator Suharto. Some people say that if you go to TMII then there’s no need to travel around the rest of the archipelago. They’d be wrong, of course, but Taman Mini is still worth the trip – partly because it’s genuinely interesting in places, and partly because it’s just such a curiosity. There are displays of cultural artifacts and art from each of Indonesia’s many ethnic groups, housed within an example of the traditional building style of that region. Some of the buildings are rather impressive. There’s also a large aviary, a stuffed animal museum, a swimming pool and lots of restaurants. The nicest thing about the park is the open space – a rare commodity in Jakarta. Strolling around the grounds is a pleasant enough way to spend an afternoon. Or there’s a rickety monorail if strolling is not your thing.
Old Batavia (Kota) and Sunda Kelapa Port
The place to go for a taste of Jakarta’s rich history, Kota – the old town – is centred around Fatahillah Square. Essentially a collection of fine old Dutch colonial-era building in various states of repair, there are several good museums here as well as the unmissable Café Batavia.
A short hop from Kota brings you to Sunda Kelapa, where dozens of old wooden sailing schooners can still be seen loading and offloading goods from around the country. Well worth the trip, especially if you’re into boats or photography. Or both.
There are several good museums dotted around the city, and the big travel websites have comprehensive lists (here’s one). The best museums are predominantly located in and around Kota – the old town. There’s Fatahillah Museum (history), Jakarta Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum, and even a couple of the old banks’ museums (actually quite interesting, honestly). You’ll also find the Wayang (traditional Puppetry) Museum in this part of town.
Away from Kota (and walking distance from Six Degrees) The National Museum, which you’ll find opposite the National Monument “Monas”, can easily consume a full day. It’s cheap to get in, and is crammed full of historical artifacts and Indonesiana. The building itself is fascinating and, like most of the other museums in Jakarta, it will almost certainly be rather quiet when you visit. Although if there’s a school trip you may inadvertently become the star exhibit. Enjoy!
It’s very big. That’s perhaps the most interesting thing about Mesjid Istiqlal. In fact, it’s the biggest mosque in South-East Asia. Build in the 50s, and designed by a Christian architect, it’s worth a look. Only a steady trickle of foreign tourists visit the mosque, but they’re made to feel welcome, and usually enjoy the excursion. It’s started becoming more popular since Barrack Obama visited back in 2010.Click here for a more in-depth wikipedia look at the building, its many intended purposes, and its history.
Senayan – Malls & shopping
The Senayan area, located on and behind one of Jakarta’s biggest and most famous streets, Jalan Sudirman, comprises several malls. Apologies, but it’s too mind-numbingly boring for the author (a shopaphobic) to list them all here, but rest assured that you’ll find what you’re looking for in this area of the city. There are up-scale and mid-range malls, and Senayan FX features a big slide to take you from the top to the bottom. Useful for those who need to get out quickly (both shopaphobics and shoplifters, perhaps). Arcadia Senayan is a small building in the middle of the area which features some good, fancy restaurants, as well as “Red Square”, one of Jakarta’s trendiest bars. One of many good places in the area to spend lots of money, hang out with the beautiful people, dance on tables, and hear top-quality Western dance music.
Taman Impian Jaya Ancol (Ancol Dreamland Park – usually just called Ancol)
Ancol, pronounced ‘an-chol’ – This is where thousands of Jakartans go to be entertained. The huge complex on the North coast of the city includes an excellent water park, a Sea World, hotels, a beach, and lots and lots of restaurants and food stalls. “DuFan” – Fantasy World – is a theme park, with a rickety roller-coaster and lots of smaller rides. It’s packed at the weekends, and queuing an hour in the midday sun for a mediocre 32-second roller-coaster might not be everyone’s idea of a great weekend. It still has its charms, though.
Ancol is also host to big concerts and events, and international nightclubs such as Ministry of Sound, Gatecrasher and Renaissance sometimes put on parties here. The Ancol website is here – it’s entirely in Indonesian (which perhaps tells you something about their target market), but there are enough photos and icons to help you navigate around and see what’s happening.
Thousand Islands (Kepulauan Seribu)
Just off the coast, right next to one of the world’s biggest, muckiest cities, you’d hardly expect to find pristine tropical islands. Well, there are some. We haven’t counted to check that there’s really 1000 of them (we think it’s more like 120), but there are certainly some gems. The water is clear and snorkelling is fine, and there’s small white-beached islands all over the place. Many rich Jakartans escape here for the weekend and, as a result, some of the islands have been bought up by luxury resorts, and prices are way beyond those that your average independent traveller can afford. However it is possible to get a ‘public’ boat from Ancol to one of the several islands which offer mid-range accommodation. Many of the islands also have villages, so you’ll be able to meet the locals and get a taste of their unique culture and laid-back lifestyle. There’s some good information about the islands on this wiki page and many of the islands and resorts have their own websites. Go midweek to avoid the hordes.
Taman Safari and Ragunan Zoo
Taman Safari is Indonesia’s Safari Park and is located near Bogor. Ragunan Zoo is Indonesia’s biggest and best Zoo, and is located in South Jakarta. The writer has grouped them both here as he has been to neither of them – he’d rather find animals in the wild. However most people love the safari Park (if getting your windscreen wipers ripped off by a baboon is your thing), and the zoo is apparently on a par with Western zoos in terms of animal welfare and enclosure standards. The zoo includes one of the world’s largest primate centres- 23 acres by all accounts. The zoo does parade its orang-utans around on the back of a horse-cart every day, which is part of the reason I’ve never been. Both places claim to be working on conservation projects, but both places are also extremely popular and make huge sums of money. For a more positive look at these places, try here (Taman Safari) and here (Ragunan Zoo)
Bogor is a large town around one hour from the centre of Jakarta. Jakarta has almost enveloped Bogor now, with not much in the way of green space in between. The most popular and distinct thing about Bogor is its elevation. It’s much higher up than Jakarta, which results in a mild, comfortable climate (20-25 degrees – Indonesians generally think this is ‘cold’). As a result, it’s another popular place to which Jakartans escape at weekends.
It also rains a lot, and is sometimes dubbed ‘the rainy city’. The city has a rich history as once-capital of the Sundanese Kingdom, the legacy of which is relatively easy to find. Today, the city is incredibly densely populated, but still a popular tourist destination.
The most popular attraction is the Botanical Gardens. Established in 1817, it is a lovely place to spend half a day. It includes all kinds of Flora and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see the world’s largest flower, the stinking Rafflesia, in bloom.
Wikipedia has an excellent page about Bogor’s history and attractions – here it is.
South Jakarta – Kuningan to Kemang
South Jakarta is a huge area, which covers many different suburbs and sub-districts. It’s generally considered to be where Indonesia’s wealthy reside, although there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Kuningan and Jalan Sudirman make up Jakarta’s main CBD, and this is where you’ll find the gleaming skyscrapers, clean streets, western malls and restaurants, and a huge variety of entertainment. The side of Jakarta the government wants you to see.
Kemang, a little further south, is a rich residential area, and a night-life hotspot. There are numerous good pubs, cafés and restaurants around. There’s also high-end food, art and furniture shops that we can’t afford. As a honey-pot for wealthy young Jakartans, the traffic to and from this area in the evening can sometimes be horrific. But, if you’re craving a slice of the high-life in Jakarta, the rewards make the journey worthwhile. Here’s the Kemang Buzz website, which details all the attractions and lists upcoming events.