If one is willing to go beyond the prickly surface and find the sweetness within, there are so many things to see and do in the 'Big Durian'. As an expat moving to the city or a weekend tourist, one will be spoilt for choice. Jakarta is a great city for people who love to eat, shop and pamper themselves.
A good grasp of conversational Bahasa Indonesia would be advantageous as English is not always spoken by locals. If not, a translator application or phrasebook are advisable.
Sightseeing in Jakarta
Monas stands for Monument Nasional and is very popular with the locals who like to fly kites, ride bikes, stroll and picnic on the grounds. The Monas was built in remembrance of the Indonesian heroes’ struggle to fight colonial domination. The impressive monument, which might look small from afar but is astoundingly large up close, is gorgeously clad in marble and topped with a bronze flame that is lit up at night. There is a museum at the base, and for a few dollars more, one can ascend to the top and get a 360-degree panoramic view. On the viewing deck, expats can admire the Presidential Palace, the Istiqlal Mosque and the Jakarta skyline.
National Museum of Indonesia
The National Museum is near the Monas and houses the most comprehensive collection of cultural artefacts in the entire archipelago. Allocate at least half a day to wander around and learn about the fascinating and rich Indonesian history.
Located at Kota Tua Jakarta or Old Jakarta, in the northern part of the city, is Fatahillah Square. There are many historical buildings around it that are great to explore on foot. Colourful bikes are also available for rent. The square itself is dotted with locals hanging about and vendors selling their wares/services.
The Fatahillah Museum is located here and is a great place to see interesting pieces of old furniture. The museum is not as well maintained as the National Museum, but it's still interesting to see.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
If one does not have time to travel the archipelago of Indonesia, visit Taman Mini instead. There are a number of gardens in this attraction which show how Indonesians lived in different places and historical times. In the middle is a lake with miniature islands in the shape of the archipelago, complete with volcanoes. There are also museums and rides for children to enjoy.
Within the complex, there are different attractions that have a separate but minimal admission fee. Be sure to see the live Komodo dragon in the Komodo dragon-shaped museum building.
A car is a must for entering Taman Mini so rent a car or hail a taxi. The entrance fee will depend on the vehicle expats are using to enter the park.
Day trips in Jakarta
There are many more things to see around the wider Jakarta metropolitan area. A car is necessary for these trips; car rentals are cheap and come with drivers. Depending on the deal bargained with the agency, one might have to pay for gas and the driver’s meals. Allot a day for these excursions because of unpredictable traffic.
Bogor Botanical Gardens
This is a popular spot with the locals for picnicking. Drive in with a car to explore the vast grounds and see gigantic trees that are hundreds of years old and amazing to behold. If expats do not want to picnic they can also have lunch at the café and enjoy a breathtaking hilltop view of the gardens and a tranquil pond with giant lotus lilies.
About one and a half hours away from Jakarta is Taman Safari, a sprawling safari park and amusement complex where one can feed freely roaming animals. Outside of the park, vendors sell bunches of small bananas and carrots to feed the animals.
Check the schedule of the different shows on their website as they are worth watching. Other musts are the baby zoo, the aviary, riding on an elephant, camel or pony, and the elephant show.
Take note, traffic can increase travel time up to three hours on weekends, so it's better to visit during the week.