We set off from Heathrow on the 21 June bound for Jakarta (via Abu Dhabi) on Etihad Airlines. We knew it was going to be a long journey, but sitting on the tarmac in Abu Dhabi for well over an hour at 3am, made an already tiring journey, exhausting.
24 hours after leaving home, we arrived in Jakarta & it was already dark by 5.30pm.
We had booked a little bit of luxury (4* Hotel Santika Premier) to recover from the flight, planning to spend 2-3 nights. However, we had ‘overlooked’ the end of Ramadan & start of Eid & 7 day public holiday which made booking land travel impossible.
Jakarta is a massive city with a population of over 10 million. The initial impression is a chaotic mix – modern (buildings in the financial district) interspersed with ramshackle slum areas. It didn’t help that when we arrived it was shrouded in a cloud of smog (which didn’t lift) but everything appeared very grey: from the decaying concrete buildings to the metal structures; the choice of car colour to painted exterior of buildings; & the constant billow of dark grey/black fumes from the vehicles which stretch across 6 lanes in each direction.
Exploring the City
We decided to explore, taking in some of the recommendations from ‘The Rough Guide’ & ‘Lonely Planet’. Usually we travel by foot, bus or metro, but we were advised to go by taxi. On reflection we can see why: taxis are cheap & metered, Buses involve many changes & walking is definitely not an option (there are not many pavements, there are sewers running along some streets with large holes dotted here & there in the concrete covering).
There are only a few recommended places to visit in the guide books:
The Old Dutch Quarter & Taman Fatahillah Sqaure, Kota
Slightly disappointing, but probably the highlight of all the places of interest. This small area of old Dutch buildings, many of which have been converted into restaurants & bars, surround a square.
We visited the Jakarta Historical Museum as the larger ones were closed on the Saturday. It cost 30p so it didn’t matter that it was rather disappointing.
We had no wish to go shopping. However, if you’re going to visit a mall, we thought it best to visit the biggest: ‘ The Grand Mall’. We weren’t surprised to see many UK shops: M&S, Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop, Debenhams etc (as we’d seen loads in other Asian cities) but we were surprised to see many we see in Spain, such as: Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Zara, Bershka etc.
Slums, China Town & Temple
We saw all of these areas from the cab, but decided not to get out to walk. Jakarta is not really designed for pedestrians at the best of times. There are limited pavements & when there are, they are used by motorcycles as a safer option that the roads.
End of Ramadan/Start of Eid
Our stay in Jakarta coincided with the end of Ramadan & the start of Eid public holiday. The eve of Eid was amazing with prayers & fireworks starting at 6pm until 6am. See our YouTube clip here
Deciding whether to stay in Jakarta for a total of 7 nights or splash out on some flights was an easy decision. Jakarta is not our favourite Asian city by any stretch of the imagination.
At least it meant only 4 nights in Jakarta & the chance to get going out into the countryside.
We’ve decided to omit the Dieng Plateau as travel options are limited over Ramadan/Eid & we have already stayed longer than planned. We move on to Yogyakarta on 26 June. Remember you can follow us here live
More to follow … So on Monday 26 we will set off for Yogyakarta home to Borobudar, the biggest buddist temple complex on Earth & the ancient Hindu temple of Prambanan (UNESCO site).