Back in 2009-2010 when I was living in Borneo, Malaysia, I used to raise funds for cancer patients, UNICEF as well as the WWF at the same time. Part of my job was to travel to different areas in South East Asia; mainly within Malaysia and Indonesia. I lived in small cities in both Sabah and Sarawak but was on the road most of the time.
One of the places I visited quite often was Jakarta. I have to admit that at first, I was not really impressed with Jakarta because it’s a huge city full of traffic. It took a million years to get from one place to the other and it was kind of frustrating for me. However, after my second visit, I started seeing that Jakarta had its own charm and could be enjoyed in more than just one way.
Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and is the most populous city in the country. It sits on the northwest of the Island of Java. Jakarta has a lot to offer in terms of culture and heritage. Its architecture and cuisine are influenced by a mix of historical cultures; including Javanese, Arab, Chinese, Malay, European and Indian.
So is Jakarta worth visiting? For a first time visitor, I thought it wasn’t. But after seeing a few spots and going there a more than a few times, I definitely recommend going to Jakarta. In this article, I would like to share with you a few fun things to do in Jakarta that I had the pleasure of experiencing while I was visiting there.
Editor’s Note: Jakarta is a HUGE city. We recommend going on a guided tour of Jakarta so a local can show you around the best spots in the city!
Visit the Planetarium
The Planetarium and Observatory in Jakarta is a place that is not very well-known to tourists and visitors. If one of my Indonesian friends hadn’t recommended it, I would have never known about it.
If you’re into outer space and would like to see something cool, I definitely recommend this. The videos are mostly in Indonesian, but it’s still fun to watch. It’s also a great activity to do as a family.
Ah! Good ol’ durian! I have to admit that I have had a love-hate relationship with durian. It took me many months of smelling it and being repelled by the smell to finally “take the plunge” and actually try it.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, the durian fruit has been hailed as the world’s stinkiest fruit whose aroma has been criticized all over the world. But to be honest, I really loved the taste of it. If you ever want to try durian, just ignore the smell. My friend spent a long time trying to tell me that it tasted good, but the smell always pushed me away. It’s really worth a try; trust me.
Related: Strangest Things People Eat
Visit the Vihara Bahtera Bhakti
Vihara Bahtera Bhakti is the oldest Buddhist temple in Jakarta. It also has other names: “Kelenteng Ancol” and “Da Bo Gong”. It was built back in the 17th century and consists of many beautiful buildings that sit around a surface of about 4,000 square meters.
The temple has many rooms that are dedicated to different Chinese spirits and other gods. It has a lot of history and is a very peaceful place for spiritual people. Even if you’re not into spiritual stuff, it’s definitely worth visiting. It’s a bit hard to find because it’s located in the middle of a residential area, so make sure you ask around for directions.
Take a Cooking Class
If you’ve never tried Indonesian food, you are missing out! The cuisine is a real treat to eat. While in Jakarta, treat yourself to something unusual by taking a cooking class. Learn how to cook (and eat) some of the classics like Satays, Rendang, Mie Goreng, and more.
Eat Soto Ayam
I’m crazy about Asian food, and Indonesian food is definitely on my list of favorites. Soto ayam is a soup made of chicken, lots of fresh turmeric and herbs. It’s basically an Indonesian version of chicken noodle soup and boy is it yummy! If you’re into soups, you should definitely taste this one!
Related: What to Eat in Indonesia
Go to the Traditional Street Markets
There are over 100 traditional street markets in Jakarta that accommodate over 2 million visitors every single day. You can find pretty much anything in these markets and shopping streets; from food items to imitation products, to clothes, you name it.
Some of these markets specialize in selling certain items, while others have more of a general supply of products. If you’re like me and you’re not much of a mall person, I definitely recommend paying a visit to the traditional markets in Jakarta.
Here are a few street markets worth visiting
- Pasar Baru (Little India)
- Glodok (China Town)
- Pasar Santa (hipster type market)
- Pasar Seni Ancol (Art Market)
Related: What to do in Sarawak, Borneo
Ride a Tuk Tuk
One of the best ways to get around and fun things to do in Jakarta’s crazy traffic is to hire a tuk tuk to go from one place to the other. They are fast, crazy drivers; you will feel your guts in your throat sometimes as if you were on a roller coaster, but it’s definitely fun to ride one.
Go to a Rooftop Bar
One of the things that I really enjoyed while visiting Jakarta was going to rooftop bars. The city is very populated and busy with an insane amount of traffic almost at all times. Going to a rooftop bar was really a great way to unwind after a long day of work. Most of these bars have an amazing view of the city and serve a great collection of food and cocktails.
My favorite one was Karumba Rooftop Rum Bar at the Mercure Simatupang hotel in South Jakarta. It has a Caribbean theme and has a few water features that look like small pools around the tables as well as an amazing view of the city.
Drink Bintang Beer
I am a beer lover, so whenever I visit a new place, I’m always interested in tasting the local beer there. There are a couple of local Indonesian beers that you can find, but I always kept drinking Bintang as I found it quite light and tasty.
Experience the Night Life in Jalan Jaksa
Jalan Jaksa is very famous among backpackers in Jakarta. It’s actually even called the Backpacker Street of Jakarta. You will find a huge stretch of bars, pubs, street food stalls and small restaurants.
Keep in mind though, some of these places have some “working girls” hanging around looking for “work”. So be careful who you talk to and make friends with.
Don’t Miss Out on Visiting Chinatown
If you’re near Jalan Pancoran, you can just walk to Chinatown. Chinatown is full of street food stalls, small stores and you can find a beautiful Chinese temple there too. Definitely worth a visit!
This tour of China Town is pretty awesome as it takes you to all the highlights (including a few nibbles of the local delicacies)
Shop Until You Drop
Last but not least, Jakarta offers a large selection of shopping malls where you can find most well-known brands. I’m not really into malls, but whenever I needed to buy something specific, my favorite place to go to was Grand Indonesia where you can also find another very nice rooftop bar called Skye Bar.
As you can see, Jakarta can be a fun place for tourists, business visitors, as well as expats living there.
Have you visited Jakarta lately? What’re your favorite things to do in Jakarta?