Our first few days discovering Jakarta were truly delightful!
To bring you up to date, we returned to Kathmandu from Tibet, for a couple of days, and then flew Air Asia to Jakarta, Indonesia – four hours to Kuala Lumpur (KL), two hours from KL to Jakarta, and a three-hour layover in KL. After our recent experience at Everest Base Camp, with bitingly cold winds, the first thing that we noticed in Indonesia was the hot tropical weather.
The first night we found a wonderful fish restaurant called Pondok Laguna (open link for pictures) which specialized in Indonesian food. We liked it so much that we went back our second night and it was actually better!
Our first full day, we spent sightseeing. We were fortunate that we were the only customers, so the guide customized the trip around our interests which included:
- National Museum, Jakarta
- Glodok – the center of Jakarta’s China Town
- Kota Intan Drawbridge – the 17th century Dutch drawbridge
- Sunda Kelapa Habour – five hundred years old
- Fatahillah Museum – built in the 16th century by the Dutch
We thoroughly enjoyed the National Museum, especially when hundreds of school children joined together in welcoming us and nearly brought the roof down with the shouting of “hello”. We have a video clip that we plan to share. This museum is reputedly one of the finest in South East Asia, with an enormous collection of cultural artifacts, plus a wonderful collection of Chinese ceramics, dating back to the Han dynasty and including many pieces of blue and white Ming.
On the tour, we saw people standing at the roadside holding up one or two fingers. We learned from our guide that there is a quota of three people minimum allowed in each private vehicle and it is illegal to travel with no passengers, due to high pollution and heavy traffic in Jakarta. These people earn a living by offering to sit in a private car as a passenger and they are paid by the owner of the vehicle for their service and are preventing the driver from getting a hefty fine; they travel up and down to the center, between the hours of 7-10 AM and 4-7 PM.
We had lunch at Cafe Batavia. This is a theme restaurant in the Jazz age style and with Art Deco style furnishings plus a wall of fame, that includes signed photos of glamorous stars and world leaders that have attended events at this venue. The food was good and it is a fun place.
We then visited the five-hundred year old harbour. There are many vessels waiting to be loaded and getting ready to set sail, but with a difference – they only sail at night; they follow the moon and the direction of the wind tells them that they are heading in the right direction for the Indonesian island that is to be their destination – they also sail by scent! These ships, most of which do not look sea worthy, do not have a compass!
The next day, we spent half the morning at the main post office in Jakarta shipping back our winter clothes to Europe by surface mail. We have shipped personal belongings from both Thailand and Vietnam but the quality of the service in Jakarta was outstanding; they actually pack it for you, seal it and address it just for a small charge! We did not know how to arrange this and the concierge from our hotel did it all for us; he physically took us to the post office and explained what we wanted to do – he waited for us and took us back to the hotel. We have not experienced that quality service anywhere. Actually, we have been amazed at the quality of service generally in Jakarta. Everybody seems out to please and always seems to have a helpful smile.
Later, we spent a half a day in one of Jakarta’s many shopping malls. Apart from top brands which were pricey, like anywhere else, the prices were very competitive compared to other major shopping cities in South East Asia. We struggled to get a taxi back to our hotel and then witnessed Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams in the rush hour – fortunately taxi fares are about a tenth of the cost of those in Europe.
Tomorrow, we catch a train to Bandung, the capital of Western Java, so watch out for our next blog.