Keen to do a weekend getaway in a city? Well, editor and millennial Aishah Azali explores the vibrant city of Jakarta and all its cool and not to mention, Instagram- worthy places to visit for a weekend of fun.
As a millennial, I’m always looking for interesting places to visit, eat and explore so I can gain new experiences while curating a colourful Instagram feed. Initially, Bangkok is always the city I hear when people talk about weekend getaways filled with endless shopping and hip eateries.
But the expansion on television highlighting the greatness of Jakarta made me wonder what kind of treasures can I discover there. As a foodie and lover of architecture, I was looking more into that direction. Then, of course, there is my love for shopping and the overall excitement of getting to know new people. Jakarta surprised me in many ways so here are some tips on how to really enjoy yourself in the capital of Indonesia.
THE LAND OF HISTORY AND ART
Little did I know that Jakarta’s museums are located in a gigantic square of connecting pre-war buildings that have been transformed into museums and cafes, located at North Jakarta. The Old City, formerly known as Old Batavia, now known as Fatahillah Square was once the city hall during the reign of the Dutch.
The old colonial buildings retain its charm and grandeur from the outside even though they now serve as various museums like the History Museum, the Wayang Museum and the Fine Arts and Ceramic Museum. The History Museum is mostly filled with grand oil paintings of patrons and Dutch officers, hanged alongside antique furniture of that time like meeting tables and settees.
Lovers of Indonesian art should definitely stop by the Wayang Museum that features the tools for wayang kulit (shadow puppeteering) that is so synonymous with Indonesian culture. The square itself were filled with teenagers lounging by the steps, taking selfies and busking out songs as tourists rent out neon coloured bicycles to circle around in. It feels like a hangout spot for the young locals as much as it is a tourist attraction.
Art galleries are a plenty at the trendy neighborhood of Kemang. The Hadiprana Gallery and Edwin Gallery are just some of the art places along Kemang Raya that feature contemporary paintings from local and international artists.
THE LAND OF HIP EATERIES
If you thought neighborhoods like Bangsar or Damansara in KL has cool concept eateries, then you would be mind blown by the restaurants in Jakarta. The industrial theme that is popular here extends to the neighboring country but is done in a more diverse kind of way, not just carbon copies from place to place.
I had some of the best coffee at DJournal Coffee located inside the Grand Indonesia mall. The open coffee bar sees you waiting for your coffee ala Starbucks style as the barista whips up interesting concoctions like red velvet latte and the boozy iced carajillo. The decor cleverly mixes wood and steel, a great place to snap pictures for your Instagram feed.
While walking back to my hotel, I came across this gorgeous and busy building packed with a variety of restaurants from cafes to diners and bars called The Fairground. It is located in the business district called SCBD close to the swanky high-end mall, Pacific Place.
I dropped by Berrywell at The Fairgrounds, one of the healthy food spots there that are known for their smoothie bowls. Popular among the fitness crowd thanks to the many patrons clad in colourful sports attire and toting yoga mats, I was recommended the PB & B smoothie bowl. Fresh bananas and peanut butter are blended into an almost oatmeal consistency and decorated with chia seeds, coconut flakes and muesli.
I cannot write about food without mentioning some local fare. I stumbled upon a Sunday morning market along Pintu Gelora 1 Road where they close down the adjacent main road Jalan Jendral Sudirman for cyclers and joggers.
Traditional Indonesian street food could be found everywhere at the market. Locals were noshing on soupy broths of bakso, fried snacks of tofu and bananas and even fresh coconuts.
I chose a humble looking cart named Nasi Pecel Madiun manned by a sweet looking lady. Nasi pecel is rice, topped with blanched vegetables like bean sprouts and kangkung and drenched with spicy peanut sauce and a side of crackers. The taste is so flavourful in an Indonesian kind of way, spicy yet sweet.
The satay is another popular local dish with the franchise, Sate Senayan available in many malls. I have to say, Indonesian satay has its differences compared to the Malaysian ones. The marinade is different and the peanut sauce is surprisingly smooth, almost like melted peanut butter compared to the chunky version I’m used to having in KL.
THE LAND OF MALLS & SHOPPING
Jakarta has a lot of malls. High-end ones serving you Givenchy and Jimmy Choo and middle-class ones with more local brands, just pick your style. I went to a couple and for local goods like batik and various designs of baju kurungs and button ups, Thamrin City Mall is your best bet. Thamrin City Mall mimics the goods from the popular tourist spot Tanah Abang Market which sell fabrics and traditional Indonesian wear. Difference is, you are in a mall setting with bigger shops and air-conditioning throughout.
Fancy malls are like Pacific Place which boasts the department store Galeries Lafayette (originally from France) that have high-end local brands as well as imported brands from Italy and New York. Plaza Indonesia is another maze of shops in the heart of the city that sport some lavish in-mall eateries from English- inspired tea houses to trendy industrial restaurants.
An interesting hipster store that I found is located across the street from Plaza Indonesia at the Grand Indonesia mall. Art & Science is a lifestyle store with racks of debonair men clothes to unique board games and fine leather minimalist handbags that look like something an Instagram influencer would wear.
A similar store that I went to was back at Kemang Raya called Aksara. It is predominantly a bookstore selling specialty books from genres like fashion, food and fiction. Special edition books from Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling can be found next to more millennial subject books like New York City’s Sneaker Culture by Bobbito Garcia. When you are there, check out the hidden cafe behind the shop called Ruang Seduh.
Still in Kemang, I also popped by one of the hottest concept stores in Jakarta called FJ’L Boutique. Mannequins are dressed in brands like Hudson Jeans, Paul & Joe, Linda Farrow and Altru Apparel alongside home items like scented candles and soaps.
THE LAND OF PARTIES
The nightlife of Jakarta is happening if you know where to go. I already mentioned that the Indonesians know the importance of decor to create ambiance in a space and their bars are no different.
The famous club Potato Head in Bali has a smaller branched in Pacific Place mall. The interior features tall ceilings with plush seating against a backdrop of flowers and veining plants. Don’t get me started on the exquisite light fixtures.
A clean black and white interior with marbled walls and more glorious light fixtures is Gia Restaurant and Bar. Distinctly Italian in design and menu, this is the place to be for dinner or pre-party drinks. The signature drinks are named after European femme fatales like Monica Belluci and Sofia Loren and if you are feeling a little ‘boujie’, try asking for the rare whisky menu.
Nightlife would not be complete without a sky bar and SKYE on the 56th floor of the Grand Indonesia has the best views of central Jakarta. It is a fiesta in the sky thanks to the Hispanic menu and colourful decor. The outdoor area has seating next to an infinity pool, a great place to Snapchat away.
TIPS ON SURVIVING JAKARTA
● A common word you’ll hear is ‘Machet’, meaning traffic jam which Jakarta is notorious for. So do time your journeys well because a 3km journey can take more than 30mins during rush hour.
● Motorcycles as a mode of transportation is popular in Jakarta with companies like UberMoto, Grab and Gojek pioneering the trade. Ask your rider for a face mask and cap before putting on your helmet.
● Walking around Jakarta is pretty hard (but not impossible) because their pedestrian roads are not in good condition in certain neighborhoods. But if you are walking, look out for potholes and uneven pavements.
● Jakarta is a big city so make sure to pin point which part of the city (north, east, south or west) has most of your wishlist spots and book a hotel there. I stayed in Central Jakarta that borders the southern parts because it was close to the cool places that I wanted to visit at the business district.
Words & Photos by Aishah Azali