Hmm ... I'm trying to see how best to describe my first impressions of Jakarta! I was here last more than 20 years ago, and although much has changed, such as the new highrises that have been built in the downtown area, much still remains the same.
It really feels like the Asia of 20 years ago. On one side gleaming buildings shooting into the sky. Right next to them ... slums! It was hard not to notice the slums as you were driving back from the airport.
Actually, as we were landing at Jakarta International airport, I was looking out the window and just prior to touch-down I could see shanty houses right up to the fence bordering the airport. A modern Boeing 777 from Singapore Airlines touching down 200 metres from an impoverished village running parallel to the runway. The contrasts couldn't be more stark.
The weather is also something to talk about! I've been to Beijing a few times, which has notoriously bad weather (read polluted) but this is just as soupy as Beijing, if not worse. Looking out the window you see a thick yellow haze. Some days it's denser, some less ... but it was present for the entire 4 days that I was in Jakarta.
My biggest surprise till date re Jakarta ... there are 20 million people living here. I never realized it was such a massive sprawl!
I'm hear on business so I won't have much time to do the tourist thing. So the impressions I'm giving are literally from the glimpses that I get to have while I'm dashing from one place to another.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Jakarta is a 70 minute flight from Singapore. I was shocked to see how busy of a route Singapore - Jakarta is when the flight I was on on a Sunday morning was absolutely packed. And it was one of 6 flights a day!!
It was also funny to see that Jakarta airport has an airplane graveyard right next to the taxiway. As you're taxiing to your gate, you pass all these abandoned planes. 737's, 747's, DC-9's all with flaps extended and engines missing. In the US you can see this in the Mojave desert or outside of Tucson, but I've never noticed old planes abandoned at major international airports.
Don't forget that when entering Indonesia you need to pay for an entry visa (US$10) and when you leave you're hit with a 150,000 Rupiah departure tax.
WHERE TO EAT:
> Bungarampai: what a beautiful, stately old Dutch colonial house. And the food ... exquisite. Located in a very rich neighbourhood of Jakarta, where several of the richest Indonesians have their residences side-by-side with ambassadors and other diplomats, this Indonesian restaurant is not to be missed. There is no website, so here is the address:
Jl. Cik Ditiro No. 35
Menteng Jakarta 10310
T: 021-3192 6224 / 25
> Face Jakarta: three restaurants in one located very close to Fountain Bunderan Hi: Lan Na Thai exotic Thai cuisine, Kazara northern Indian cuisine and a Moroccan restaurant. Was impressed with the quality of food and relaxed environment.
> Hotel Nikko: very centrally located business hotel in downtown Jakarta. The rooms are large and well appointed.
> Grand Hyatt Hotel: from my room at Hotel Nikko I could see the Grand Hyatt right across the street. Given the central location and the Hyatt brand, I would imagine this hotel is also recommendable.