Forget the comforts of mall-hopping in Jakarta, we take to the streets and show you a whole new, must-see side of the Big Durian
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re actually in the middle of the Indonesian tropical archipelago when you’re in the metropolitan city of Jakarta. Between traveling from mall to mall, beating the heat inside your favourite air conditioned cafes and restaurants, or sitting at your desk (and trying not to freeze), it’s easy to forget what a wild, vibrant Asian city Jakarta is. While mall hopping is arguably super Jakartan – (no complaints here!) – we took to the streets and compiled some must-try local experiences. Stand by for your inside guide to unique things to do in Jakarta…
Attend an Indonesian wedding
This may not be a novelty for Indonesians in the same way that transplants will experience this but if you meet someone who invites you to an Indonesian wedding, go. Culturally, Indonesia is a landmine between the thousands of islands, and their own rituals but that’s what makes this so incredible. If you can attend the marriage ceremony, and preceding rituals, try attending with someone who knows the culture of the wedding or park yourself next to someone who does, and as they are full of beautiful, and touching nuances, and TONS of amazing ‘grammable shots. Oh, and if you know the bride, you would never recognize the princess version of her. Seriously, you’ll be stunned.
Visit Istiqlal Mosque
This may be a no-brainer but we think it’s worth mentioning, especially because the mosque sees some 150,000 devotees on Idul Fitri. They offer free tours of the premised on normal days with a dedicated English speaking guide. You are also allowed to enter the mosque but make sure you are appropriately dressed, meaning floor length skirts, long sleeve, conservative tops, and a head scarf for women and long pants and shirts for me. It’s a beautiful structure and a huge part of many Indonesians’ lives.
Istiqlal Masjid. Jl. Taman Wijaja Kusuma, Jakarta Pusat. p. +62/21-3811708.
Eat seafood at Santika Baru, Benhill
Right smack dab in the centre of the city, is one of Jakarta’s best barbecue seafood warungs. You have to come prepared to sweat, but your taste buds are in for a treat. Open only in the evenings after 6PM, Santika Baru comes alive directly opposite Pasar Bendungan Hilir off of Jalan Sudirman. You can get a whole lot of seafood (grilled or fried), rice, and sides for a steal!
Go to a pop-up market
While it has been rather refreshing to see that the pop-up market craze is toning down in Jakarta, we are still seeing a rather regular feed of pop-up markets advertised on our Instagram feeds. Despite being a little pop-up fatigued, we have to say that if you’re in Jakarta and haven’t been to one, you need to make it a priority. Sure many of the vendors are often aimed toward tweens, but there are some fun pop-ups to love including some awesome foodie ones (you know how we feel about good food). We are also sincerely hoping that Brightspot is coming back because it is by far the best curated pop-up market in the city. After all, we still love discovering new local talent and continue to support our tried and true favourite.
Enjoy Car Free Day
It’s no secret that Jakarta is still developing its outdoor space, and thanks to organizations like Leaf Plus, we are seeing more and more parks pop up or get revamped, with more and more people appreciating these parks. That said, it’s still slim pickings and for those of us looking for a proper run, stroll or bike ride, these little parks aren’t cutting it yet.
Lucky for all of us, and the entire city, Jakarta shuts down Sudirman on Sunday mornings from 6AM to 11AM. What started out as a pollution reduction initiative is now a staple for families looking for a way to get outside and get moving. Only pedestrians, cyclists and the Transjakarta bus are allowed on the Sudirman stretch from Bunderan Senayan until MONAS. Though technically there is supposed to be some kind of order as to who goes where on these roads, part of the beauty (or insanity) of Car Free Day is that a 4-year-old on training wheels is riding on the same road as the fixie crews, and running clubs.
As we mentioned, the Transjakarta does run the whole time so do beware. Maybe they are just jealous that we’re all outside enjoying the weekend, but whatever it is, they aren’t very forgiving to pedestrians. If you’re looking for a breezy run, arrive early, otherwise just enjoy the mayhem and get yourself a hot, steamy bowl of Bubur Ayam or Bakso for breakfast at the Bunderan HI from any of the dozens of Kaki Limas or street vendors.
Learn how to make batik
Javanese and Indonesian culture is well known for their beautiful Batiks. With a plethora of design styles that indicate the locale of the batik’s origin and reflect Indonesia’s rich cultural history, there is a lot to learn about batik. There are several grades of batik: the lowest quality being factory printed batiks, next hand-stamped and died batiks, then hand-painted, hand-dyed batiks, then the most expensive and high quality, hand-painted, natural dye batiks. While many foreigners may see batik as simply the Asian version of the “Hawaiian shirt,” it is actually a revered art form, and one that you can learn, or at least try your hand at.
Museum Tekstil Jakarta. Jl. Aipda Ks. Tubun No. 2-4. Tanah Abang, Jakarta Pusat. P. +62 5606613. Workshop Hours: Tues-Sunday 9AM-3PM.
Go fabric shopping
Indonesians like to match. Especially for festivals and major life events, entire familes wear matching colours for their Kebayas and Kaftans. While we aren’t suggesting you make 15 pink Kebayas (or you could, because it’s awesome), a trip fabric shopping and then to the tailor is so much fun, especially if you’ve got a little DIY frenzy! We’re still on the hunt for the perfect tailor, but, with a simple pattern most of the tailors do a pretty good job at a reasonable price. Mayestik is also a great place to gather fabrics like ikat, Eastern Indonesian tenun, handmade batiks, traditional Javanese pottery, and the oh-so-beautiful embossed aluminium you see all over Bali!
Mayestik Market, Jl. Tebah III Los AKS Gunung Kebayoran Baru Jakarta Selatan, p. +62 21 720 4642.
Tanah Abang Market, Jl. KH Mas Mansyur, Jakarta Pusat, p. +62 21 3286 5879.
Watch a Papermoon Puppet show
This may be cheating a little bit as Papermoon Puppet is based out of Jogyakarta and they are only periodically in Jakarta but this is a must see Indonesian company who is always producing incredible shows. Using handmade Bunraku paper mache puppets that the puppeteers craft themselves, Papermoon performs traditional Indonesian & Javanese myths, and present historical plays that address Indonesian political and social issues. It’s a controversial but much loved company in Indonesia and if you get a chance you have to catch a show!
Ride a Kopaja (Koperasi Angkutan Jakarta)
As long as you’re inside, you’re PROBABLY safe. The Transjakarta and the train do an acceptable job of getting to most of the major areas in the city but the truth is that they don’t work all over, and the stops are incredibly far apart. While we recommend you take a taxi for most of your transportation, a great many of Jakartans rely on the Kopaja and Metro Mini buses to get around the Big Durian.
Not only are Kopajas affordable (IDR 3,000 per ride regardless of distance), their “network” covers the whole city. When traffic is awful and you don’t need to go that far, flag a Metro Mini or a Kopaja. The Kenek, or conductor, will be yelling the destination, hanging halfway off the bus and tapping his coins loudly on the rusting, gaudy metal to let the driver know it’s time to stop. We admit that finding out where you’re going is tough but the beauty of it is, as long as you’re going in the general vicinity, you can get there because they stop wherever you want, including in the middle lane of busy Sudirman. If that’s still too worrying, this Wikipedia article does a really awesome job of telling you the general direction of where they are going, and just relay that to the kenek and he will take care of you! Godspeed and enjoy the view.