Shame is when you are a Jakartan (or somebody who lives nearby) but you don’t know what to say whenever someone asks you the really hard and complicated question: “What should I visit in Jakarta?” That’s totally me. For your information, I lived in a city close to Jakarta (they said so, even though it takes around 1 hour by train, 2 hours by car or even 3 hours by public transport in a rush hour to get from my hometown in Bekasi to Jakarta) for more than 20 years before my sudden migration to Russia. During that time, I was so busy living my life and building my career in a big company - Procrastinator Ltd - that I didn’t have any spare time to visit the hundreds of interesting places spread around the capital.
But now? I am a happy freelancer and, as a fake tourist, I am able to mooch about, hunting for 'interesting', 'quite interesting', or even 'interesting enough to visit' places. Here are my must-see lists:
This is a 132-meter tall tower situated right in the middle of the Merdeka Square (Merdeka means Independence). Due to its name, you might guess that the tower was erected to commemorate our struggle to seize the independence from the colonialists. That’s absolutely correct. Besides the tower, in which you are able to learn a bit about our history (you can enter the building by paying a fee), the National Monument has also become a stunning park to visit. 10 or 15 years ago, this park was no more than a space filled with carts of street food and rubbish. Thanks to our governor (now he is our president), this park looks more friendly and is convenient to visit.
My suggestion: visit this park during working hours (especially on Fridays) if you don’t want to be bothered by too many visitors.
How to get there: You can reach the National Monument by taking a taxi or simply jumping into TransJakarta — stop at the station ‘Monumen Nasional’.
The Dutch, who occupied our land for more than 300 years, left not only their influence on our daily life but also a bunch of museums that can be found around the cities. One of the most interesting museums for me was the Maritime Museum. Located around 15 minutes by taxi from the Old Town, the Maritime Museum is seldom visited by the tourists, both local and international. Maybe because of its not-so-strategic location, or maybe because of a lack of promotion from the government, who always focus on tourist sites that are more central.
The museum itself provides some fascinating displays, from boats to shells and samples of fish that are usually found in our territory. Also, they provide a short history about the Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, Chinese and other traders who came to Indonesia and sold their commodities.
Taman Fatahillah (in English simply translated as “Fatahillah Park”) is actually a square with a total area of around 1,300 square meters. Back in the day, the square itself was the place where executions usually took place. Even now, you can still find the underground jail if you go inside the Museum Fatahillah, which before was known as the first Stadhuis.
The dark history behind its function during the era of colonization doesn’t make this square less beautiful or less worth a visit. On the weekend or during the holidays, both locals and foreign tourists like to spend time in this area, not only because there are so many things to do, but also because there are so many things to eat! Yep, 2 years ago the local government made a regulation to manage the hustle and bustle of the street vendors around this area, but nowadays as we have a new governor, the square has turned into a ‘sudden market’ with hundreds of street vendors — which is good, but also bad at the same time, because…. Indonesians like to litter. So, don’t be surprised if you find rubbish everywhere.
Besides the Stadthuys and the square. you will also find two other big museums close by: Wayang (shadow puppet theater) and Museum of Fine arts and Ceramics.
I am not a fan of art. Anytime I visit a gallery, I need to prepare myself like I have exams or something. I must read and reread the booklet, brochure or whatever printed information they have just to get lost inside the gallery. Even then I can’t fully comprehend what the painters or artists want to tell through their masterpiece even though I’ve tried so hard.
The National Gallery, which is located right in front of Gambir Station, displays both local and international masterpieces, from paintings to sculptures and compositions.
Since it’s hard to find Indonesians who are really interested in art, you will find this gallery is always empty and makes you feel like you're at home in your own gallery.
Tips: don’t be afraid to try any museums in Jakarta. The entrance fee is always 5 dollars or even less!