What to do in Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta was an unplanned and last minute trip for me and the missus. Her sister and brother in law were travelling from Sydney to Jakarta for a wedding, and we thought, well why the hell not. We are only an hour and a half a way after all. The plane basically lands just after they bring out the food and snacks.
Prior to this, all I had heard was that Jakarta was quite a lousy tourist destination. Really bad traffic on the roads, with very little to actually see and do in Jakarta was the main feedback i was hearing. Overall i feel like it would not be fair to so quickly disqualify a whole location just because of a 36 hour layover in Jakarta. But after visiting and some research i feel that you really need a local to take you around.
So if you happen to be stopping over in Jakarta, perhaps on transit to somewhere else, below is my list of what to do in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.
If you are there for longer, maybe check out Mark Wein’s guide to what to do in Jakarta https://migrationology.com/jakarta-things-to-do/
Eat with the locals
I’ll admit, we were lucky to have a local taking us around to eat. Otherwise there was no chance we would be able to locate and dine at any of these places.
I can only describe this as a thick pancake mixed with chocolate and butter. You can feel the butter through the screen you are reading this on. Its alot of grease with chocolate sauce and sprinkles. Please do share this with several people. Even with five people we struggled to finish one whole martabak.
You can get it in other fillings like Ovaltine, Green tea kitkat, cheese, toblerone, skippys peanut butter, oreo or nutella. The cake itself can be coffee, pandan, green tea or red velvet.
Sate Khas Senayan
An indoor restaurant serving up fresh satay and other Indonesian fare, like ayam penyet, and oxtail soup. The money here is on the oxtail soup, which the Indonesians do best.
Some Gado Gado stall in Tanah Abang Market
In Tanah Abang Market in Mangga Dua area, we ate at a local restaurant serving up gado gado, oxtail soup, fishball, and rice. This was probably the best thing i ate in Jakarta, and i have no idea where it was. I’m not a huge fan of gado gado, because it just feels like vegetables smeared with excessive peanut sauce. However this place tasted so much different to how i’ve had it. I’ve probably been eating it at the wrong shops.
This is a chain restaurant, so no doubt you will find these in many locations. The Bak Mi is the dish to have here but the servings are small to remember to order extra! We had this with the nasi goreng, and a fried wonton thing.
Go Shopping in Air Conditioned Malls
Not very exciting I know, but in the humidity and heat of Jakata, it pays to get some relief at times. Because we stayed in Thamrin, we were walking distance to Grand Indonesia Shopping Mall and Plaza Indonesia.
Plaza Indonesia is more of the high end mall, with brands like Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Dior, and Hugo Boss. I preferred Grand Indonesia with its local bookstores like Gramedia as well as Kinokuniya, Mitra Adi Perkasa for sportsware.
Check out the Rooftop Bar
SKYE bar in Grand Indonesia is a rooftop bar that seems to be frequented mostly by tourists and expats in Jakarta. There is a minimum spend if you are just going to the bar, but it gets you about 2-3 beers, or 2 cocktails. Come here for the views and drinks, but the music sucks.
Walk around the City Centre
Im kidding, this is not a city made for walking. I didn’t really see too many pedestrians to be frank. Most people were driving or on motorbikes. Car riding services like GRAB and GoJEK are really popular in the motorbike form in Jakarta.
But if you can time it, one Sunday per month is dedicated as a car free day in certain areas of Jakarta, including Thamrin. We happened to be there on a Sunday when it was on and the people literally take over the streets. I can imagine the excitement of being able to walk on roads free from any cars (except the odd bus here and there) in a city like Jakarta.
Expect constant drumming, street parties, live music and plenty of street food!