Despite having the second most number of flights to and fro Jakarta from Changi Airport, Jakarta isn’t a popular place to travel to for most Singaporeans because well, Jakarta itself isn’t really made for tourism, unlike Bali and Yogyakarta. Majority of tourists in Jakarta are actually domestic tourist.
Most of the people on those flights are actually Indonesians coming to Singapore (top source of our tourists are indeed from Indonesia, way ahead of the country which comes second in line). Indonesians (not just from Jakarta but also other areas like Surabaya, Medan etc) come to Singapore as often as the typical Singaporean head to Bangkok or Hong Kong for short trips, because it’s less than 2 hours away and flights can be really cheap! I got my tickets for just $79 return on Jet Star. I believe it can get even lower.
I can see their love for Singaporean stuff from the number of Singaporean brands available in Jakarta. To name a few: Charles & Keith (this is a top favourite, the stores in Orchard are full of Indonesian shoppers), Song Fa Ba Kut Teh, Paradise Dynasty, Crystal Jade, Bread Talk, Ya Kun Kaya Toast are some I’ve spotted, and even non chain restaurants like Ristorante da Valentino (at Grandstand Turf City) has a sister restaurant of the same name there.
Besides boring imported chains, there are some unique gems if you bother to look. Thing is, getting around isn’t easy at all. Without a local friend or guide, the lack of public transport means you can only get around in taxis (Blue Bird for normal use, Silver Bird if you’re feeling richer). While taxis are cheap, you need to effectively communicate with the driver (who wouldn’t understand English). You also need to be mentally prepared to get stuck in jams, especially if the driver didn’t use GPS to check traffic and drive you into the main road which is not moving. Traffic aside, some areas are not built with pedestrian pavements so even walking around isn’t very pleasant, especially in Kemang area which is famous for the heaviest traffic. When I mentioned “gem”, I really mean that the nice places are hidden and needs to be researched about. You won’t just randomly walk in to one because it’s not obvious at all, and not all placed around the same areas. Jakarta is VERY big.
On a surface level I shall just say Jakarta is divided into various regions – Central Jakarta where the tall buildings stand and business activities take place, South Jakarta which is the more hipster zone of the city, with unique restaurants and middle upper class residential areas and West Jakarta which is the old town, looking like 40 years behind what Central Jakarta looks like. East Jakarta would the the industrial area while North Jakarta is nearer to the sea with more nature like activities possible.
What to eat:
So basically for this city, I would say you should come here just to eat and relax. The food is pretty good!
From this trip I discovered how good Indonesian food can be! I’m not a fan of Asian food judging from the kind we get in Singapore (which means Chinese and Malay. I never liked it, especially daily food typical households cook) but food in Jakarta was a surprise. I had home cooked food for lunch and it was so delicious everyday!
The cook also prepared snacks and desserts. The Indonesian Cendol was the best in my life!
There are all sorts of price ranges to choose from. Basically everything is cheaper than in Singapore. J-Co donuts less than $1 each, with the glazed one being free with purchase of a drink.
Foreign cuisine here is also as good as local. For Bali I mentioned that milk products aren’t nice but in Jakarta it seems to be different. I tried this casual Italian restaurant which got good reviews on Zomato and I loved it. The value was unbeatable. Digressing, Zomato is a useful website for reviews and checking out menus. I got a lot of recommendations there!
Ravioli Burro e Salvia – 95.000 IDR++
Handmade ravioli of beef and spinach in butter & sage sauce
For this price in Singapore you can’t even get Pastamania. This one was really good and the sauce I picked was perfect! Butter & sage sauce is going to be my new favourite.
Frutti di mare – 119.000 IDR++
Tiramisu – 49.000 IDR++
Again, I don’t think you can find decent tiramisu for $5 anywhere in Singapore. And this tiramisu is not just decent. It was excellent!
Jalan Kemang Raya No. 58, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12730, Indonesia
I also tried Potato Head Garage for steak, Namaaz Dining (posts upcoming!) for Indonesian molecular gastronomy and Ristorante da Valentino, the restaurant which originated from Singapore, for finer Italian dining. I also had Indonesian food at a restaurant which I’ll mention below.
If cafe hopping is your thing, there are plenty of them around (but again, it’s all hidden so you need to do your research). I’m not a cafe person so I didn’t check out any, but the cafe scene is comparable to Bangkok or Singapore for sure. The people there are modern and trendy.
What to do:
Beauty and wellness services are really affordable. I had a 90minutes traditional massage done at this place at Kemang, South Jakarta (another outlet in Central Jakarta) and it was good and only 255.000 IDR!
Relax Living, The City Spa
Jl. Kemang Raya No.2, Mampang Prpt., Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12730, Indonesia
If I had time I would do my hair but I didn’t. I could have gotten my hair done for half the price in Singapore. The air quality is not very good in Jakarta so I would recommend staying indoors.
What to buy:
Shopping wise, it’s all about imported brands so you can find the same things in Singapore. Most of the shopping is housed in malls which are built all over the city. The biggest is Grand Indonesia which has everything if you need to find something.
What to see:
Scenery wise, don’t bother. Jakarta is mainly modern and there’s nothing much to see, pretty much like how Singapore is (also nothing to see) unless you head out of the city center to North Jakarta for the sea (but there’s Bali so there’s no point for this?) or West Jakarta for something cultural (but then again, you’ll find more cultural sights in Yogyakarta.)
I made a brief stop at the old town just before catching my flight and it really looked very different from the other areas. Cafe Batavia is somewhat like what Raffles Hotel is to Singapore. It appeals to tourists because it is iconic of historical times.
Looking out from the window of my seat, I could see locals hanging around Fatahilla Square, which is in front of a museum. The activities looks like olden day Singapore as portrayed in TV drama serials and viewing this from the restaurant looks like what the foreigners would do while having their Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel.
I made this place sound like a tourist trap but the food is pretty decent! The restaurant ambiance was lovely too. They have Indonesian and western options on the menu. Here we had Nasi Campur (75.000 IDR++) and Batavia Fried Rice (85.000 IDR++).
Taman Fatahillah, Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No. 14, Kota, Jakarta
While internet there is not the best in the world, you would want to get a data SIM card. If you can, get it before arriving because the airport is overpriced while in the city it is not available everywhere.
Now that you have internet access and a local phone line, there is a very useful service called Go Jek which you may want to use. This is a service is available via an app where you can order anything (food, items) up to 1,000.000 IDR and have it delivered. The delivery is done by individuals who have signed themselves up for this. These people carry out their tasks with their motorcycles and basically you can order anything. Selection can be done on the app so no confusion here. However, you need to communicate with the person to confirm things and they wouldn’t understand English. The service fee is a mere 10.000 IDR which is cheaper than you getting a taxi going out and coming back. It’s really cool!