From bustling shopping malls to world-class greeens, here's how to make the most of your next business trip to Jakarta.
The National Museum is small but impressive, with an ethnographic section exploring the lifestyles of Indonesia’s 200-plus ethnic groups. The collection of statues (dating back well over a thousand years) gives a remarkable insight into Indonesia’s history. The museum, known to locals as the Museum Gajah (Elephant Museum), after the elephant sculpture in the courtyard, is conveniently located on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat in the centre of the city. Allow three hours for a full tour. Weekdays are best for a visit but it’s closed on Mondays and national holidays. On any day you can expect a few “Hello Mister” greetings from schoolchildren on the tour – even if you’re a woman.
There is always talk about restoring Kota, Jakarta’s old town, but the plans rarely get far. If you have a half-day to spare, Taman Fatahillah is a well-preserved square where you’ll find a museum that was the former centre of government. Across the square, set in a 200-year-old building, is the beautiful Café Batavia, which shouldn’t be missed. The atmosphere in the upstairs restaurant is so redolent of the past that it overshadows the food. Try to get a table at the window overlooking the square.
Jakarta and its surrounds is a golfer’s paradise. In Jakarta itself, there are half-a-dozen courses while a short trip out of the city takes you to many more world-class greens. Most welcome casual players but check with your hotel before setting out as some are members only, including Rawamangun, favourite of the late president Suharto.
Over the past decade there has been an explosion of shopping malls in Jakarta. Since there’s a grave shortage of parkland, the city’s residents take their recreation in the malls, making them the perfect place for people-watching. Basement levels are where to find useful shops such as chemists and cheaper eateries. You can also pick up some great-value brand-name garments, as a lot of them are produced in Indonesia. Plaza Indonesia on the Hotel Indonesia roundabout and Plaza Senayan on Jalan Asia Afrika are two of the best places to shop.
The Ancol district on the city’s northern shore is a huge entertainment area with a golf course, fun park, aquarium and wave pool. For those with a quieter disposition, the Pasar Seni (art market) is more relaxed and is home to the studios of many excellent painters. On weekends, live bands attract the crowds.