Vacation and relaxation go hand-in-hand. That time of the year is here again when everyone gets to rejuvenate and feed into their wanderlust spirit. It has been proven that traveling is one of the greatest things a person can do for themselves; aside from its health benefits, exploring the unexplored terrains, indulging in new cultures and experiences, it allows us to understand the beauty of diversity in the world. I for one have always considered cultural embodiment as a sweet balance between luxury and necessity. You need it to understand the people of the world, and yet it’s a luxurious experience to be able to give a firsthand account of your expedition. I would consider it as my absolute defining and intriguing experience when I recently went on a trip of a lifetime, courtesy of the Indonesian Ambassador to Bahrain. Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world with more than 18,000 islands, is one of the greatest places one can travel to. It offers everything on a golden platter- culture, cuisine, sights, and sounds - you get the platinum experience when it comes to exploring Indonesia. For me, the best of what the country could offer came in the form of exploring two of its most happening places - the capital Jakarta and the tourist haven ‘Bali’. Here’s my account of why Jakarta should be on your ultimate list of places to visit!
Why Jakarta should be your next vacation spot!
The Southeast Asian country's sprawling capital, which is home to around 10 million people, is a “melting pot of cuisines and cultures.” A wondrous place, which sets itself as a historic mix of cultures, mainly compromising of Javanese, Malay, Chinese, Arab, Indian and European, the megacity’s architecture, language, and cuisine is heavenly diverse and there is just so much to indulge in. The capital is more than a busy hustle and bustle.
One of the most captivating things about Jakarta is how you can easily get transported to Indonesia’s Dutch colonial past when you visit the old town of Batavia. It’s amazing to see those breathtaking Dutch-style structures mostly dated from the 17th century, preserved in a great way. While it may seem the area is heavily historical, the district is also a hive of live music concerts, exclusive restaurants, and exciting street activities. When it comes to getting the ultimate historical experience, an icon of the city which is worth visiting is the National Monument ‘Monas’. This 132-meter-high structure was built to pay homage to the struggle of Independence. You can either enjoy the view of this amazing piece of architecture from the ground or you can climb all the way to the top and enjoy the stunning view of the city.
Indonesia is well known for being made up of over 17,000 islands and is split into 26 provinces; can you imagine the sheer diversity this signifies? It might be impossible for a person to explore the magnitude of the cultural beauty of all provinces in a single trip. I was extremely impressed by the visit to a fascinating place called TMII- Taman Mini Indonesia Indah or simply known as ‘Beautiful Mini Indonesia.’ TMII gives you an enriching peak into the traditional houses and cultural standing of the major provinces- all in one location. Walk through the vast area or get a bird’s eye view of the diverse ways of life across the archipelago from a cable car. This one of a kind whistle-stop tour of the country was certainly a mammoth of an experience.
The Foodie’s Delight
Of course, with each province, comes an equally enticing and captivating cuisine. Jakarta is popularly referred to as the ‘Big Durian’. This doesn’t specify to just presenting the big ol’ fruit with the very distinctive and sharp odor in varied cooking styles (which I happened to fall in love with whether it was served with crepes, as an ice cream, or having the durian flesh directly), it means Jakarta is a foodie’s world of delight. Be it salads, chicken recipes, fried wonders, and yes the seafood- get ready to give your taste buds the thrill of a lifetime. From the fancy restaurants to the street food, mixing together ingredients with delightful and casual local settings, the Java food scene brings people together, from common foodies to celebrities, in enjoying unpretentious local delights. I was spoiled for choice; each and every place we dined at was extremely impressive. The spices, the tastes, the fusion of flavours brought amazing dishes onto my table, among which the ones that stood out were nasi uduk, gado gado, gorengan, satay and a refreshing bowl of Es Campur – which is a frozen dessert, consisting of blocks of ice that are shaved finely, coming with an assortment of treats like grass jelly, jackfruit, avocado and coconut in a bowl.
A hub for all- it came as quite a pleasant surprise when we were able to enjoy a plethora of activities under one roof. It’s interesting how when it comes to a relaxing vacation in Indonesia, Bali is always the first place to come to mind, however, the capital is a wondrous spot that has everything, and I mean everything, that the heart can desire. Jakarta is one of the most modern cities in Indonesia, and you can spend time embracing the cutting edge side to the city at its famous malls or shopping complexes like the popular Thamrin City (don't miss out on Batik shopping), carnivals, cultural exhibitions, museums, and restaurants. The country also presents religious harmony in all its glory as you can sight beautiful churches, cathedrals as well as temples and mosques at various locations. During our visit, we went to the Istiqlal Mosque which has the claim to fame of being the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and has a capacity of 120,000 worshippers at any one time. The beautiful Islamic motifs, as well as water features, make it a spellbinding treat. What is equally impressive is a fully operational Montessori-like school being run under the mosque. We had an amazing time interacting with the children and getting an up-close peek at how the school focuses on giving the pupils a hands-on learning mechanism.
Ancol & the Floating Cottages
Jakarta may be crowded, loud, and busy, but it certainly isn’t boring. There, in fact, isn’t a single moment of when you might find yourself in a mundane situation. However, when you feel the hustle and bustle of the city life are ganging up on you, there are ample choices for you to break free from the regular routine. A place of absolute wonderment for the kids as it is for the adults, you will be amazed by all the excitement you can find if you drive out to Ancol. Seaside destination Ancol, serves as a mini vacation getaway for the locals itself. Hosting a range of activities by the beach, the serene location is also home to a large number of activities and destinations for the kids and those who are looking to have a good time! Dunia Fantasi, an amusement park, comes at par to international standards offering visitors roller coasters, interactive rides, flumes, and shows. The visit was entertaining and refreshing and just a little drive away, you would be able to visit the Seaworld Ancol as well. Aside from the equally spellbinding Jakarta Aquarium, this contemporary aquarium brings you the best of marine life in an aquarium that holds 5 million liters of seawater, and you get to see 35,500 Indonesian marine fish from 35 species. Beautifully constructed in spacious settings, you can also enjoy the feeding shows but my favorite part was the touch tank; an absolutely enthralling feeling!
A haven of wonders, Jakarta welcomes you to experience the greatest of sights amongst the greatest of people. The warmth and hospitality at every spot made the trip even more memorable and while I will always cherish the time I spent at every spot we explored, the rhythmic breeze at the tranquil floating cottages of Pulau Ayer Island will always hold a special place. Nestled in a beautiful Bay of Jakarta, the resort offers vacationers the choice to stay either on floating cottages or on land in villas designed along with Papua traditional details. Known as being the retreat for Indonesia’s First President, Soekarno, the island is a gorgeous statue and a testimony to what Jakarta is. It is culture, food, retreats, exploration, a bustling city life, and it has proven itself to be the ultimate vacation spot for those who seek great experiences. When are you heading there?