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Heart of the Archipelago

Because of its strategic location on the shores of the Java Sea, for centuries Jakarta has been a meeting point for the different races, cultures and traditions of hundreds of ethnic groups that compose Indonesia and of the foreign travelers and traders that visit the archipelago.

A bustling metropolis that never stops growing, Jakarta is home to over 12 million people.  As the country's capital, Jakarta's attractions are a blend of all that is modern with the traditional and of the different ethnic influences that converge.  Today, Jakarta has all kinds of attractions to offer, ranging from museums, art and antique markets, first-class shopping and accommodations to food and a wide variety of cultural activities.


Indonesia's most famous landmark, the National Monument or Monas is a 137 m obelisk topped with a flame sculpture coated with 35 kg of gold.  Climbing to the top of the monument will provide the viewers with a panorama of the city.

For a brief glimpse into Indonesia's rich past, the National Museum holds an extensive collection of historical, pre-historic, archeological and ethnographic artifacts and relics that provide an introduction to the life of the various ethnic groups which populate Indonesia.  It houses one of the most complete collections of bronzes and ceramics dating back to the Han, Tang, Ming Dynasties, and statuary and sculpture which display Indonesia's Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic influences.  Cloth and money, traditional musical instruments, arts and crafts provide an introduction to the life of the various ethnic groups which populate Indonesia.

A visit to the old town area and Chinatown in North Jakarta is like stepping back in time to the days of the Dutch colonial rule.  Old warehouses of the Dutch East Indies Company and period buildings now house a variety of museums.  The Maritime Museum in the Sunda Kelapa Harbor area with its landmark old harbor-master's tower exhibits Indonesia's seafaring tradition.  Models of sea going vessels from all parts of the archipelago are displayed.  The Jakarta Historical Museum was once the Dutch East Indies Company's Town Hall in the 17th and 18th century.  Old maps and antiquities used by the Dutch colonists in the 18th century are put on display.  Across from the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum, the Wayang Museum holds a collection of wayang puppets from parts of Indonesia and Southeast Asia.  Shortened performances of the wayang kulit (leather puppets) are given every Sunday morning.

A collection of over 327 kinds of textiles from all over the country; handwoven cotton, silk and batik cloths, both of the ancient and contemporary productions are put on display in an authentic Betawi house which is the Textile Museum.  A small workshop shows the process of batik making.

In the early 16th century, Sunda Kelape was an important trading port for the Portuguese and the Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran.  Even today, one is still able to witness remnants of its past glory in the ruins of  an Old Batavia's Kasteel (castle), warehouses and relics from the days of the spice trade.  Still functioning as a fisherman's wharf and an inter-island port, Sunda Kelapa provides a safe harbor for tall-mastered Bugis schooners carrying merchandise as they have been doing for centuries.

Around the archipelago in one day!  The Indonesia Miniature Park or Taman Mini is an extensive park which presents the diversity of Indonesia, its people and culture.  Visit the orchid garden, bird park, the Keong Mas Imax Theatre and the Museum Indonesia.

As centers of Jakarta's cultural activities, Gedung Kesenian Jakarta and Taman Ismail Marzuki offer monthly programs which may include exhibitions, plays, musical and poetry recitals, fold art, dance performances and drama from local artists and visiting performers.

As a cosmopolitan city, Jakarta's indigenous inhabitants, the Betawi people, fiercely preserve their culture and traditions.  In the city's several Betawi cultural reserves, such as Situ Babakan and Condet in South Jakarta, the Betawi live in traditional designed houses, speak in the distinct Betawi dialect and keep alive traditional Detawi arts and culture.  The tanjidor orchestra, the Topeng Blantek dance and Betawi wayang performances, to name a few are some of the traditional performances that are presented during important ceremonies.


Jakarta has a distinctly cosmopolitan flavor.  Tantalize your tastebuds with a gastronomic spree around the city's many eateries.  Fine French gourmet dining, exotic Asian cuisine, American fast food in stylish cafes, restaurants or interesting hawkers' stalls, all compete to find a way into your heart through you stomach.

The tastes of Indonesia's many cultures can be found in almost any corner of the city.  The hot and spicy food from West Sumatra, the sweet and gungent tastes of Central Java or the tangy fish dishes of North Sulawesi served in an elaborate rijstaffel (rice stuffed with an assortment of meat, fish or vegetable side dishes) are bound to meet favorably with the most discerning palate.  AN astounding array of sweet beverages and desserts feature crushed, shaved or cubed ice to compliment the hot and humid climate, although some are served warm to promote greater physical well-being.

Leisure Activities


Whether you're a serious spender or half-hearted shopper, there's sure to be something for everybody in Jakarta, the country's shopping capital.  Catering to diverse tastes and pockets, the wide variety of things that you can buy in Jakarta is mind boggling from the best of local handicrafts to haute couture labels.  Modern super/hyper markets, multi-level shopping centers, retail and specialty shops all compete to sell quality goods at a competitive price.  Check out the city's modern shopping havens, Plaza Indonesia, Plaza Senayan, Pondok Indah Mall, Pasaraya and Mall Taman Aggrek, said to be the biggest mall in Southeast Asia.

Most traditional open-air markets are one-stop shipping affairs where haggling is the name of the game.  Activities start as early as two in the morning when vendors begin preparing fresh vegetables, luscious tropical fruits, meat, fish and even household goods, clothing and stationery for the day's sale.

Sidewalk bargains range from tropical blooms of vivid colors and scents arranged in attractive bouquets to luscious fruits of the season.  Strolling down a busy street in the Barito area may even lead you to an impromptu pet market selling furry animals, pretty parakeets, cockatoos and even fresh and salt water fish of bright, iridescent colors.  At the Pramuka bird market visitors are greeted with a cacophony of singing birds, talking birds and pretty decorative birds.  It's worth visiting the Jatinegara gemstone market if you're into precious and semi-precious stones.

Brought in and auctioned at dawm, fish and other bounties of the sea are absolutely fresh at the Muara Angke fish market.  In the evening, the air is filled with the mouthwatering aroma of grilled seafood that comes from food stalls that are always packed with hungry crowds.

If hunting for repro and antique furniture at Ciputat or browsing through an array of brassware, ornate lamps, old china, and faux antiques on Jalan Surabaya is not how you want to spend your money.  Jakarta's glittering malls and department stores are guaranteed to tempt you with the latest items.  From audio-visual and electronic equipment and accessories, home appliances, interior decorations, textile and fabrics to sports goods, designer clothes and footwear, watches, jewelry, cosmetics, handicrafts and toys, the list of things you can buy is endless. At Mangga Due, textile, garments, electronics and computers at wholesale prices and cheaper with large quantity buys.

Pasaraya Grande and Sarinah are the best places to find handicrafts and ethnic treasures from regions all over the country.  Of superior workmanship, batiks, ikats, gems, brass & exquisite silverware and wooden carvings are put on display in a distinctively Indonesian setting and ambience.

Jakarta's fast pace belies a turn towards tranquility and relaxation, physical and spiritual harmony.  Various establishments offer professional pampering service with floral baths, body scrubs, aromatic oils, massages and meditations; rituals and treatments that use spices and aromatic herbs to promote physical and mental wellness.  Discover both your inner and outer beauty at Martha Tilaar, with treatments such as bio enery massage, jamu (traditional herbal drinks and foods), meditation and traditional beauty therapies.  Private suites with everything you need to relax can be found at The Spa, Dharmawangsa Hotel.  At Jamu, all spa products are prepared from vegetables, flowers and herbs each morning.  For an intoxicating experience of spices, flowers and essential oils, visit Mandara Spa.  Or try ten different kinds of massages that are Gaya Spa's speciality.

The spectacular tropical settings and challenging greens of Jakarta's amazing courses give a whole new meaning to the sport of golf.  Klub Golf Senayan in the heart of the city is renowned for its traditional tree-lined fairways.  Long, rolling fairways and greens characterize Cengkareng Soewarna in the vicinity of Jakarta's international airport.  Just an hour away, Gunung Geulis Country Club has two 18-hole championship-standard courses while the Imperial Klub Golf off the Jakarta-Merak toll road boasts a stimulating variety of golf holes.

A wonderful place for children and grown ups, Jaya Ancol Dreamland on the north coast of Jakarta is a popular recreation venue complete with a fantasy theme park, Sea World, swimming pools, an artificial lagoon for fishing and boating, a bowling alley, nightclubs, restaurants and first-class hotels.

Lying just off the Bay of Jakarta, over 130 islands, coral islets and sand bars from the Thousand Islands or Pulau Seribu.  This cluster of islands offers an array of activities, from lazing on golden beaches, camping at ruins of an old Dutch fort or enjoying first-class accommodations to joining in vigorous water sports.  There are also diving sites that take only about two hours to reach from the Ancol Marina with clear waters and pretty coral reefs.  International-standard accommodations that cater to divers are available on the islands of Putri, Pelangi, Sepa, Kotok, Pantura and Matahari.  Other islands, such as Kelor, Onrust have ruins from the Dutch colonial period.

Festivals & Events
Amidst the capital's modern living, centuries-old practices can still be witnessed during symbolic ceremonies celebrated by the different ethnic groups that form Jakarta's population.

Weeks before the 17th of August, the red and white of the Indonesian flag becomes the favorite color and decoration for Indonesians.  Sport competitions, games and contests are held everywhere in the spirit of friendship and sportivity to celebrate the Republic's Independence Day.

Commemorating Jakarta's anniversary on June 22, every year the city holds a month-long fair, the Jakarta Fair at the Jakarta Fairground Kemayoran.  A wide range of products is exhibited and sold to visitors at a relatively lower price.  Items ranging from cars, electronics to basic necessities, such as food and clothing.

Sometime between January and February, the Chinese celebrate the Lunar New Year.  The area around Kota or Chinatown which has the largest concentration of Chinese descendants has a decidedly festive atmosphere with lanterns, orange trees and barongs decorating shops and houses.

After a month of fasting to atone for their sins, Hari Raya led Fitr is a joyful time for Muslims to ask forgiveness among friends and family with cleansed spirits.  On this day, people dress in their best, visit friends and relatives and enjoy specialties such as ketupat, rice cakes wrapped in woven coconut fronds and served with an assortment of curry-based meat, chicken and vegetables dishes.

Information provided by the Indonesian Embassy

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Country Profile 

Capital : Jakarta
Population :
198.4 million
Area :
1,919,443 sq km
Currency :
1 Indonesian rupiah = 100 sen
214 billion (1997)
Per Capita :
$1,108 (1997)
Form : Republic
Official Languages :
Bahasa Indonesia

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