The National Museum is a scatter shot but revelatory assemblage of Javanese gold, gamelan sets, jeweled swords, Papuan wooden sculpture, puppets, Sumatran textiles, and much, much more. It could be the world’s best museum you’ve never heard of. The museums here have yet to figure out price discrimination, namely that they can charge tourists more than fifty cents for admission.
There is an excellent modernist mosque (more photos here). The shopping malls are surprisingly attractive and advanced, images here. There is one under construction called “St. Moritz,” without irony or need of irony.
No plan can be executed in a timely manner without running into the detour of street food, unless of course you are stuck in one of the shopping malls. In those malls there are extensive food courts but Japanese food is more popular than Indonesian dishes.
Taxi drivers don’t seem to know how to get anywhere. It is possible that Indonesians drive on the left because the Dutch once did.
A fork and spoon is more useful than a fork and knife for (almost) anything worth eating.
Although Jakarta is hardly a backwater, on plenty of streets outside the center I found people staring at me and once they even asked if they could take my photo. Few people speak English.
Overall this is an underrated tourist destination. It is the world’s most populous Muslim country, a Muslim democracy, and Southeast Asia’s largest city. There are many reasons to go, and few reasons not to go, distance aside.