Jakarta bleg

What should I look at?  Where should I eat?  Your advice is very much welcome and I thank you in advance.  And do any of you know where I can go to hear gamelan music?


Eat a sandwich!

Dear Prof. Cowen, welcome to Jakarta.

If you are in Jakarta today (August 10th), you will not see a true face of Jakarta since this week we have lebaran, the biggest holiday in Indonesia. In normal time (starting from next week), you will see many traffic jam. If you want to see something unique, you can go to see Tanah Abang, the biggest textile market in Southeast Asia which is controlled by the thugs, and observe how Jokowi, the governor try to reclaim it.


You can read about Jokowi here

If you have only one day or two, you can try The Oxtail Soup (Sop Buntut) at Hotel Borobudur. http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2010/03/legendary-oxtail-soup-at-hotel.html

I hope they also play gamelan there. But remember, this week is different since Jakartans travel to their hometowns already. Another alternative of where you can hear gamelan performances is at Bengawan Solo restaurant at Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel (please call +6221 570 4444 for the schedule) or Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. If you really want to hear it live, its better to go directly to its origin, Jogjakarta the cultural center of Java (one hour flight from Jakarta).

If you go to Jakarta and don't see many traffic jams,, you're either a time traveler, or the world has ended.

I hate the traffic there so very much.

Have a meal at Dapur Babah - traditional Babah food in a lovely restaurant furnished with Chinese antiques.

The national monument is also worth a quick visit.

Go to Solo (Central Java) for gamelan. You can see the monuments of Borobodur nearby http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-of-the-day/temple-borobudur-indonesia-sunrise/

Jakarta is a nightmare http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/17/take-a-train-in-jakarta/

Take a photo of Lolo Soetoro's house!

Bromo and/or Ijen. You've got 5 days to burn backpacking right?

Hi. Go to Senen, eat Coto Makassar. Get a taxi, ask the driver to take you to Jalan Kramat Soka (jalan means street) in Senen (this is an area close to the National Monument or Monas). Don't be disappointed because all you will find is a small by-the-small-street food vendor. Read the label: Coto Makassar. This is a signature dish originated from Makassar, South Sulawesi, and I think this in Senen is so far the best in Jakarta. Now what I suggest you to eat: of course coto ('coto' means thick soup of meat, liver, heart, intestine, brain - all from cow. Wiki has an entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coto_Makassar). Don't just eat the meat. In fact coto means nothing without innards. By the way, unlike most other Indonesian dishes, this is to be eaten with ketupat (some sort of rice cake), so don't ask for rice. Enjoy! (I'm not in Jakarta, but if I were I would be happy to take you there). ps. Don't forget the hot sauce to spice it up.

Apparently, the cities of Gothenburg and Jakarta were designed by Dutch planners on the same model. I've been to both cities and see no similarities whatsoever, so your assignment on this trip is to find them.

Hi there. Of course it all depends where your location is. If you're staying central (means in any hotel along Sudirman-Kuningan-MH Thamrin or Wahid Hasyim street) you should check the Car Free Day from 6Am-11AM all the way from MH Thamrin to Sudirman. People are doing light jogging+biking with their famillies/friends along the road; it gives the city a more humane look.

For a crash course of Indonesian culinary opt for Satay House Senayan or Sari Ratu West Sumatran food, available in most shopping malls. For a wider range of Indonesian food opt for Food Louver, a food court in Grand Indonesia which covers most Indonesian best local food. There's the Sari Ratu West Sumatran food (try rendang; a spicy beef stew), Dudung Roxy Mutton Soup, Satay House Senayan (try their chicken satay) and Jangkung Chicken Noodle (with chinese spinach; one of the best chicken noodle in town).

If you wanted to look for contemporary and traditional Indonesian music there's a music store in Alun-Alun Grand Indonesia Shopping Mall. I recommend Efek Rumah Kaca, Sore, White Shoes and The Couples Company and Payung Teduh for best contemporary Indonesian music . As for the traditional ones aside for gamelan, the posibillity is more endless.

I'm not working for the Grand Indonesia establishment I just think it would be easier for foreigners to get everything there :)

I was there earlier this year and found the city to be a little disappointing (lots of traffic, not much to see), but I will second the recommendation above -- "Have a meal at Dapur Babah" (get lots of smaller plates and appetizers. The huge main course, a platter of various dishes, wasn't disappointing either).

Street food is big -- lots of eel around. I'd say seek out soups, especially bakso -- meat or fishballs. There are warungs (roadside restaurants) everywhere. Any place with a giant tupperware container of shrimp crackers on the tables is probably a good bet. While in Jakarta, take a walk from the main square up to the old harbor, Sunda Kelapa. It is still very much in-use by smaller, traditional, wooden cargo ships. I'll be curious to hear if the local kids stop your for an interview every two minutes.

If you can, make a sidetrip to "jogja" (Yogyakarta). It's fascinating part of Java, obviously within the political boundaries of Indonesia, but it retains some autonomy and is ruled by a hereditary Sultan from a central palace. The locals seem very happy with this arrangement. The sultan employs a number of people from the city, some are paid to maintain the local traditions of puppetry (made of buffalo leather) and other crafts. You can definitely catch a gamelan performance there. It's also close to Borobudur (incidentally, it is one of the oldest Buddhist temples, in the middle of the world's most populous Muslim country) and Prambanan (Hindu temple, a smaller version of Angkor Wat).

The best meal I had in Indonesia was a few hours west of Jakarta, in a tiny roadside, open-air food stand in Carita, on the way to Krakatau. No menu, only nasi goreng. Look for the wok with the biggest fire, and the guy whose hands look like he's been changing oil for a few decades.

While you are snacking in the culinary mall spots as recommended by Gita and and listening to 'Gamelan of the Yogyakarta Royal Palace' on your iPad I think you would enjoy dipping into J.D. Legge's classic 'Sukarno: A Political Biography'. Twenty years ago I found this a good introduction to Indonesian atmospherics. Now only $7.99 on Kindle! You will never regret a trip outside Jakarta, even if only a day trip to Bogor's botanical gardens where a local driver could also show you some countryside.

'relaxing gamelan meditation'
Download this Ambient music from any of the usual sites. In case of traffic problems you may need it.
(despite crappy album title it's a good ensemble with Jogja cred)

Also don't forget to read the *Jakarta Post* over breakfast every morning. One of the world's great English-language newspapers -- I rate it even higher than the Buenos Aires Herald.

My personal favorite is Sop Kaki Kambing (literally translated: goat leg soup) Irwan - thick soup of goat's innards and leg's tendon, claimed as native Jakarta food. To go there, ask your taxi driver to go to Rumah Sakit Asih (hospital Asih) in Blok M, not too far from Jakarta main thoroughfare and business districts. Irwan's is located just across the hospital. It is a very unassuming street vendor but the food is good and the area is interesting. You may want to go there at around 7-8 pm. Eat their legendary sop kaki kambing, with all combination of innards/meat/tendon you can stomach in it.

Other options: West Sumatran food in a row of nasi kapau vendors in Jalan Kramat, Senen and try their various mostly coconut milk-rich dishes -- just follow the crowd there. For North Sulawesi dishes, Beautika, a restaurant in Jalan Hang Lekir 1, Kebayoran Baru, for more sea food variants, but extremely spicy.

For some superb gamelan music in its best setting, accompanying wayang. Try to catch a performance by the Central Javanese dhalang Ki Purbo Asmoro. He's a superstar and is virtuoso from traditional all night shows with classical subjects to more modern and experimental shorter performances. He often performs in Jakarta, and frequently with live English translation projected overhead. His schedule can be found here: http://www.purboasmoro.com/AGENDA.html

If you have weekend to spare, of course you should go to Bali for the gamelan and Babi Guling, the suckling pig. Not a kosher food, as you can guess. If you cannot go out of Jakarta, try the Hindu temple in Rawamangun (Pura Aditya Jaya), Jakarta on weekend. You may see people practicing gamelan and Balinese dance. You can enjoy the babi guling there too.

You're going to Jakarta? I'm sorry.

I will reiterate the point about traffic. I once spent 2 hours trying, and failing, to get driven 3 km. An hour in, I tried to walk, but the streets are not designed for walking. At one point, the only way across a road was a long bridge whose pedestrian walkway consisted of two beams, each less than a foot wide, with a foot gap in between, between which you could see all the cars passing by.

Basically, you won't be able to go anywhere. Pick your hotel with care, as you will be mostly restricted to what you can eat in its immediate vicinity. Jakarta tends to have big complexes; if you're lucky, a big complex near you will also have a street food market hidden away somewhere. For example, in the Jakarta Stock Exchange complex, if you go through the garage you will find a long row of food stalls at the back of the garage that serve pretty good food very cheap for the local service staff. Ask someone who works at the complex you are closest to where they eat and maybe they can direct you to a similar back alley.

If you are feeling adventurous and have the time, there are durian farms about an hour's drive outside of Jakarta (if you're lucky!) which can serve up 10 kinds of durian. This is the kind of thing you would probably only want to try in a group, as there is only so much durian any one individual can handle, and you sometimes have to call in advance to reserve a spot. You'd get a helmet to walk on the farm lest a durian fall on your head. Durian is very seasonal, though. When you get there, ask around and people will easily be able to tell you which kinds of durian, from where, are currently available. At the very least, have some durian es (durian over shaved ice). You should be able to find some decent version of this in any mall/complex.

If you happen to be based around Pacific Place, Le Seminyak is pretty good for Balinese food. Not the best you'll ever have but reasonable.

Go to Sunda Kelapa, the old port of Jakarta; the foundation of Dutch East India Company commercial prowess in Java for generations and the root from which Jakarta grew. It is exceptional.

May I ask if/where you will be speaking?
Eating: lots of good choices above, but missing Makan Padang, beef rendang is my favorite. of course nasi goreng ayam with an egg on top, mie ayam also and satay of course. The shangri-la hotel has the best lunch buffet, with lots of really diverse Indonesian food as well as great Indian.

If you want a different hotel, try the Dharmawangsa.

Jakarta is a bit like Houston in that it is a good place to live but poor for visitors. If you are just in the city, try to go to Taman Mini, it was started by Suharto's wife and is supposed to have all the cultures from the archipelago in one very large place. Each culture has its own house or small village. The best thing there though is the collection of gifts that Suharto got when he was president. It is a huge museum by itself and is a stunning example of kitsch. If you get the chance to travel, Yogyakarta is recommended.


I'm Purbo Asmoro's translator--the dhalang that GW so correctly suggested to you. He will be performing on 31 August in Jakarta, but maybe you'll be gone by then.

I'm having some technical difficulties updating his website now, but it will be done soon--anyway 31 August in Harapan Baru, RW 19, Bekasi.

You have to try Ketoprak http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketoprak_(food), the most popular street food in Jakarta. The best one is Ketoprak Ciragil at Ciragil Street, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.

I'm an American who lived in Jakarta for the better part of 2011, learning the language and working for an Indonesian company.

My top three recommendations in Jakarta (more detail below):
1) Eat some Padang food
2) Go to Masjid Istiqlal: largest mosque in Jakarta, and open to the public
3) See a museum or two: some stunning and often overlooked treasures
Outside Jakarta: Go to Jogja, see Borobudur and Prambanan. Considered collectively, these two temple complexes are older, more impressive, and more culturally interesting than Angkor Wat. Avoid Bali like the plague.

1) On the culinary front, you simply must get some Padang food: this is everybody's favorite cheap and tasty and slightly foreign (but not really) food. Originating in Western Sumatra, it's ubiquitous in Jakarta; think of it like going to Southern California and getting good Mexican food. Just ask your taxi driver or friends for their favorite spot, but make sure they take you to the real thing: this is an experience as well as a cuisine. The food is all cooked in the morning and left out all day; if you're in an authentic place, they will set out a whole bunch of dishes in front of you and only charge you based on what you eat. Whatever you don't eat gets tossed back in the pot for later diners. If you're feeling adventurous, try the cow's brain (a delicacy).

2) Masjid Istiqlal: you can just walk in (take your shoes off, obvi). Largest mosque outside of the Arab world, I believe. Beautiful and serene. Not to be missed: symbolic of the cultural pluralism in Indonesia, you can actually see the Jakarta Catholic cathedral from the windows of the mosque. There may be guides hanging out near the gated entrance to the mosque compound; I would say it's worth hiring one, if only because the complex is huge and easy to get lost in.

3) There are actually a few great museums in Jakarta. Sometimes shockingly poorly maintained, but with remarkable collections.
- National Museum: the biggest and best, has a good survey of Indonesian art and culture. Closest thing to a modern museum in Jakarta (new wing even has air conditioning).
- Wayang Museum: in the old Dutch quarter, has an incredibly beautiful collection of Indonesia's traditional puppet art
- Maritime Museum: near Sunda Kelapa, which others have mentioned, in an atmospheric old Dutch warehouse, this has an amazing and somewhat eclectic collection of old ships, artifacts, biological specimens, etc.

I would actually recommend doing one of the organized one day tours if that is all the time you have. There are OK things to see, they take you to some of the better things, and you don't have to deal with the traffic yourself other than sitting there. It was reasonably pleasant for our 36 hour layover.

If Bali is any indication, the best place to look at is your plane tickets' cancellation terms: maybe it's not too late to avoid Indonesia and go instead to a place where you can, you know, breathe without a respirator and use tap water to brush your teeth.

If you intend to get a visa on arrival and pay cash, make sure you have banknotes issued in 1997 or later: older USD bills are not accepted (again, at least at the Bali airport, but since the fee is charged by the government, chances are it's the same in the capital). It's a good idea to use cash though: banks tend to block cards used in the country. As to food, our Indonesian guide strongly recommended avoiding obscure places and street food because, according to him, the meat served there is probably mouse. Enjoy!

Get a scooter, the traffic is awesome, the funnest/most terrifying time I've had driving.

I don't know what to see, there is a train, that works. At the main station downtown, is the central bank museum( 1 block south is a lot of street artists), a couple stations south is the monas. Around the monas are a bunch of malls. There is a movie theatre, where you can get recliners and blankets, I ordered scotch. I liked pancious.com, which isn't local food at all but done up pancakes. If you can get out of the city you need to go south of Bogor, the taman safari, has this epic massive western; the 'best' theatre ever. They have a whole western town setup, comedy with cowboys, indians, explosions, trained animals. I couldn't believe it.
Harley's are a big deal, and cars a status symbol. The driving is something else, teaches you to relax, wisdom of crowds, go with the flow, concious beings around you are taking care of their own shit. When the police show up at an intersection messes everything up. Also a lot of economy on the roads, people steping into traffic to block a path so cars can pull out, for tips. The palace is in Bogor, as well, some scandal about the emporer's painting of nudes. Art collection, can't recall.
I spent most my time in sentul city, which is a wealthy suburb. There is a lot of golf in the city. My sister loves the bali style spas.

Anyway I'm not cultured. But I loved indonesia, more than thailand or the other asian countries. Cats are pests. If you get across to sumatra, there was a restaurant there, where they bring out the entire menu, on little plates, and you just eat what you want pay for what you choose. It's a style of restaurant could be around jakarta as well forget the name.

And the street markets. Night markets especially awesome. Looks like they will have one near the monas on saturdays. http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/saturday-night-street-market-set-to-take-off/

Try padang food. Sari Ratu restaurants in malls are OK, but the best are those in residential areas (for example on Jalan Soepomo or Jalan Tebet Barat Dalam). Try boiled cassava leaves, jering (http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jering), dendeng balado (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendeng), ikan limbek (dried-catfish), dried eel, and gulai tunjang (cartilage). The sambal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambal) is a must, both the green and red ones. (The green sambal, for example, is made from green chillies, green tomatoes, onions, anchovies, and stinky beans.) Have also kerupuk jangek (http://acehpedia.org/Kerupuk_Jangek) and emping (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emping).

Soto betawi or soko kikil is also good. The best are those served by street vendors. I think there are some around Jalan Soepomo and Jalan Tebet Barat Dalam (I used to live there), though I believe you can find these in back alleys around town. (They usually open after 6pm.)

Have also pecel lele (fried catfish). You'll see that many street vendors specialize in pecel lele. The fishes are kept alive in buckets; they are cleaned up and fried in front of you. The sambal (it is made from red chillies, tomatoes, onions, lime, and terasi (fermented shrimp http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terasi)) is also freshly prepared. (There's nothing special about the fish except that it is fresh; the sambal is what makes it good.)

Sundanese food: Ikan (fish) bakar or ikan goreng and the lalapan (salad). Again, the sambal is a must.

I forgot to mention that if you want to have padang food, go to a padang restaurant sometime before noon when everything has just been cooked.

For the gamelan, a trusted friend suggests that you see live gamelan repertoire performed before a wayang orang ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayang_wong ) show -- and maybe you also want to proceed with the show itself.

In Jakarta, go to Wayang Orang Bharata ( http://wayang.wordpress.com/w-o-bharata/ ) in Jalan Kalilio no. 15, Senen, Jakarta. They have regular show every Sat night and may also have English running texts. Highly recommended.

Tyler: Lots of good recommendations already. Go to Senopati or any other night food stall area for martabak telor, Indonesia's take on stuffed roti. Delicious. Meanwhile don't waste your time on the oxtail soup at Borobedor Hotel. While many Jakartans rave about it (I was forced to try it), it's not particularly memorable -- especially if you enjoy assertive flavors (and I know you do!). Worse, the soup sits in a hotel buffet line with a wide variety of Indonesian regional foods, all watered down for international visitors. Shopping centers often have very good restaurants. Don't be put of by the western-style shopping center look. Finally Dharmawangsa Hotel, mentioned above, is probably the nicest hotel in Jakarta though it's out of the way. Traditional Indonesial styling, beautiful, and restaurant is exceptionally good (best nasi goreng and mie dishes I've ever had). And yes, the traffic is the pits.

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