Some people call it the Big Durian, others simply Jakarta, and if you are familiar with this specific fruit, you also understand that people are mainly divided into two groups. You either hate Jakarta or absolutely love it. Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, and it’s substantial. With a population of over 10 million people, it is the largest urban area after Tokyo. Jakarta is a province with special capital region status, but most refer to it as a city. It is large, crowded and an assault on the senses for the unprepared. Just like the durian fruit, once you get past this, you might really enjoy it.
Jakarta is not only a vacation spot. Expats in Jakarta generally are employed in oil, gas, telecommunications, engineering, and education sectors. The process for getting a work permit and visa for Indonesia is often arduous; there are strict rules regarding giving employment to foreigners due to massive unemployment already present in Indonesia. If you are able to get a job, housing is relatively cheap, with apartments available for less than 200M Indonesian Rupiah (14K USD), see more here https://www.rumah.com/apartemen-dijual/di-area-jakarta-barat-idjk01/dibawah-200juta-rupiah.
Jakarta is a real melting pot with many communities and cultures and is the center of Indonesia when it comes to economy, culture, and politics. The primary religion in Indonesia is Islam, which is reflected in the architecture and cuisine. Jakarta has not necessarily been put in a favorable light over the last few years, and you might think it’s not a safe place to travel due to media overexposure of violent crimes. Violent crime is quite uncommon, most of the crimes are non-violent and involve pickpocketing and credit/debit card fraud. Another tip would be to be cautious before and during the Ramadan, with theft and pickpocketing spiking at this time. There is pressure of providing gifts for family members and obtaining money for the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
The short of it is that you need to use common sense in protecting yourself and your belongings, as you would in any large urban destination. In that sense, Jakarta is no different than a Bangkok or a Ho Chi Minh City. Be sensible, and Jakarta is an excellent destination for your travels.
The nightlife in Jakarta is vibrant and unpretentious. With a wide variety of bars, clubs, and other late-night venues, it holds its own against the upmarket establishments in Singapore and the underground party scene in Bangkok. For most places there is not a strict door policy as you might expect in Singapore, giving it a relaxed and rebellious attitude. A few nightclubs to check out are Jenja, Immigrant, Dragonfly, Fable, and Blowfish.
Jakarta is also a great destination for music lovers without the desire to party till the early hours. The Big Durian also hosts entirely a few major music festivals such as Java Jazz, We The Fest and Djarkarta Warehouse Project, most of them carrying international names. If you are looking for something more local, check out Archipelago Festival. Also, in terms of art, Jakarta is making waves, with Art Stage Jakarta receiving critical acclaim in the last few years.
The food and drinks are as diverse as the cultural melting pot would suggest. There is truly no shortage of availability of something to eat or drink, with pretty much any budget covered. Food stalls can be found everywhere you turn and if street food is not your thing, you can see most international food franchises in Jakarta. Indonesian dishes might not immediately come to mind as favorite cuisine, but nasi goreng and rendang usually feature in most top foods lists. Going to a good restaurant will also be lighter on the wallet than Singapore or most Western cities.
And if you like shopping, you will be able to get your fix. Like most of Asia’s top cities, malls have been appearing everywhere. Jakarta is no difference with 173 malls, more than any other city in the world. The Jakarta malls are huge, comfortable, and filled with shops. If you want entertainment, most of them will also house a cinema. And as we were talking previously about food, don’t forget the food courts in these malls as well.
And if the hustle and bustle of Jakarta is a bit too much, just remember that paradise is only a few hours away. There are several flights a day to get from Jakarta to Bali, where you can unwind from the sensory overload of the Indonesian capital. And if Bali is too touristy for you, there is Lombok, which some call ‘the new Bali.’ Yogyakarta is your destination if you want to experience something authentic and majestic. It has numerous art galleries, museums, heritage structures and street art spots dot this friendly city. It is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Hindu temple of Prambanan and the Buddhist complex of Borobudur. If you want to embark on an adventure and are a nature lover, consider Flores. The island is known as the jumping-off point to the islands of Komodo and Rinca, which are home to Komodo dragons, the largest lizard species in the world. The dragons are pretty impressive, let me tell you! A real gem is Belitung, a little-known destination east of Sumatra. It is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and a rich underwater life. Given its low-key charm, it’s perfect for wanderers looking for a laid-back holiday amidst breathtaking views of the seas, capped by a beautiful sunset at the end of the day.
If you are moving to Jakarta or coming for a short stay, it is a destination with many treasures to uncover. And when you go, remember the Big Durian, it might be a bit much at first, but if you persist, you will love it.
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