The time has flown by and we have now travelled halfway across Java, Indonesia - and we are loving every second! It seems like so long ago that we were boarding the plane to Jakarta, but it has only been a couple of weeks!
And what a way to start our adventure!
We landed in Jakarta after a 14 hour flight across time zone after time zone. Making our way out of the airport into a balmy 28℃, we headed for the taxi pick up. Everything up until this point had gone unexpectedly well, but nothing lasts forever! We finally got a taxi after figuring out that we needed a numbered ticket rather than just waiting in the queue (definitely the lack of sleep getting to us there!). As it turns out our taxi driver didn’t have a clue where the hostel was, and spent about 45 minutes driving around in circles (while the meter continued to run). In the end we got him to drop us in a random backstreet, paid 60,000 IDR more than we needed too and attempted to find the hostel ourselves - not so easy when it’s dark you have no internet. We did find it though and realised we’d driven passed it about 7 times!
We were staying in Capsule Hotel Old Batavia - a small hostel in the bustling Cikini area of Jakarta. The staff there are some of the most helpful, friendly and down to earth people, and this really really made the stay here great. The food, especially the Chicken Satay and the Yummy Super Brunch, is SO good and definitely helped get us passed the fear that everything we would eat might give us food poisoning! They also offer a free walking tour of Jakarta which was basically the only reason we got to see some of the city’s sights - all you have to pay for is the transport and this was only 150,000 IDR - about £8 - and got us several trains and taxis around the city. The walking tour, with Herman from the hostel, took us to some of the ‘highlights’ of Jakarta, and we could have done this ourselves, but in a city this bonkers it probably would have been more stress than it was worth! If you want to though, or your hostel doesn’t offer tours, you can probably see the sights we went to in around 6.5 hours.
The weirdest, and stinkiest, place on the tour was definitely the Chinese Market. One moment you’re walking along a normal street lined with more traffic than it can hold, and then the next you’ve turned a corner and you’re in a covered alley with stalls on either side, open sewers and piles upon piles of dirty fruit and live animals in cages. Every few steps would bring a different, not always most pleasant, smell - and I spent most of the time holding my nose as we wound our way between the different stalls. Let’s just say that if I was working there, I would be so angry at the man on the (rotten) fish stall for stinking the place out!
During the day we also visited:
Kota Tua (The Old Town) - you can definitely see some of the old Dutch influence here
Istiqlal Mosque - the biggest mosque in South East Asia
A decorative Catholic Church - right opposite the mosque to encourage harmony between different religions
The National Monument - in a peaceful open area which gave a nice relief to the packed streets surrounding it
The Sky Bar - the poshest place we have visited and probably will visit in Indonesia! The view over Jakarta at night was amazing
Jakarta is a crazy crazy place and it’s safe to say it is not our favourite destination in Indonesia. I think we came to this country with a picture in our minds about what it would be like - no doubt created by social media and images on the internet - but the start of our trip couldn’t have been further from this. Jakarta’s sticky heat, heavy smog and chaotic traffic (if you want to cross the road you just have to walk and hope no one runs you over!) made us feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed, and the first day was pretty surreal. Saying that, it was an interesting start to the journey and we wouldn’t change it - even though it was a bit of a rough one! Looking back, it was good to be thrown right into the thick of it, and Jakarta geared us up for experiencing places that are a whole world away from home. I would say that if you are thinking of heading to Jakarta, you only need to be there for a couple of days, although you may want to spend more time here if you are comfortable with life in the busy city. Heading East, Indonesia begins to reveal itself, so don’t let the first impression cloud your judgement.
Thanks for reading!
Ellie and Will