The capital of Indonesia and its surrounds are full of surprises for the visitor. Jakarta – a city full of life and colour, with the outlying regions offering just as much diversity. At ground level you will see people hanging out of bus windows, street musicians busking, motorbike taxis expertly navigating the heaving traffic, right next to sleek, high-rise residences and corporate skyscrapers. There is indeed much to see and do.

1. Jalan Surabaya
This is Jakarta’s antique street. It brims with shops selling antiques, brassware, old china and textiles. If foraging for curios is your thing, this place will fascinate. Jl Surabaya, Menteng

2. Café Batavia
The most unique feature of this landmark historic building in the old town is the photo gallery that adorns the walls of the restaurant. Give yourself a good hour or two to view the unique collection of black and white photos of film stars, royalty and generals dating back to the 1920’s. Check out both the men and women’s toilets where the gallery continues. A staff member will standby outside whilst you view the exhibits inside. Café Batavia is open 24 hrs and the prices are extremely reasonable. Fatahillah Square, Kota, Old town Jakarta

3. Pasar Baru
This is one of Jakarta’s oldest markets. Pasar Baru is a traditional market, where everything is about 30% cheaper than the malls. The market is famous for textiles, furnishings, Indonesian herbal remedies (Jamu), and sporting goods. It also has a wonderful selection of shoes. This is a fascinating area to explore and a walking tour will lead you to Hindu, Sikh, Chinese and Buddhist temples and a Dutch church. Jl Pasar Baru, Kota

4. Menara Imperium – Revolving Restaurant
The Empire Grill Restaurant is located on the 35th floor of the Menara Imperium building in the business district of Kuningan, South Jakarta. It holds the distinction of being Jakarta’s only revolving restaurant; one that offers spectacular panoramic city views, especially at night. The restaurant is also reputed to have “the best steak in town”. Menara Imperium Building, Jl H.R. Rasuna Said Kav. 1, Kuningan

5. Golf under a Volcano
Jakarta is a golfer’s paradise. Most courses will set you back just US$11 to $30 and this includes a caddy. Palm Hill Golf Course is a well-guarded secret, popular with the locals. Tuesday is Ladies Day when women pay US$11. Here, you’ll be playing under a volcano and teeing off next to rice paddies with bullocks working the fields. The course is easy to walk and is mostly flat. A thundering river crosses the course, offering plenty of challenges. Lunch at the Spanish-style clubhouse will set you back around US$3.50. Palm Hill Golf Country Club, Citeureup, Bogor Tel: +62 21 879 50711

6. Spa City – Zen Living
Where in the world is it possible to have a massage treatment for only US$10? A great place to pamper yourself is Zen Living. The décor is zen-white and the ambience divine. As you settle into your white leather ergonomic chair, with white curtains on either side, you are handed a menu of music. With headphones on, you are then offered a health smoothie beverage before its time to lie back for the best foot reflexology treatment of your life. For the visual enhancement of the experience you have a fish tank in front of you, which assists you to float off into oblivion. Zen Living Foot Reflexology, Adityawarnman St, 47 Melawai, Kebayoran Baru.

7. Kampung Sampireun
It is well worth the five-hour drive from Jakarta to this idyllic village in Garut, West Java. Dine on the romantic bamboo raft, which sits floating in the middle of a lake. The Gamelan musicians who row out to serenade you are delightful, and as you gaze out over the seven volcanoes, it feels like you are experiencing a slice of heaven on earth.

8. Puncak Pass
The Puncak Pass is a great escape from the city. It’s 70 kms from downtown Jakarta and, as you wind your way up the 1500-meter pass to the top of a volcanic range of mountains, the temperatures cool considerably. Look out for a staircase on the right about halfway up the pass. It’s worth the hike to the top as the views are spectacular. Continue driving over the summit and take a right at a sign directing you to “Cibodas National Park”. About 5 kms along this road is a small brown wooden sign – Pondak Daun Café; a well-kept local secret – it’s about 5 kms along this road. Enjoy traditional Indonesian food in open-air thatched village huts set amongst tropical gardens in this small boutique resort. Jl Kebun Raya No. 60, Cibodas

9. Pelabuhan Ratu
At this seaside town the rice paddies meet the ocean. It’s a four-hour trip from Jakarta on Java’s Southern coast. What’s interesting, apart from the black sand beach, is the town’s lively early morning fish market. Lobster is the specialty of this area and costs around US$5 each. At the nearby Cipanas Hot Springs, boiling hot water bubbles up from pools in the river. You can make your own little hot tub from the smooth rocks, while laying back and taking in the scenic lush forest around you. At Gao Lalay, four kilometers from Pelabuhan Ratu, the bat cave comes to life around dusk when thousands of the tiny winged mammals swoop out of the cave. It’s very reasonable to stay at Ocean Queen Resort, run by an Englishman. All the self-contained beach side bungalows come with a houseboy, who will cook up your lobster and tend to everything you need.

10. Dharmawangsa Hotel
Chocolate martinis are the speciality of this elegant 6 star Jakarta hotel. The architectural design of the Dharmawangsa is unique in its strong traditional Indonesian décor and is complemented by the contoured pool set around a beautiful tropical garden setting. Enjoy High Tea, which is served daily in the drawing room, or try the selection of fine cigars at the bar.
The Dharmawangsa, Jl. Brawijaya Raya No 26, Kebayoran Baru

Tips: The Indonesians are warm, friendly, courteous and extremely polite. Honour and respect are the basis of their culture. Indonesian society as a whole is seen as an extended family – the head of a company, a school principal or the President is often referred to as bapak or father.
Here are a few rules of engagement to ensure a smooth stay.

  • Dress conservatively. In public, women typically wear skirts and blouses (and rarely sleeveless) or dresses. Men do not wear shorts in Indonesia, only boys wear shorts.
  • Tips are welcome and donations appreciated. Most Indonesians only earn US$2-4 per day. Keep lots of small denomination notes on you, for tips
  • Never give or receive items with the left hand. The left hand is used for personal hygiene only.
  • Do not point with your finger or foot, it is considered impolite. Use your thumb to point or gesture instead.
  • Avoid displaying affection in public. Hand-shaking is the one acceptable form of contract between a man and a woman in public.
  • The head is considered sacred. Indonesians believe it is the place where the spirit resides – so refrain from touching a person’s head.
  • Remove your shoes when entering a person’s home, a mosque or Sikh temple. This should be easy to remember, as there is always a collection of shoes out front.
  • Hospitality is highly regarded and when served food or drink, it is customary to wait for your host to indicate to you silakan or “please”. It is impolite to refuse a drink, but it is not necessary to drink all of it.

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