Living in Jakarta is one big adventure, moment by moment. It’s a busy city teeming with people, bicycles, motorbikes, chickens, buses, noisy bajajs (three wheeled passenger vehicle pedicabs), cars squeezing between lanes and street cart vendors pushing their mobile shops around. To live amongst this is both exciting and bewildering at the same time..

As far as lifestyle goes, it is hard to beat Jakarta. Day to day living is very comfortable. Getting around Jakarta is a whole lot easier with a personal driver, which is the preferred method by most people. Also, taxis are inexpensive and very reliable. It’s cost effective to hire a (Mercedes) Silver Bird executive taxi all day.

Shopping is on another level altogether in Jakarta. There are several hi-end, luxurious malls most of which include top class restaurants, premier theatres and the malls stay open until 10.00pm every night.

A lot of the five star hotels feature a Champagne Sunday Brunch. It’s like nothing you will ever see – Alaskan crab, US prime sirloin, fine cheeses and melting chocolate fountains. A kids club operates at the same time. It won’t break the bank either, with free flow champagne, beer and wine costing around US$50.00. It’s hard to match this kind of standard and affordability anywhere in the world.
There are large number of expatriate clubs and societies to join. The atmosphere is very easy-going and you will find in no time, you will slip into the Jakarta way of life and feel right at home. Many of these clubs are extremely popular with families and include large swimming complexes and sports facilities.

To taste a little of the culture, Canadian Bernie Geddes, parent of two children schooled in Jakarta, offers some great advice. “I have travelled to many countries and have not found anywhere in the world that matches the Indonesian Heritage Society. To be an active member is an experience that’ll exceed your wildest dreams. It’s a Jakarta group that welcomes newcomers, takes them by the hand and shows them the real Indonesia.”
The society organise small groups to visit places such as pottery villages, kite factories, various cottage industries and guided treks to nearby mountains and waterfalls.

When visiting Jakarta do not miss Sunda Kelapa Harbour and watch the old Bugus sailing ships unload at the port. It’s like a scene from hundreds of years ago. Nearby is the famous Cafe Batavia. Stop for lunch or coffee in this iconic historic Dutch building. Check out the wall-to-wall black and white photos featuring many famous people who have visited here.

Another Jakarta resident, Australian Simone Baldwin, General Manager of a locally wine supplier, describes living in Jakarta as “Feeling the whole gamut of emotions in one day; crazy, busy, intense, confronting, alone, frustrating, exciting, fun, funny warm and welcoming. It requires a special kind of resilience to live and enjoy life here, a positive energy and a sense of compassion for the many millions of people who are less fortunate than us.”
Jakarta is massage and spa heaven. Beautifully appointed spa palaces and salons abound. Bernie Geddes has a favourite haunt, “I love Jamu Spa. If you’ve never had a cream bath then you have missed paradise! The girls at Jamu Spa know how to make you relax and experience complete ecstasy. A cream bath is not only a head massage but also involves caressing your arms, and every hair on your head, massaging your back and leaves you wondering why you haven’t ever done this before. It’s a guarantee you’ll be back.”

Life for local Indonesian Dita Carey, a Pilates studio owner is summed up in her description of Jakarta, “Where else in the world can you enjoy the service offered to you in this city. You take a Silver Bird taxi and you are treated like a queen, or you have your own personal driver. It is so affordable to wine and dine at top class restaurants. Many of my friends have a massage lady regularly come to the home. The affordability to have staff makes life so easy. Jakarta comes alive at night. Some great nightclubs include Blowfish, Dragonfly, Bibliotheque, Immigrant and make sure you stop by the iconic B.A.T.S in the Shangri-La hotel. The International schools are excellent, the shopping, the amount of leisure time you can create by the fact you have staff makes life very easy here. Where else in the world can you have all this?”

Jakarta is also your gateway to exploring the rest of Indonesia. Bali and Lombok offer beautiful beaches, Sulawesi has some of the worlds most pristine diving, Sumatra has its unique and fascinating culture and Kalimantan allows you to come up close and personal with orangutans.
So how do you ease into Jakarta? As New Zealander, Vicky Keenan explains, “Take your time. Observe the differences and don’t expect the way of life here to be the same as where you come from. Go with the flow, learn the language, learn the etiquette of gentle communication, polite good mornings and always smile.”

Photos by David Metcalf

Regional Highlights:

Pelabuhan Ratu – Beachside resort area. 4 hrs drive from Jakarta. Surf, black sand and relaxation.

Bandung – Mountain Scenery, cool climate, Factory Outlet shopping. 2.5 hours drive from Jakarta.

Thousand Islands – many choices of islands to stay. Snorkeling, diving and beautiful sunsets. 1.5 hours from Jakarta harbour area.

Bali – only 1.5 hours flight from Jakarta. Beaches and Top Class Resorts. Visit Ubud (art centre) in the mountains – 45 minutes from Denpasar.

Kalimantan – Camp Leakey Orangutan Sanctuary. Take an Indonesian Houseboat (klotok) into the Tanjung Putting National Park. A memorable trip – well worth it.

Sumatra – Lake Toba is very beautiful. Stay on Samosir Island in the middle of the lake. The ethnic Batak people are Christian and very friendly.

Sulawesi – Tana Toraja – A unique culture set in beautiful mountain scenery. Famous for elaborate burial rites and ancient traditions still practiced today.

Komodo Island – Visit the prehistoric Komodo dragons. 7 day sailing trips (on a traditional schooner) out of Benoa Harbour, Bali including snorkeling, beautiful volcano scenery and cruising through the remote Lesser Sunda Islands.

Useful Websites : – site for expatriates – written by expatriates. – weekly updates and events.

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