Indonesia: Jakarta

Our last day in Kuala Lumpur we had a fairly slow start, partially due to the beers and late night, and partially due to the fact there was no natural light in our room, so we thought it was much earlier than it was when we woke up… We went and grabbed some cinnamon buns and fruit shakes for breakfast, then returned to the hostel to pack ready for our flight that afternoon. After a whistle stop tour of Malaysia, we were off to Indonesia! We got a cab to the airport, spent a while looking for our check in desk, realised we were in the wrong terminal, so then had a bus journey to the right one. Oops. Just as well we’d left plenty of time! There is a train which goes from KL Sentral to the airport bit it’s a fairly hefty 55RM each, and the bus can take up to 2 hours dependent on traffic, so our very friendly hostel owner recommended Grab as the best way to get there. It cost 73RM. Luckily, the shuttle bus between the terminals was free, but to simplify your journey maybe just make sure you’re clear when ordering your Grab if you need KLIA 2 (Air Asia only) or KLIA (all other airlines)…

Our flight was a little delayed but otherwise smooth, though I made the mistake of watching Dunkirk on the in-flight entertainment – a very good film, but rather intense, and we landed with something like 2 minutes of the film to go so I might need to find that in YouTube!

We landed in Jakarta and spent a while trying to find our taxi, but when we did, it was a smooth journey to our hostel – the heavens opened as we pulled off so we were quite glad we hadn’t braved the bus as there would have been a walk from the bus stop. We again opted for a Grab, but Will’s friend and later the hostel also recommended Bluebird as a reputable cab company – they have both an app and are available to flag down outside the airport and around the city. We arrived at our hostel, had a much-needed shower and headed to bed ready for some city exploring the next day.

The following day was our only full day in Jakarta. We’d heard from several other travellers that it wasn’t such a nice city, but with a month in Indonesia we thought we should check out the capital! We started by walking from our hostel up to the main train station, Gambir, to sort our ticket to Yogyakarta the following day. Jakarta isn’t particularly pedestrian-friendly (but I’d still say Ho Chi Minh City was worse so we could handle it!) so we had to do a little traffic-weaving, but we arrived at the station in one piece – albeit a sweaty one. We spent a while standing in the wrong queue, then another while looking for the right queue, found out there was a ticket system, filled in a form, got a ticket number, waited another while, then worked out we’d likely be there for two hours based on that ticket number. So resolved to book our train tickets online – I would urge you to do the same, using, unless you’re particularly fond of long, warm waits and confusing paperwork… A morning well spent.

Trying to work out how to cross the road…

The local trains don’t actually stop at Gambir because it’s too busy, so we walked from there up to the next station, Juanda, to hop on a train up to Kota, the old Dutch part of town. You have to buy a card which you top up for each train journey you want to take, but when you’re finished with it you can opt to return it for a refund of your 10,000Rp deposit. It’s a good way to get around the city as the traffic is notoriously terrible and the train is incredibly cheap – the journey to and from Kota cost us 30p. One of Will’s friends from uni lives in Jakarta so she gave us a little itinerary of things to visit there. We wandered through Fatahillah Square, a pretty old bit of Kota framed by Dutch colonial architecture. From there, we picked our way along the ‘canal’ an overgrown waterway with a little watery sludge in it) to the Museum Baharia; the maritime museum. This was a slightly random place which felt it didn’t get many visitors, but it was only 5,000Rp had some interesting displays on the history of Indonesian ports and the different maritime traditions of the diverse Indonesian islands. One of the traditional boats was so small neither Will or I would be able to sit in it, so I have not a clue how it floats at sea!

The tower at Museum Baharia
A giant amongst the boats at Museum Baharia

When we’d had our fill of maritime morsels we wandered back along the canal to Fatahillah Square, where Will’s friend Dika had recommended a café for lunch: Café Batavia. It was a big, open high-ceilinged Old Dutch building, and with the shiny wooden bar, grand carpeted stairs and jazz music playing in the background it didn’t feel like we were in Jakarta any more… We ordered up some delicious local grub and even more delicious desserts (Dika had recommended these in particular, so it would have been rude not to), and for about an hour, totally forgot we were backpackers. It was by far the most expensive meal of my travels so far, but I think it still totalled less than £10, so with everything else in Jakarta so cheap I could afford to throw a bit of money at an avocado cheesecake! If you have some pennies in your budget to reward yourself for managing to find your way around Jakarta, I can highly recommend you spend them on a self-congratulatory meal – or just coffee and cake – at Batavia.

Traditional fried rice at Café Batavia
Mouth-watering avocado cheesecake at Café Batavia

We left Café Batavia somewhat stuffed, and headed back to Kota station to master the rush hour trains – via a quick spin n some bikes they had stood around the square, with some stylish matching hats. We managed to get our ticket and get on the right train, which filled up fairly quickly as we moved along the line. We squeezed off the train at our stop and wandered back to the hostel to play some ping pong and have a couple of beers on the rooftop – before the heavens opened again for the daily rainstorm. In the evening we had dinner at the hostel and played cards with three other British guys before they headed to the airport for a late night flight. It was a great little hostel that I’d highly recommend, called Six Degrees – the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, the included breakfast is good, the dorms are clean and comfortable and the downstairs and rooftop communal areas make it easy to mingle with other travelers. It’s about a 30-minute walk to Gambir and the Independence Monument/National Museum, and not far from Jalan Jaksa (a backpackery street of bars), so is a good base location for exploring Jakarta.

A quick spin round Fatahillah Square

I can’t say Jakarta was my favourite city on my journey so far, but I’m glad we spent a bit of time exploring it rather than moving straight on. A day there was enough for me, but I’d say it’s worth popping this into your itinerary if you have the time in Indonesia.

Until next time,

Number of strangers I’ve spoken to today: 5, including 3 British guys who introduced us to Monopoly cards. Which, as it turns out, is almost nothing like actual Monopoly.
Interaction was: slightly embarrassing in how long it took me to get the rules, combined with unleashing the competitive beast that lurks within…

One Woman and her Backpack x

Follow me on Instagram @ellielfield

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