Returning to Jakarta after 5 years made me nervous yet ecstatic at the same time. Nervous because it used to be the place I once called home, I visited this place and was immediately brought back to all those months I spent getting fixated with the culture, food and people.
A 3-night trip was all I need to see what’s new with this favourite food city of mine – surprised to see this place remains unchanged.
I arrived on Wednesday morning and in case you haven’t been here or heard about the traffic condition in Jakarta, you’ll be shocked to see how long it takes to get from one place to another. What usually takes around 20 minutes from the airport to the hotel I was staying at (The Sultan Hotel Jakarta) turned into an hour and a half trip thanks to the traffic. Thankfully, my cab driver was a delightful chap. We chatted a bit about Jakarta and food, and I took the chance to practice my rusty Bahasa (surprised to know I’m still quite fluent).
I chose this hotel because of its proximity to the national stadium and it’s also located in the central of Jakarta, making it easier for me to get around. I could easily crash at my friend’s place but I thought I deserve a little treat for myself. The room was very spacious although a little dated, with great views and a big clean comfortable bed. Mini bar was complimentary as was laundry for 2 pieces a day. The staffs were good and attentive, moved me to the upper floor with the city view because my prior room was facing the stadium and noisy.
Why Jakarta for holiday? The question I got asked a lot of times. I have to admit, I regretted a bit coming here because I could have picked a nice beach getaway instead but I tried to enjoy my stay here anyway and it wasn’t that bad. Jakarta is a city similar to Kuala Lumpur, minus the distinctively good food and head-pounding traffic.
Despite the crazy snail-paced traffic (regardless of the time of day), I still enjoy passing through Jalan Jendral Sudirman or the financial district / CBD, the heart of Jakarta’s administrative. The contrast between the modest and dated buildings, and the skyscrapers are so apparent.
Surprisingly, drivers there rarely get aggravated when everybody seems to constantly run over the traffic light, or suddenly drive into their lane out of nowhere, double park, jump queues or even driving against traffic.
One of the interesting places to go and probably the most overrated is Skye @ BCA Tower. This restaurant & bar is located on the 56th floor, one of the highest peaks in Jakarta. It’s located next to Kempinski Hotel, near to Grand Indonesia (A massive mall that hosts many well-known and quality brands). I’m not that thrilled with malls, living in countries like Malaysia and Singapore, malls be it big or small are bubbles of modernity – too many of them that I couldn’t be bothered anymore.
The view from Skye bar is spectacular. I always have a thing with sky/rooftop bars that give me the aerial view of the whole city. I’m always fascinated with buildings, skyscrapers, landscapes and skylines.
I stayed long enough to witness the sunset while sipping on some refreshing drinks with nice relaxing background music. Since it’s on the weekday, the place was quite empty, which was pretty nice as it gave me more leverage to enjoy the view.
Jakarta is humid and polluted that visibility is sometimes limited. It has no landmark monument, no obvious sights, so apart from a deep interest to view skylines and the sunset, it’s a fairly dull view.
4 days and many food later, it’s time for me to leave this place (finally!). I always have a soft spot for Jakarta, I don’t really enjoy it when I’m there but I’ll occasionally miss the place. Food will always be my favourite thing I look forward to in every visit. So what does it feel like to be home after 5 years? It felt weird but liberating. Nothing much have changed in the past years; the familiarity was impeccable. Every word of Bahasa came out effortlessly from my mouth, food was still as appetizing as before and everything was still cheap.
People who are new to this place might experience a sensory overload. It’s overpopulated, the slums are in stark contrast to the more modern buildings that scrape the sky in Jakarta. Traffic is a huge common problem and the congestion is some of the worst in the world (and I thought KL was the worst). The roads are not pedestrian friendly and the views can be exhausted sometimes; with traffic, pollution and whatnot. But the people, never fails to impress me with great hospitality and friendliness which sometimes beyond the call of duty.