The bustling Indonesian capital is back upon the map for British travellers – flights from Gatwick started again this month. Cal Flyn reports on its culture, cuisine and characterful chaos.

jakarta points of interest

Travel Essentials

Why go now?

This bustling south Asian megalopolis is back upon the radar, with Garuda Indonesia (0871 744 0190 ; garudaindonesia. co. uk ) time for Gatwick – services via Amsterdam began this month. The Indonesian capital is notorious for hectic activity and gridlocked streets, but a little bit of further investigation reveals there is plenty more to Jakarta than traffic jams.

Touch down

Soekarno Hatta Airport is 20km west from the city centre. Buses shuttle straight into the city every 15 to half-hour and value 30, 000Rp (£1. 50 ), but many travellers will have a taxi direct on their destination. Ignore the clamour of touts in the exit and head straight towards the Bluebird taxi rank : it is the safest and the majority reliable from the many cab firms. The journey straight into the city will cost around 250, 000Rp (£12. 50 ) and take around an hour or so, with respect to the traffic.

Get a bearings

The historic old city (referred to as Kota, or Old Batavia ) sits down the southern fringe of Jakarta Bay, near the port. Medan Merdeka (Freedom Square ), four miles inland, is taken into account the centre from the modern city. The tourist office (2 ) is nearby, inside the Jakarta Theatre building, Jalan MH, at Thamrin No 9.

The well-to-do suburbs, Menteng and Kuningan, sit just towards the south from the city centre while trendy Kemang and Blok M, further south and south west respectively, offer an array of bars, clubs and restaurants. In town, bajaj (motor-rickshaws ) and ojek (motorbike taxis ) are the quickest method of getting around, but ensure you negotiate your fare before getting in. Alternatively, the rapid-transit busway system runs 12 routes over the city and costs a set 7, 500Rp (40p ) fare. Train fares vary from the distance travelled ; obtain a pay-as-you go railcard to skip the ticket office queues.

old town jakarta tour
old city of Kota

Check in

The recently opened Neo Hotel Cideng (3 ) at Jalan Cideng Timur 58 is an effective budget option. It is clean and centrally located. Doubles cost 450, 000Rp per night (£23. 40 ), room only. The Kemang Icon design hotel (4 ) at Jalan Kemang Raya 1 is fantastic value. It‘s 12 chic suites starting from 1, 442, 000Rp (£75 ) a night, including breakfast. There is a rooftop restaurant and an infinity pool, as the yoga studio downstairs has a shocking 360-degree view from the city skyline.

In case you fancy full five-star opulence, try The Dharmawangsa (5 ) at Jalan Brawijaya Raya 26 . This 100-room mansion, decorated in classical Javanese style, includes a poolside bar, tennis courts and also a 24-hour butler service. Doubles cost $326 (£195 ) a night, including breakfast.

Day one

Have a view

Head to Monas (6 ), a 132-metre obelisk in the centre of Medan Merdeka, topped using a golden flame. It was eventually built inside the 1960s to commemorate the Indonesian struggle for independence coming from the Dutch between 1945 and 1949. The viewing platform in the monument’s tip is accessed with the small museum at its base ; 8. 30am-5pm, closed last Monday from the month ; 5, 000Rp / 25p ). On a transparent day you are able to see Mount Salak, a dormant volcano 60km south.

Have a hike

From Monas, wander south with the leafy square along Silang Merdeka Tenggara. Explore the spotted deer which reside in an enclosure inside the square’s south-east corner. Leave with the nearby gate and turn left up Medan Merdeka Timur past the National Gallery of Indonesia (7 ) before going for a right onto Perwira and subsequent left onto Banteng Barat. You will pass between Masjid Istiqlal (8 ), Indonesia’s largest mosque, and Gereja Katedral (9 ), a neo-gothic cathedral built in 1901. Their proximity is typically cited as a very good example of Indonesia’s religious tolerance ; they are said to talk about car parks on occasion.

Cross the Ciliwung Canal before following it around to the ideal until you come upon the Gurdwara Sikh Temple (10 ). Follow Jalan Gang Kelinci Raya for five blocks to locate Pasar Baru (11 ), a covered market in which the stall- holders hawk a motley choice of clothing, shoes and fruit. Cross back during the canal and turn right along Jalan Pos to discover the Gedung Kesenian (12 ) – the colonial-era concert hall.

Lunch upon the run

There is a choice of restaurants and street food stalls along Veteran 1. Grab a plate of spicy chicken satay cooked over hot coals and served with sliced apple for around 20, 000Rp (£1 ) then drop by Rasuna Es Italia (13 ) to undertake their durian ice cream (17, 000Rp / 85p ).

Cultural afternoon

Follow the perimeter of Medan Merdeka, where you will discover the National Museum (14 ) at Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat 12 ; museumnasional. or. id ; 8am-4pm, closed Mondays ; 10, 000Rp / 50p ). The sprawling permanent exhibition provides a good overview from the myriad indigenous cultures that populate the Indonesian archipelago. Mid-week visitors can join the free English-language tour run from the Indonesian Heritage Society that meets inside the entrance hall at 10. 30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

An aperitif

There will be lots of bars and restaurants along nearby Jalan Jaksa and it is surrounds. Melly’s Garden (15 ) at 37-39 Kebon Sirih Timur Dalam  ; mellysgarden. com ) is nicest by far. A bottle of Bintang beer inside the peaceful courtyard will set you back 36, 000Rp (£1. 85 ). Open daily from 11am until late.

Dining using the locals

Wander with the charming residential lanes south of Kebon Sirih for an alley and that is referred to as Culinary Centre (16 ), but is really a row of foodstalls and folding tables that provide cheap, freshly cooked food from over the region. Nasi goreng – a tasting plate of rice and curries – will cost you against between 15, 000Rp and 20, 000Rp (80p to £1 ).

If you would like something a little more formal, you are able to jump inside a bajaj to Lara Djonggrang (17 ) at Jalan Teuku Cik Di Tiro 4, and seek a table inside the atmospheric, temple-like back room.

The excellent squid satay, and that is stewed in coconut milk and served inside an enormous conch shell, is priced at 58, 000Rp (£3 ).

Day two

Over to brunch

Social House (18 ) on the very first floor from the Grand Indonesia mall on Plaza Indonesia is popular among expatriates on lazy Sunday mornings. Try the ricotta hotcakes with crisp honeycomb and banana (85, 000Rp, £4. 40 ). Open 8am until late.

A walk inside the park

From Plaza Indonesia head east into upmarket Menteng, that has wide, tree-lined streets and also a smattering of small parks. Barack Obama would be a pupil at nearby SDN Menteng 01 elementary school (19 ) like a 10-year-old. Sirupati Park (20 ), in the southern end of Teuku Umar, features reflexology paths for barefoot walking and occasionally hosts small string orchestras. Also charming is Situ Lembang Park (21 ), a block further east, and that is taken up by a huge lily pond. Locals fish in its (rather murky ) waters.

Window shopping

Find delicately-cut shadow puppets, carved wooden masks and an array of chandeliers, silks and metalwork miscellany in the antiques market down the length of Jalan Surabaya (22 ), a five-minute walk away. Prices vary considerably consistent with quality, condition and also your haggling prowess – strive for half the initial price.

Wood carved shadow puppets
No strings: Wood carved shadow puppets

Have a ride

Catch a northbound train from nearby Cikini station (23 ) to Kota, for two, 500Rp (15p ), to discover the grand colonial architecture in and around Fatahillah Square. Two museums are close available and worth a look. The very first is that the Maritime Museum (24 ) and that is sited inside a former Dutch East India Company warehouse at Jalan Pasar Ikan 1. Another is that the Shadow Puppet Museum (25 ) at Pintu Besar Utara Street 27; daily 9am-3pm, closed Mondays ). Busway route 1 will require you to the city centre.

Sunday evening : attend church

The dark-domed Immanuel Church (26 ) at Jalan Merdeka Timur 10 could be faded though it‘s grand. The Flentrop pipe organ dates from 1843. English language services are held at 5pm Sundays.

Icing upon the cake

Scattered across Jakarta Bay, the Thousand Islands have silver beaches and clear water that is perfect for snorkelling, they create for any refreshing day trip. Ferries leave Muara Angke fishing port (27 ) for Tidung island at 7am daily (33, 000Rp / £1. 70 ). Or charter a ship to the day from Ancol Marina (28 ) for two, 500, 000 (£130 ).