Jakarta to me is one of the best destinations in Asia for shopping and food. Which is why I planned a trip here with my girlfriends a year prior! A bustling metropolis with a population of over 10 million, the capital of Indonesia is a place of sounds, smell and tastes that’s rich in culture, religion and history. And since I’m a regular (that’s what I call myself after three visits) to this macet banget (perpetually caught in traffic) city, you can count on this 48 hour guide to be one of the coolest, fun and vibrant ones around complete with tips. Sassy Girls – stay with me for this one, it’s gonna be one heck of an adventure!
As soon as you arrive at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport, 20km west of the city centre, you can choose to either take a shuttle bus into the city which costs about 30,000Rp ($3) or take a taxi straight to your destination (most recommended). Ignore the overwhelming touting at the arrival hall and head straight to the Bluebird taxi counter/stand: the most safest and reliable taxi company in the city. If you’re making your way to the city, the journey will last about an hour or so, depending on the traffic.
I’m always up for staying in cute boutique hotels wherever I travel to so this trip was no exception. The girls and I have had our eyes on the eclectic Kosenda Hotel for some time now (check out their amazing Instagram feed) and the fact that it was located just 50 metres away from Tanah Abang (fabric mecca) was a godsend! Kosenda Hotel is contemporary boutique hotel that exudes the founder’s love for travel, design and art. Mid-century modern furniture fills the space complemented with Indonesian artworks and all 60 rooms come packed with bespoke kimonos, laundry bags, Batik sandals. We spent our two nights there at the Spatia Room and trust me when I say that every corner of the room is completely Pinterest-worthy (check out this shot) – perfect for you Instagram maniacs!
I like to make sure I get the most out of my days when on a holiday so I’ll usually land at my destinations (especially if in Asia) in the morning. After dropping off our bags at the Kosenda Hotel, we went for a good local breakfast. As we walked along the stretch of road just outside the hotel, we chanced upon a glorious looking dish sold by a man on his push cart known as the Ketoprak. The Ketoprak is a vegetarian dish with tofu, rice cakes, boiled egg, noodles, bean sprout and cabbage doused in thick peanut sauce with fried shallots and crackers. So sprawl yourselves on the chairs set up along the road and order some hearty Ketoprak to get the ball rolling for the rest of the day!
Now that you’ve fuelled up, it’s time to do some exploring!
- Hail a cab (reminder: make sure you get on the Bluebird!) and head to the National Monument located in the city centre. It stands big and tall and symbolizes the fight for Indonesia under the arm of President Sukarno
- Then, take a walk down to the National Museum of Indonesia, an archaeological, historical, ethnological and geographical museum located at Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat
Lunch & Afternoon
Once you’re done doing the mandatory tourist-y things, hop into a cab and get the driver to take you to Gandaria City. Prep yourselves for some major eating! Here, you’ll be spoilt for all the dining choices because there’s simply just too much good food! My girls and I went to five restaurants and cafe within our four hours here and while that sounds remarkably gluttony and insane, it’s completely do-able if you pace yourselves properly and just order one or two dishes to share at each stop.
- Shabu Tei – A Halal Japanese eatery that serves fresh and healthy ingredients cooked in a savoury broth and served with tasty homemade tasty Ponzu sauces for dipping
- Bebek Bengil – I first chanced upon this amazing chain while in Bali and when I walked past it in Gandaria City, I knew I had to have another taste! The deep fried crispy is to-die-for!
- Shirokuma – Be prepared to wait in line (about 30 minutes) for your matcha ice-cream fix and not forgetting the Snow Affogato; a fluffy cotton candy ball served atop ice-cream
- Churreria – Churros are one sweet treat that always hit the spot for me and at Churreria, those long cinnamon sticks just melts in the mouth
- Fat Straw – More than just a typical bubble tea joint, the Fat Straw claims to serve the original honey boba which uses honey as a sweetener rather than sweetened sugar. A more healthier option than the norm!
After all that binging, take a stroll around the mall and do some shopping – there’s plenty of stores and brands for you to spend all those Rupiahs.
Considering that your tummies must be filled from all the yummy goodness earlier in the day, I highly recommend you go for a small plate of martabak to share. Right down the corner from Kosenda Hotel, you can spot a yellow remodelled ship container transformed into a food booth similar to the food truck concept, except that it’s immobile – that’s Martabak Boss! Order the Thin Crust Martabak with Tuna or the Tobleron Martabak to end the night off on a sweet note.
Staying in Kosenda Hotel means you’re entitled to complimentary breakfast at the Waha Kitchen. Tuck into a warm plate of congee with some sambal and century egg with fried shallots. The breakfast spread serves Asian as well as Western cuisine – just in case you need your Eggs & Benedict fix.
Morning & Afternoon
Okay, ready to do some exercise ladies? And by that I mean shopping! Hey, shopping is a really good form of exercise, all that walking, lugging of shopping bags…
- Tanah Abang – An hour or two is simply not enough to comb through this entire mall! On the upper levels, the building is a wholesale centre that sells a variety of apparels and accessories for all ages. The only downside is that most purchases would require a minimum quantity of at least 10 pieces. Head on down to the lower ground floors and you’ll be dazzled with the countless beautiful fabrics. I was on a mission here to find some fabrics for my wedding dress as well as my bridesmaids dresses and lo and behold – I went home with over 60 kilograms of baggage! It’s a fabric mecca if you love making your own dresses or suits. And did I mention that the prices are at such a steal too?
- Plaza Mayestik – Grab a cab to Kebayoran Baru (about 20 minutes from Kosenda Hotel) and make your way to Plaza Mayestik. This area not only stocks fabrics and textiles but the mall is a haven for scoring some amazing dresses! And if you’re a fashionable hijabi, then this is the place for you because there’s a huge variety of modest Muslim apparels too.
- Plaza Indonesia – Browse and shop at this massive mall featuring over 100 brands of local and international designers
Since your last stop for shopping was Plaza Indonesia, pop by Yo’ Panino for some Beef Rendang Rice Wraps, Java Tempe on Red Rice or the Philly Cheese Steak. Sink your teeth into juicy beef wraps, sandwiches and salads, all with an Asian twist.
I’ve heard stories about the juicy, delectable, too-good-to-be-true Holy Crab from a couple of my friends and I knew that I had to pay a visit to this legendary seafood joint. Let me just say that the culinary experience I had here was mind blowing. The seafood was so fresh and the way the crabs and prawns were marinated was just perfect. The Louisiana-inspired restaurant features premium imported seafood that’s doused in spicy cajun sauce served casually atop a piece of paper laid out on the table. Now, this is what we call a hot mess!
Of course after every sumptuous dinner, you’d need to complete the culinary experience with some desserts. Make your way to the luxurious Magnum Cafe and go on an intense chocolate overload!
After breakfast at Waha Kitchen, explore the hotel and take photos at the Awan Lounge. Once your morning meal has settled in your tummies, with some extra hours to kill before rushing off to the airport to catch your flight, indulge in a pampering spa treatment or massage at Martha Tilaar, Indonesia’s most prestigious name for traditional Javanese massage. Soak your body in a milk bath and let all that exhaustion from intense walking and shopping slowly melt away…
- Upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, don’t hop into random cabs! Make sure you engage the services or hail down a cab from Bluebird because fares are charged for every metre you travel
- Taxis are really cheap and affordable in Jakarta so don’t be afraid to spend your money on these rides (You just have to be really, really patient to endure the massive traffic)
- It gets really warm and humid most days in the city so make sure you pack plenty of light clothing and drink plenty of water
- There’s a lot of poverty in Jakarta so be mindful when you’re sparing the people some change because they might all just hover around you and that’s when it gets really overwhelming and difficult to get out of
- Keep your bags and personal belongings close to your body because pickpocketing and snatch thieves are particularly rife around major tourist spots
- You’ll need to dress appropriately when visiting a temple or mosque; a sarong should be tied around your waist and most of your body should be covered
Overall, Jakarta is a cultural city that’s rich in heritage and with just the right amount of research and navigation, you might just find that you’ve fallen in love with this bustling metropolis. Indeed, 48 hours might just be a little too condensed to cover all the shopping and food spots. Now, if only we had another 48 hours…
Lead image sourced via Pinterest, Image #2 sourced via Kosenda, Image #3 sourced via Wikipedia, Image #4 sourced via Wikipedia, Image #5 sourced via Food Liberator, Image #6 sourced via Asia Web Direct, Image #8 sourced via Eshtravaganza, Image #9 sourced via Jakarta City Guide.