The ‘city’ can boast several superlatives: Jakarta is located on the north-west coast of Java, which is the most populous island in the world with 145 million inhabitants. Jakarta is not only the centre of Indonesia’s economy, culture and politics, but also the largest city in Southeast Asia and the diplomatic capital of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. Its territory includes the satellite towns of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, South Tangerang and Bekasi; the estimated population in 2021 was 35 million, which makes Jakarta the world’s second-largest metropolitan area directly after Tokyo.
Jakarta has a very long history, which goes back to the end of the fourth century. The city was founded back then as Sunda Kelapa and evolved into an important trading port for the kingdom of Sunda. It then changed its name on several occasions – firstly to Jayakarta, to Batavia under Dutch colonial rule and finally to Jakarta. It is now Indonesia’s melting pot where various cultures and characters meet head-on. There are more than 1,000 cultural tribal groups and 700 languages, which are scattered across about 15,000 islands in the archipelago.
Jakarta was only regarded as a real metropolis as a result of the ‘transport revolution’, which was introduced in 2004. What started with the famous public transport system known as BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) now connects the various city districts and the surrounding towns thanks to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) underground system and the LRT (Light Rapid Transit) tram system, which will soon be completed. This development is also being strongly supported by growing e-commerce-based transport systems, e.g. e-hailing or booking travel services through apps.
The old city hall square, Taman Fatahillah, forms the cultural centre of Jakarta. Several colonial buildings have been restored here with support from UNESCO. The Jakarta Museum, which is home to a collection of weapons, furniture, old maps and other relics of the colonial period, is located in the centre of the city. Visitors can appreciate traditional puppet shows, which are very common across Southeast Asia, in the Wayang Museum. Those who are interested in Indonesian painting and crafts should not miss the Balai Seni Rupa Museum. And, last but not least, the National Museum of Indonesia, Museum Pusat, is a real must for visitors and is one of the largest and best-equipped museums in Southeast Asia. The collection provides detailed information about the geography of the country with its countless volcanoes and islands – and about the varied culture of the tribal groups and their customs on all the islands in the archipelago.
The Monas national monument forms the unmistakeable highlight on Merdeka Square, the independence square that measures about one square kilometre. The flame representing Indonesia’s independence ‘burns’ at the top; the peak is covered by 35 kilograms of gold and is a major attraction with its viewing platform at a height of 115 metres. The huge, modern, domed structure of the Istiqlal Mosque, which has space for 120,000 worshippers, is another highlight; it is the second-largest mosque in the world after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
Taman Impian Jaya Ancol covers an area measuring 552 hectares and is the largest amusement park in Southeast Asia. The complex offers a number of attractions. These include an art market, an open-air theatre, a swimming pool, a bowling alley, a golf course and an aquarium. One particular source of fun for people of all ages is the Dunia Fantasi phantasy world, a mixture of Disneyland and a fairground.
Those who have had enough sightseeing can head to a large number of recreational areas. People can relax wonderfully on the beaches of Jakarta on hot sunny days or travel to the beaches on small islands that are about 30 minutes away by boat. Others choose to unwind in the luxury villas in the mountains of the neighbouring towns or simply go for a walk in the city’s woods. These woods are scattered throughout Jakarta and provide an ideal backdrop for a break in the morning or afternoon with an occasional glimpse of a lake. It is also not a bad idea to ask local people for ideas because they will probably have unexpected and exciting suggestions up their sleeves.
Local people use just two key words to describe the best that Jakarta can offer: nightlife and food. The city has a reputation for being the most vibrant in the country; that is why most Jakarta residents spend their evenings in nightclubs, at concerts, in exclusive clubs or in groups that come together to take part in activities such as cycling or jogging at night. You can also meet many people at religious gatherings.
It is permissible (to a certain degree) to drink alcohol at various places in Jakarta, but it should not be consumed in public. You can obtain everything in Jakarta from traditional Bali spirits to Jack Daniel’s. Among the exclusive nightclubs are Immigrant, near the famous Hotel Indonesia, Musro in the city centre set against the backdrop of old government buildings, and the Minus Two restaurant and bar in the north of Jakarta, surrounded by mangrove forests.
Each of the more than 1,000 tribal groups who live in and around Jakarta has at least two or three different traditional dishes. If you multiply this figure, you get some idea of the endless selection of food and beverages that visitors to Jakarta encounter. It is generally very easy to find food in Jakarta – whether at traditional markets or in high-class restaurants. The best thing about it is that you can obtain everything at prices that are incredibly affordable – ranging from one dollar to several hundred dollars, depending on your tastes. Rendang, stewed beef with various herbs, is one of the most popular dishes. However, you should definitely try it in a different form where the meat is stewed for such a long time that it turns pitch-black in colour. It is impressive with its aromatic clove and pepper flavour and is sometimes combined with other dishes such as steamed jackfruits or crackers.
Jakarta does not have any specific industries as most of the production activities have been relocated to the surrounding towns. What remains is trade, which has caused the economy to skyrocket during the last few decades. The gross domestic product in 2019 amounted to approx. USD 200 billion. The logistics sector accounts for a large share of this figure: the largest seaport and airport in the country are located in the Jakarta region. Indonesia exported goods and services worth approx. USD 150 billion in 2020 – and more than 60 per cent of this came from Jakarta.
Agricultural products are the most important commodities with a major focus on palm oil. As these goods come from an area more than 400 kilometres away, enormous logistical efforts and expenditure are required to transport the goods to Jakarta for export. For several years now, the Indonesian government has consequently been trying to expand the international capacity to include additional ports on the other side of the island of Java. The logistics specialist, Rhenus Logistics Indonesia, also believes that it has excellent opportunities to tap new export sites – for example, Medan, a town on the adjacent Island of Sumatera, more than 1,000 kilometres away from Jakarta. Most of the Rhenus logistics centres are also located outside Jakarta. There is, however, a temporary warehouse facility near Jakarta in the industrial zone of Cikarang, Cibitung and Karawang. Rhenus also operates a warehouse measuring more than 1,500 square metres in Surabaya’s neighbouring town of Sidoarjo and it handles local sales activities and provides hubs for exports and imports.
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