My trip to Jakarta, Indonesia was something out of a movie. On a Tuesday I was invited to a beautiful rooftop event in San Francisco that was part of the Enjoy Jakarta! press tour and by Saturday night, I was on my way to the capital city itself. I couldn't believe it myself so imagine my family's surprise when I told them I was going to the other side of the world through an invitation by the tourism office.
It would be a short 3-day trip but the information and perspective I would come back with just made me a fan of the country for life. If you're thinking about traveling to Indonesia, don't just think of Bali which happens to be a honeymoon favorite for many couples. Instead, be sure to add Jakarta to your itinerary where the people are some of the friendliest you'll ever meet in the world and the history and cultures are so diverse.
With so much to share, I am going to take this entire month to showcase this city that even President Barack Obama once called home. And in the end, I hope you're inspired to both experiences and see life through a totally different lens.
I joked around but it is really true. Due to the time difference and distance traveled, I remember leaving right before midnight on a Saturday night and waking up on a Monday morning in Taiwan. Where did my Sunday go? It simply never revealed itself. That was weird and a first time. But adapting to my arrival in Taipei and then Jakarta, I was excited to start my short adventure.
Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago (island group) and consists of more than 17,000 islands. The major islands are Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Papua and Java, the island which Jakarta resides on. As the world's 14th largest nation, Indonesia has over 250 – 300 ethnic groups who have their own language and dialect among a population of more than 200 million people. The majority of Indonesians are Muslims and everyone is united under the umbrella of peace and the national language, Bahasa Indonesia.
Upon arrival to the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, the first stop was to obtain your 30-day Visa which can be purchased for $25 right next to customs. They only take cash and U.S. currency is fine, however as I learned the hard way, be sure that your dollar bills are free from stains of any kind and are close to brand new looking as possible otherwise they may not be accepted. The national currency there is Indonesian Rupriah but U.S. dollars are accepted in various places throughout the city.
The airport is very busy with people coming and going. It is best to have a defined meeting location once you gather your bags from baggage claim so that you are able to connect with your host (which is recommended so you know how to get around, especially your first time there). Although many know English and will try their best to help you, it is always best to solidify arrival details before leaving home.
There are a variety of hotels to stay at. For this trip, my accommodations were at the five-star luxury hotel, Hotel Borobudur Jakarta. This beautiful property spans over 23 acres of tropical gardens and consists of restaurants and extensive recreational activities. I was fortunate to have another journalist on this trip so together in our free time, we did a little exploring of the property. Although it was very humid and muggy while there, had I been there a few more days, I would have really taken advantage of some of the amenities such as the pool and garden. The entertainment at night in the lounge often consisted of a duet performance featuring American songs. It was a nice way to end the night.
With a couple of hours to rest in my room, dinner time was soon approaching. We were to meet in the lobby at 7 pm. Excited to experience Jakarta's culinary flavors for the first time, I wondered what our host had in mind for the evening as well as the rest of the trip…
To learn about my culinary adventures in Jakarta, be sure to check back next week and in the coming weeks to learn more about the people, what to do, and where to go whether you are in Jakarta three days or a week. For additional information about Jakarta, visit www.jakarta-tourism.go.id.
Photo credit: V. Sheree Williams