GEMS OF JAKARTA

Get ready for a packed week­end of shop­ping, eat­ing and ex­plor­ing

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CON­TENTS - WORDS RACHEL READ AND KATE FARR

Packed with fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory, di­verse cul­tural high­lights and a vi­brant in­de­pen­dent foodie scene, Jakarta has qui­etly blos­somed into one of South­east Asia’s must-visit des­ti­na­tions. Thrust into the spot­light as host of the re­cent 2018 Asian Games, the In­done­sian cap­i­tal has spruced up its of­fer­ings for for­eign vis­i­tors, hop­ing to use the mo­men­tum to en­cour­age even higher tourist num­bers.

Busi­ness trav­ellers used to hol­ing up in the CBD to avoid the city’s no­to­ri­ous traf­fic, should in­stead look to ex­tend their trips and ex­plore the cap­ti­vat­ing blend of Dutch colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture, con­tem­po­rary sky­scrapers and var­ied en­ter­tain­ment op­tions. So sit back with a pip­ing hot kopi (cof­fee), and plan your visit to the place known af­fec­tion­ately as the Big Durian.

DOWN­TOWN DE­LIGHTS

Be­gin your ex­plo­ration with a good help­ing of his­tory, cul­ture and an un­ex­pected dose of wildlife by head­ing over to Merdeka Square. The pub­lic plaza is one of the world’s largest – five times the size of Tianan­men Square – and a pop­u­lar spot for lo­cals to en­joy sports and re­cre­ation. It’s home to the 132-me­tre-tall Na­tional Mon­u­ment, of­fi­cial pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence Merdeka Palace, the fas­ci­nat­ing and in­for­ma­tive Na­tional Mu­seum of In­done­sia, and the neo-Gothic St Mary of the As­sump­tion Cathe­dral.

The square is also home to a herd of deer that live, some­what in­con­gru­ously, in the south­east­ern cor­ner of the city-cen­tre park.

An­other no­table cen­tral land­mark is the im­pos­ing

Is­tiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in South­east Asia, with ca­pac­ity for up to 200,000 wor­ship­pers. Built on the site of a for­mer 19th-cen­tury ci­tadel and set within estab­lished gar­dens, the mosque is a key pil­lar of Jakarta’s di­verse com­mu­nity and of­fers fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the melt­ing pot of Jakarta’s cul­tural and re­li­gious el­e­ments (for ex­am­ple, reg­u­larly pro­vid­ing sup­port and prac­ti­cal help – such as park­ing fa­cil­i­ties – to the nearby Chris­tian cathe­dral).

For the grow­ing num­bers who like to com­bine city ex­plo­ration with some health-fo­cused ac­tiv­ity, a stroll or jog around leafy Suropati Park is in or­der. Built in 1920 to pro­vide a cool and shady space for Jakar­tans to en­joy a break from the of­ten in­tense mid­day heat, this lush pub­lic park is a peace­ful spot for ev­ery­thing from peo­ple­watch­ing to a spot of yoga.

If you hap­pen to be in town over the week­end, you can also en­joy a rare traf­fic-free op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the city by foot, bike, scooter or skateboard, as ev­ery Sun­day

Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Tham­rin (two of Jakarta’s main thor­ough­fares) are des­ig­nated car-free from 6am to 11am. The ve­hi­cle-free win­dow of­fers a fresh and un­usu­ally calm per­spec­tive on the city.

WAL­LET WORK­OUT

If you’re in the mood to shop till you drop, you’ve come to the right place – Jakarta is burst­ing with ex­cel­lent “shop­por­tu­ni­ties”. Whilst there are street mar­kets galore, if you’d rather browse from the com­fort of an air-con­di­tioned mall, there are dozens of op­tions through­out the city; some of the big­gest in­clude Grand In­done­sia, Pon­dok

In­dah Mall and Cen­tral Park Mall (which even boasts its own 3.5-acre/1.4-hectare out­door oa­sis, Tribeca Park).

For big-name la­bels, check out Ga­leries Lafayette; this up­scale de­part­ment store (think the French equiv­a­lent

of Bar­neys in New York or Sel­fridges in Lon­don, trans­planted to In­done­sia) fea­tures four spa­cious floors of lux­ury fash­ion, beauty and ac­ces­sories. With more than 300 brands rep­re­sented, in­clud­ing de­signer names, high-street chains and more ex­clu­sive pri­vate la­bels, you’re bound to find some­thing to splurge on – and if it doesn’t quite fit per­fectly, there’s an on-site tai­lor for com­pli­men­tary al­ter­ations.

If you’re more in­ter­ested in check­ing out home-grown In­done­sian la­bels, there’s a store for that too – The

Goods Dept. Ini­tially a pop-up mar­ket ded­i­cated to cel­e­brat­ing lo­cal de­sign­ers, it has since grown into an ul­tra-slick bricks-and-mor­tar ven­ture, with ten lo­ca­tions through­out In­done­sia (many with their own cafés) and an in-house fash­ion line. Spe­cial­is­ing in young In­done­sian de­sign­ers and al­ter­na­tive streetwear with a few in­ter­na­tional favourites thrown in, the vibe here is ur­ban, edgy and eclec­tic – this is the place to come for trendierthan-thou slo­gan tees, base­ball caps and funky sneak­ers, with ranges for women, men and chil­dren all avail­able.

For a to­tally dif­fer­ent vibe, head to Pasar Santa –a tra­di­tional mar­ket that’s been con­verted into the lat­est hip hang­out spot, with a slew of buzzing restau­rants and in­die bou­tiques that have re­vi­talised the area. Lead­ing the charge is Ak­sara Ke­mang, a quirky book­store that has ex­panded into some­thing of a cul­tural and cre­ative hub. In ad­di­tion to Ak­sara’s own su­perbly cu­rated se­lec­tion of clas­sic and con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture (with a fo­cus on sup­port­ing in­de­pen­dent In­done­sian pub­lish­ers), it’s also part­nered with a range of other lo­cal busi­nesses to make this a unique cross-sec­tional space for all things cool – in­clud­ing spe­cial­ity cof­fee, home­made dough­nuts, vinyl records, ana­logue film de­vel­op­ment, an art stu­dio and a mi­cro cin­ema. Ex­pect to lose a few hours very hap­pily here.

If you fancy sharp­en­ing your bar­gain­ing skills, then don’t miss the op­por­tu­nity to hag­gle hard at Jalan

Surabaya An­tique Mar­ket. From Dutch colo­nial ce­ram­ics, an­cient coins, batik fab­rics and Ba­li­nese carv­ings to silk lamp­shades and col­lectible vinyl LPs, what­ever you’re look­ing for you’ll prob­a­bly find it here – and have plenty of fun brows­ing along the way.

LO­CAL TASTES

Such se­ri­ous re­tail ther­apy will re­quire plenty of pit stops to re­fuel. Luck­ily, there are nu­mer­ous mouth-wa­ter­ing op­tions that show off the Chi­nese, In­dian, Ara­bic, Por­tuguese, Dutch and indige­nous in­flu­ences that con­trib­ute to In­done­sian cui­sine.

When there’s a branch of Potato Head in a city, you can be guar­an­teed it’s one of the coolest places in town. The orig­i­nal Jakarta branch kick-started the whole chain, and its funky in­dus­trial-chic dé­cor, laid-back out­door gar­den and all-day menu of crowd-pleas­ing com­fort food and cre­ative cock­tails have only got bet­ter with time. Ex­pect bold flavours, lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents, chilled-out tunes and re­fresh­ing drinks that slip down all too eas­ily.

A favourite of In­done­sia’s celebrity crowd,

Da­pur Babah Élite is lo­cated in a pair of ren­o­vated 1940s shop­houses; di­vided into sev­eral vi­brantly hued rooms, it’s a gor­geously ro­man­tic set­ting, stuffed full of pe­riod an­tiques and beau­ti­ful art­work. The Per­anakan cui­sine on of­fer is just as mem­o­rable too; a stun­ning mix of Ja­vanese, Chi­nese and Dutch in­flu­ences, the menu show­cases tra­di­tional recipes that have been handed down through gen­er­a­tions and ex­e­cuted with con­tem­po­rary flair. The must-or­der here is Nasi Tjam­poer Babah, a fra­grant pan­dan-in­fused rice served with nine side dishes in­clud­ing mar­i­nated beef, fried shrimp and sautéed tem­peh. An­other glo­ri­ously his­toric set­ting awaits at Cafe

Batavia, the sec­ond-old­est build­ing in cen­tral Jakarta. At more than 200 years old, this two-floor beauty over­looks Kota Tua (the city’s Old Town) and with its dark-wood fur­nish­ings and end­less rows of el­e­gant shut­tered win­dows, ex­udes colo­nial charm. The menu serves a range of clas­sic in­ter­na­tional and In­done­sian fare, all set to a sound­track of smooth jazz.

The best way to en­joy Jakarta’s glit­ter­ing sky­line? With a drink in hand, of course! Rooftop bar Cloud Lounge, lo­cated on the 49th floor of The Plaza build­ing, of­fers an in­cred­i­ble near 360-de­gree panorama of the city – head here at sun­set for some won­der­ful views. Once you’ve fin­ished gawk­ing, cool down with some shots in their ze­rode­gree Vodka Room – the first of its kind in In­done­sia.

As one of the world’s largest pro­duc­ers of cof­fee, it would be wrong to visit In­done­sia with­out en­joy­ing a cup or two of caf­feine-loaded good­ness. If you like your kopi served with a side of Pin­ter­est-wor­thy dé­cor, head to

Trafique Cof­fee. All bare-brick white walls, high ceil­ings and quirky knick-knacks, it looks like it’s come straight out of a de­sign mag­a­zine – com­plete with a lovely court­yard, plenty of workspace and, of course, an ex­cel­lent cof­fee menu. Spe­cial­is­ing in In­done­sian beans that are ground and roasted on site, Trafique is also renowned for its more un­usual cre­ations, in­clud­ing the Ugly Nutella (cof­fee mixed with yes, Nutella), Listretto (a re­fresh­ing le­mon­ade-ristretto com­bi­na­tion) and Al­mond Crème Brulée (fea­tur­ing that all-im­por­tant layer of caramelised sugar on top).

WHERE TO STAY

Ar­to­tel Tham­rin Jakarta

For a taste of In­done­sia’s bur­geon­ing cre­ative scene, head to the glitzy dis­trict of Men­teng, and the Ar­to­tel Tham­rin Jakarta. De­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with eight In­done­sian artists, the bright and con­tem­po­rary rooms are all in­di­vid­u­ally dec­o­rated with mu­rals in each artist’s trade­mark style. The theme con­tin­ues down­stairs in the ho­tel’s own art gallery, which fo­cuses pre­dom­i­nantly on lo­cal art across a va­ri­ety of me­dia, en­abling guests to pick up a unique me­mento of their Jakarta stay. Con­ve­niently lo­cated within easy reach of many of the city’s main at­trac­tions, guests are en­cour­aged to re­duce their car­bon foot­print by hop­ping on one of Ar­to­tel’s trade­mark pur­ple bikes dur­ing their stay. ar­totelin­done­sia.com

The Her­mitage

If you pre­fer to step things down a gear af­ter a busy work­ing week, then The Her­mitage, a Trib­ute Port­fo­lio Ho­tel, of­fers guests a peace­ful oa­sis of calm that feels a mil­lion miles away from Jakarta’s typ­i­cally fre­netic pace. Lo­cated in a beau­ti­fully pre­served art-deco build­ing with charm to spare, the ho­tel of­fers a va­ri­ety of gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned rooms and suites – many with ter­races – that are large and com­fort­able enough to linger in. Plush bed­ding, neu­tral dé­cor and taste­ful wood fur­nish­ings all un­der­pin that sense of seren­ity, while on-site ameni­ties in­clud­ing a lap pool and full-ser­vice spa en­sure that even the most burnt-out ex­ec­u­tive leaves feel­ing blissed-out. her­mitage­jakarta.com

Pull­man Jakarta In­done­sia

A by­word for lux­ury and com­fort for busi­ness trav­ellers, Pull­man ho­tels are al­ways a re­li­able choice for dis­cern­ing guests, and the Jakarta out­post is no ex­cep­tion. It of­fers un­der­stated, mod­ern dé­cor, work-friendly ameni­ties such as ded­i­cated desk space in each room, and lux­u­ri­ous touches that in­clude the brand’s crisp, white linens and mem­ory foam pil­lows, plus drench­ing rain show­ers that are per­fect for rins­ing the day away. With a wide range of on-site bars and restau­rants, in­clud­ing the unique Le Cho­co­lat Lounge, where guests can savour hand­made truf­fles over an all-im­por­tant cup of In­done­sian cof­fee, and UNA, a rooftop bar with stun­ning sky­line views, you’ll un­doubt­edly strug­gle to tear your­self away. pull­man­jakar­tain­done­sia.com

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE: Jakarta’s mod­ern sky­line; The Goods Dept, Kem­pang Vil­lage; Cloud Lounge on the 49th floor of The Plaza; Potato Head’s food and restau­rant; and Ak­sara Ke­mang book­store

FROM TOP: Pull­man Jakarta In­done­sia; and Ar­to­tel Tham­rin Jakarta

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