Garuda Indonesia is progressively revamping its business-class cabins with 1-2-1 pod configurations on Boeing 777-300ER and new Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Business-class features include L’Occitane amenity kits, plush velvety duvets, Wi-Fi access, 40kg of checked baggage, free sports equipment allowance and menus prepared by inflight chefs. The airline, a SkyTeam Alliance member, has been rated as a five-star carrier by Skytrax and flies direct to Jakarta and to Denpasar, Bali, from Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. More: 1300 365 330; garudaindonesia.com/au/en. COLONIAL CHIC: Cafe Batavia feels like the real Dutch colonial deal, despite the building’s many i incarnations since its construction in the 1800s. In a perfect location on Fatahillah Square in the Kota Tua (Old Town) district, the two-storey coffee house, bar and restaurant is all polished timber, tiled entryway, ceiling fans, tall windows, curved arches and Jacobean lounge settings. Add walls filled with portraits and historic photos and a menu that ranges from local specialties to tomato soup and Belgian waffles. Before or after a visit to Cafe Batavia, rent a brightly painted bike (with colourcoordinated garden-party hats for lady cyclists or pith helmets for the gents) from a batik-shirted vendor for a leisurely twirl around the square; it’s about IDR20,000 ($2) for 30 minutes. More: cafebatavia.com.
IT’S A MALL WORLD: Grand Indonesia Mall (10am-10pm), spread over two tremendous wings, has every top-brand boutique imaginable, including Singapore’s Charles and Keith for the bestvalue shoes and handbags known to womankind. For sustenance between bouts of buying, drop into Caffe Milano (East Wing; ground floor) for an affogatto milkshake or a Negroni with an unexpected flourish of creme de cassis. With its Campari posters, wicker chairs and bottles of Italian extra-virgin olive oil and balsamico di Modena on every table, it does indeed feel like a backstreet diner in Milan. Tip: Go for the chilled latte in a tall glass and pour your individual little bottle of milk over espresso iceblocks, adding an extra jolt of flavour. Share plates include creamy burrata from Puglia, house-made casoncelli stuffed pasta and eggplant parmigiana. More: grand-indonesia.com; zomato.com/jakarta.
SHADOWS PLAY: There are short shadow puppet plays in English from 10am-3pm daily at Makutharama Puppet Studio at No 3 Kalibesar Timur. Master craftsman and performer Aldy Sanjaya, who comes from a dynasty of puppet makers, has visited Australia and speaks very good English. His jokey commentary for Aussie audiences could include the likes of Paul Keating as a character in the Ramayana. Combine with a visit to the Dutch gable-roofed Wayang Museum on Fatahillah Square, which is devoted to shadow puppetry; linking the two venues, between Fatahillah Square and Kalibesar Timur, is a food alley where little stalls and carts sell the likes of satays, nasi goreng and sweet, milky desserts. More: indonesia-tourism.com.
OLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL: The antiques market is actually a parade of permanent stalls (and a f few pavement vendors) along Jalan Surabaya. Much of the bounty here looks freshly lifted from the gracious homes of old Batavia, from chandeliers and crested china to coloured glassware and phonographs. There are old Sharp portable television sets, vintage telephones and wall clocks, celadon ginger jars and irresistibly pretty metal stamps for patterning batik fabric. If you’re mad about textiles or just want to see where the locals shop for clothing, head to the super-busy Thamrin City Mall (aka Ladies Mall; close to Plaza Indonesia). Take the escalator to the first floor for wonderfully cheap fabric by the metre, bolts of batik and indigo-and-white ikat weavings. More: visitindonesia.co.in.
GOOD AND STRONG: Recaffeinate at a cafe down an alley and through a courtyard at No 20 Jalan Surabaya (across from the antiques stores). Hendrik (Henry) Halianto’s coffee house Giyanti has been inspired by laneway cafes he’s visited in Melbourne. Beans are roasted in-house and the single-origin coffee, from islands such as Sumatra and Flores, is good and strong; it’s a cosy and convivial space, usually full of students and Jakarta’s hip push, fuelling up on lamingtons or chunky meat pies. More: giyanticoffeeroastery.com.
T TREASURE TROVE: The National Museum of Indonesia on Merdeka Square, opened in 1868, is wonderful, as much for its Old Wing’s atmospheric colonnades and unfashionable glass cabinets as its ethnographic displays. Forget touch-screens and lighting effects; here it’s all about high-ceilinged rooms full of weaponry, textiles, ceramics, bronzes and cultural oddities such as ritual leaf-shaped fans, Dayak battle sashes decorated with animal tusks, and bags festooned with chicken’s feet and pig’s tails. A central atrium and inner courtyard framed by Doric columns are filled with centuries-old religious statuary, including Buddhist statues from Borobudur. If time is short, skip the New Wing (opened in 2007) and concentrate on the Old Wing’s comprehensive exhibits. More: museumnasional.or.id/.
T TOP TABLES: The aptly named Skye, with its sunset cocktail bar and mosaic-tiled pool atop the 5 56-storey BCA Tower, could be a cool Bali transplant were it not for the neon views of Jakarta’s skyline. Featured mixes include a dragonfruit margarita or a party-pink Cherry Blossom with foamy cuff and marshmallow garnishes. There are daybeds, lounge chairs, cane lounges and stools (but make sure you have a torch or iPhone app if you actually want to see where to sit); a restaurant annexe serves international fare with an ontrend Spanish twist plus plenty of Indonesian dishes, including coconut-flavoured yellow fish curry. The venue is also open for lunch and is a member of the Ismaya group, which operates bars and restaurants in Jakarta with names as intriguing as Tokyo Belly and Social House. More: ismaya.com. RICE AND EASY: At the extravagantly appointed Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, expect to have your richly spiced meal preceded by a pair of sashswirling dancers as two waiters, bearing trays of rijsttafel dishes on a yoked contraption, struggle to your table. The Dutch rijsttafel (rice table) banquet is the star turn here and includes parcels of coconut-flavoured rice wrapped in banana-leaf parcels (vegetarian and special dietary menus are also on offer) and chilli-laden soups. Enjoy a tipple (perhaps a rambutan-infused vodka cocktail) at the adjoining Suzie Wong Lounge; its dizzying decor of red lanterns and chinoiserie screens is a homage to the 1950s Hong Kong-based movie starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan. More: tuguhotels.com.
NATALIN KNOWS BEST: If you want a tailored city tour with a personable English-speaking guide, then I thoroughly recommend Natali Monica Maail, a dynamo who knows the city backwards and peppers her spiel with loads of fun and insightful info. Ask Natali to take you to night markets, food alleys, shops and small museums, and follow her bargaining tips for the best buys. It’s Natali who tells me Jakarta is considered by many locals to be the Indonesian equivalent of New York and has been nicknamed The Big Durian. More: firstname.lastname@example.org. STYLISH SANCTUARY: Raffles Jakarta, within the Ciputra World I tower development, can’t claim the colonial grandeur typically associated with the fabled accommodation brand but it has its own distinctive style of elegance. Reproduced works of voluptuous women and folk imagery by Indonesian artist Hendra Gunawan form the heart of the decor in the lobby, guestrooms and corridors, from patterned carpets to elaborate murals. There are 129 guestrooms and 44 suites and even the least expensive chambers have a lounge area, dressing nooks, two televisions, spacious ensuites with deep tubs and 24-hour butler service. The Navina poolside bar and restaurant is a great spot for a quiet breakfast while the Arts Cafe has fabulous buffets and a la carte dishes (try the Singapore chilli crab buns). The convivial Writers’ Bar delivers tall Jakarta Slings, a twist on the Singapore original perked up with star anise and passionfruit. There is access on the first floor to the Lotte Shopping Avenue mall, and a “cream bath” treatment for dry tresses at the mall’s ground-floor Alfons Hair & Beauty Room is a treat. More: raffles.com/jakarta.
Susan Kurosawa was a guest of Garuda Indonesia and Raffles.