Miro Mašat

how the one city can make you feel rich and poor at the same time

What was the purpose of my journey?

Since I arrived to Singapore for my studies, I did not travel much, and because my winter vacation has just started, I had enough time to explore an SouthEast region a bit. I was always kind of fascinated by Indonesia. Why? because of so large amount of land and population and also because the diversity that you can find in this country. From historical gems such as Yogyakarta, towards super populated megacities such as Jakarta all the way to tropical paradise such as Bali or Lombok or many others of total 17,000 islands you can find in Indonesia. And so as my first stop in Indonesia I picked the capital, the city with around 10 million inhabitants:

Welcome to Jakarta

As I researched a bit about the city, even before I actually bought my air tickets was, what can I see there. It was quite a strange situation, since I found many negative comments about a city and it did not look like a dream destination at all. They always mentioned, that there is so much dirt and problems, such as dangerous streets, that maybe it is not the best idea to seek some form of tourism attractions there. I planned to stay there for 4 full days and explore some of both historical and nightlife beauties, I was worried it is too much time to be in that city and also all those reviews… but, I was hooked too much, I was on my way all the way to Bali and when are you going to have a chance to see this part of the world again? Right, I am booking my tickets.

How to get to Jakarta

The easiest way how to do it is to take a plane there. The only other option is to get to the island of Java by boat, then head to a bigger city such as Surabaya and then taking a bus to Jakarta. (this option can pay out only if you intend to visit these minor cities or air tickets are significantly cheaper than those to go to Jakarta directly, this can actually happen). I used a plane, flying from Singapore to Jakarta of Tiger Airways carrier. The one-way ticket costed me around 69 EUR, and I recommend to book early as the price can go up to 100+ when you book less then 2 weeks in advance. My flight was very peaceful, without any problems. In the plane the flight attendant gave me a special card which I entered some of my personals into, to obtain visa on arrival. All citizens of Europe and US residents are required to obtain this VISA. VISA does not apply for citizens from Southeast Asia block, including China, Malaysia or Thailand but also Australia or Russia. That is also the reason why Bali is so popular among Australians and Singaporeans as no additional expenses apply.

After arrival

The first thing after arrival is to pay for your VISA. That will cost you 35 USD, please make sure you have USD with you, they do not accept IDR (local currency), nor credit cards. The first experience was not good, The guy was cheeky and asked me to pay 50 USD just because I skipped one line, I refused and went back a line to wait and get the standard fee. I immediately saw, that people try to get tourist to pay ‘a little extra’ for whatever service they need. After a couple of cards and stamps I received to my passport, I took my luggage and tried to leave an airport to catch a taxi.


Around 7 guys immediately approached me, ‘helping me’ with my luggage and offering me Taxi service with a special discount. My hotel (Tune Hotel Pasar Baru), was quite far from the airport, but paying 400,000 IDR (10,000 IDR ~ 0.6 EUR) was kind of high offer. There are 2 types of Taxis in Indonesia, the ones when you first make a deal and you pay no matter how long the journey takes, or classic metered taxis, but you are not sure how much you pay, as the driver can scam you. I picked non metered one and then with an every guy I refused, the price ‘went’ down. I ended up making a deal with a guy for a 230,000 IDR, which is almost a half of the first offer, which was good for me at that moment, so I got to my hotel in around 45 minutes, safe and sound! The journey was very comfortable, mainly because the car was very comfortable. All cars in Jakarta (Taxis or different ‘kind’ of taxis) are very high class black cars, mainly highest models of Toyota or Mercedes sedans. The most important, I still got scammed as the ‘fair’ price from Jakarta airport to city centre should be no more than 150,000 IDR.

My Hotel was actually… great!

And I really mean it. For the price I paid, which was around 20 EUR per night for a room in the east part of Jakarta, close to train system, it was a good deal. The receptionist was a very nice young girl with great english and she winked at me a couple of times (I think this is just a must in that city of ‘take me away from here’). My room was not that spacious, but it was very clean and I had a safe there, so I could leave my expensive stuff in the room while exploring the city. Every morning I found a bottle with drinkable water as the one from bathroom is not recommended to drink, and they exchanged bedsheets an every day, even aircon was set up, so each day returning to my hotel room I was welcomed by cooling temperature of 22 degrees. My only complaint would go towards the shower as the water stream was very weak and it took time to actually take a shower. Also, another thing is not the best location if you love nightlife, as the street the hotel is located on, is kind of dangerous.

My first walk outside to explore the neighbourhood (day 0)

I stared the day off with a late local breakfast located just next to my hotel.

I tried some toasts with scrambled eggs and some vegetables. It was a very small portion, but for a reasonable price, as this costed me less than 20,000 IDR, which is an equivalent to 1.2 EUR. You also need to take in account where you eat, as eating near hotels or eating in fastfoods is significantly more expensive than eating in suburbs or on street markets which reminds me hawkers you can find all around Singapore. In these markets you can find a proper lunch for a price of 30,000 IDR maximum (eq. of 1.8 EUR), including two meals and one drink of your choice (it can be a can of coke or some fresh juice from mango? you choose).

After my breakfast I went to try out train system in Jakarta.

The train station was not far away, and I insisted on walking there, even though, the lift-boy in my hotel tried to push me into taking a cab there. I am very suspicious that he is getting tips for getting hotel guests to take a cab or maybe the hotel is getting some provision out of it, who knows. So I walked… and walked for over 10 minutes until I reached the station. In the meantime almost an every person I met tried to take a picture with me and offered me a transport of getting from A to B for a ‘great’ price. The train system works on prepaid journey basis. First you need to buy a card (deposit is refundable and it is 5,000 IDR, which is eq. to 0.3 EUR), and then to top it up each time before you take a train (I believe there is some other type of card you can top up for some sum of money and do not do it each time, but they advised to buy this one).

So you approach the lady and she ask you to which station you go, determine the number of stops and bill you accordingly (<=3 stops = 2,000 IDR, >3 stops is 5,000 if I am not mistaken, as I was always traveling only up to 3 stations). There is a classic tap on system that let you in / out of the platform. Please be careful of the direction of your train as there are no English labels, so you can get lost very easily.

I took a ride to Kota station, that is in the older part of the city. This part was actually a part of the city at that time called Batavia, which is a dutch term as the Indonesia was occupied by Dutch people at that time, some people say Kota is ‘Old Jakarta’, which just demonstrates its historical importance. The station is spacious and from inside you really have a feeling of historical background, the only complaint goes towards the dirty facilities and lots of beggars everywhere. You can find some western fastfood in this building as this is a spot where tourists come a lot. I could not resist and I visisted my favourite one Starbucks for a glass of ice cold orange juice (And the best is… it is only 20,000 IDR and the staff was super kind, the internet reliable and fast and the place empty and peaceful).

After my Starbucks visit it was already evening, so I went for some shopping to Indomaret, where I just bought some sweets for my evening photo reviews. The prices are higher I would expect from Indonesia, but that is only because these corner shops are 24/7 and those shops are expensive everywhere in the world.

Meeting Hikari (day 1)

The next day I woke up very late, went to some shopping, food tasting around the hotel.

The rest of my day I just walked around the city. At the first I was walking along the train system to see the daily life of Indonesians living in urban areas and also to catch a glipse of some traffic around. At this point I finally saw the dirty side of the city. You may not seem this from pictures, and I just realised I have no pictures of these super dirty mini-streets everywhere, but it really is full of junk and scum, Consider these 2 pictures as the most clean ones from the collection of ‘taking a random picture on the Jakarta street’. But the problem is not that it is dirty right now, but the fact that you see people throwing trash all around again and again. I think the problem of developing countries is not much of a lack of natural or other resources as much as an attitude you see in citizens of the country. I only hope they could see some clean places in Europe, so they could see that even sometimes someone can throw something on the ground, the majority of people are not doing so.

After walking around I headed to Kota again. The life is full of random situations and so I found out, that my friend from university, Hikari (from Japan), is in Jakarta too, visiting her friend, that is studying there. We met around the lunch time, so we had a quick lunch in KFC, as that was the safest option at the moment. After having a quick lunch, we went to Batavia area again, and we went for shopping for some of our friends back in Singapore, we also wanted to visit some museums around, but we were unable to do so. At least we have visited some local attractions such as this strange dragon… thing.

We arrived to typical markets of stuff you can as a tourist want. Everything from postcards with pictures of Jakarta/Indonesia, all the way to fake RayBan sunglasses or selfie sticks. Prices are negotiable again and they always start at some ridiculous prices once they see you are a tourist, and if they see you are caucasian, they even double the number for ‘other tourists’, the only thing you need to do in order to get that item, is to say no, and offer them your price, believe me, whatever you tell them, it is still going to be a great offer and they are not going to refuse.

Our next station was a Mosque. This is actually the 3rd biggest Mosque in the world, and the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. This comes from the fact that over 87% of people has Muslim religion and in terms of the size of Indonesia (around 400 mil. of citizens), this is so significant group of people, that it require many of these facilities. There are 7 mosques in Jakarta total, but this one is a must to visit, we were blown away with the size of this compound of buildings and the spirit that you could feel in this place. We were dressed up to typical Muslim clothing in order for us to be allowed to enter this sacred place, I did receive a cloak and Hikari some kind of cardigan, to cover us. Then the guide took us around this area explaining to us every part of it. You can see the main prayer room, with rectangular shape, in my short video showing you some people praying and a glimpse of that spectacular ceiling, that is very rich with ornaments and has a size of 45 meters in diameter.

Our guide was very curious about where we came from, and they don’t really allow other people than tourists from distant countries or other religion to experience the guided tour. This was actually a bit strange, since we met a guy from UAE, who wanted to explore the Mosque, but since he is Muslim already, the guide was not happy to show him around.

I made a new Japan friend, meet Mio (day 2)

The next day Hikari introduced me to her friend (Mio), that is studying in Depok (the city is located south from Jakarta, the interesting thing about Depok is, that The University of Indonesia is located there, instead of being in the capital). This time again we met around Kota area, as we still wanted to further explore this part of the city.

Our first stop was a historic building of Bank of Indonesia, showing the history not only of financial entity but also the history of the city of Jakarta and an outlook of the history of Indonesia as such. This was actually a very nice experience and it was full of new knowledge about how the Indonesia evolved over the time and also explained, why the currency used in Indonesia (IDR) is so weak. The building itself is in the perfect condition and kind of reminds me Mediterranean style of buildings, that I saw in Greece a couple of years ago, when I visited the place with my mum as a child. At the lobby they asked us to submit all of our luggage for a security check and they wanted to keep it all the time we are in the building. I like the fact, that they provided us with special bags, where we could put all of our very expensive things (mobile phones, MacBook or our passports) and carry it with us, which made me sure, my things will not be lost or stolen. We went through many rooms servicing different purpose of ‘being a bank’, but there were also many rooms showing some pieces of history of Indonesia, mainly describing years of Indonesia being occupied by Dutch or Japanese. It was interesting to see that I found a couple of tools they used in early banking years that came from Czechoslovakia, such as calculators. We also had a chance to see a collection of all sorts of coins and bank sheets not only from Indonesia, but from more than 50 countries, again including Czechoslovakia. We met some young Indonesian students, that wanted to take pictures with us, and we could not say ‘no’ to them, so we also had some funny conversations with them.

After this bank museum, we headed to a next one, just a 5 minute walk, from previous one. This one is a puppet museum! Yes, you hear it right, this museum is full of puppets and some other hand made goods made by locals. This museum is a part of UNESCO heritage, and it has it’s reasons. We found there literally thousands of puppets, mainly classic ones. On the picture on the left you can see us with 2 major characters of Indonesian performance they play and those are indonesian ‘Superman’ and ‘Superwoman’, this is a kind of Romeo and Juliet story. These guys travel a lot around a globe and perform with these puppets and you should not miss their performance the next time they are around. On the second picture, you can see the puppet made from buffalo skin. Our guide has explained us, how these puppets are made and showed us the process. To make a puppet like this it takes ages, and the interesting thing is, that after shaping this puppet, you are only allowed to actually paint it, if during 3 days, there are no imperfections on the shape. Only one mistake can mean, you have to start again. There were also some hand made musical instruments, and some tools, these people use to create all the goods, you could buy at the end of the exposition.

After 2 museums, we were kind of exhausted and so I suggested we should visit the most famous cafe in Jakarta, Cafe BATAVIA. This is a must for an every tourist. From the first second we have just entered the building, I felt like home. The style of the cafe is very European like, I would say, it has this taste of Paris/Vienna. The furniture was in exceptional condition and everything looked like it was just left like this for a thousands years. I was the first time in Asia close to crying how this was reminding me home and christmas songs were making me think of my family back home. There was a beautigul christmas tree and carols were making the whole experience magical and unforgettable. We had an ice tea there. The prices are expectably high and I would not eat there every day, but the place was very peaceful and this is the kind of experience I would like to replay again soon, and often. The waitors were very kind and it all had this very posh style, even though I was wearing just casual shorts and T-shirt. Girls enjoyed the view towards the square, I was delighted by the atmosphere.

After having some refreshment at Batavia Cafe, Mio decided to take us for an unforgettable ride with these ‘street’ taxis. This was one of my most scary moments, as I was a little bit worried we will be robbed in this car. You can catch these everywhere around Jakarta and the interesting thing is, they don’t work as normal taxis, you can not ask the driver to take you to specific location, these are going only along one long street (they have it written on the front of the vehicle) and you just hop in, not say a word, pay the fixed price (3,000 — 5,000 IDR), and hop off, when you need to. So no matter the distance you pay the fixed price and mostly people are taking these, as usually by combining 2–3 routes of these you can get to your destination still under 1 EUR. There are no normal seats inside of the van, only, some kind of benches, that can fit a maximum of 6 people total. During our travel, we mat a local girl, that lived all her life in Jakarta, but was from Taiwan, she showed a lot of unhappiness with a city and told us, about her dream to return to Taiwan one day.

After taking a ride with this strange transportation ‘tool’, we were super hungry, so we headed to McDonalds, to have a burger or two, (or three after I realised how cheap it is, around 30,000 IDR for a meal, which they call ‘paket’), and it was nice, since after some time I again had a chance sit in a nice and clean place with aircon.

The evening was very close, so we took a chance, and the fact, we were close to the biggest shopping mall in Jakarta (Grand Indonesia), which is one of the biggest shopping compounds in the whole Asia. It consist of two main big buildings (East and West), connected with a system of bridges. You can find there a ton of shops. Everything and I really mean it, there are some super luxurious shops and then more casual. It was nice to see, that they also have Bata (Czech brand). I was astonished with how spacious the one shopping mall can be. For example, you can see on the second picture, the building, inside of the shopping mall! You can find there 3 stories high building, inside of the giant one! Incredible, I have never seen this anywhere else. We had another refreshment there, where I picked pear juice mixed with some cinnamon. We chilled a bit there and I really enjoyed this visit, as I really like shopping malls.

After an hour or two, of exploring Grand Jakarta shopping mall, it was late for everything except going to bed, so we departed from Great Indonesia part towards our hotels. But… we forget about the trafic, that is waiting for us. This was terrible, we could hardly get into the train. I was literally squeezed inside with no chance with any other activity than breathing. Luckily, we only went one station and then changed our route. I am thinking we would do better by taking a taxi, as it turned out that Hikari lives just on the other side of the street in a nice hotel (Favehotel). But it was so kind from Mio, that she made sure, we are okay, took us to our hotels, and we had to say our goodbyes, since she was unable to go with us to explore the city the following day, mainly because her school chores.

Great Jakarta (day 3)

Our next day started meeting with Hikari early morning in the lobby of my hotel. We headed towards the station Sawah Besar, that is close to my hotel. We took a train and got to central part of the city. This part (it is actually close to Grand Indonesia shopping mall), is mainly a business district. Everywhere you look, you see very tall skyscrapers of multiple national and private companies. It looks like, if you are not in the Great Jakarta your business is probably not much known, so all multinational companies, banks have their presence there. But we were not after the architecture of business buildings, we were more attracted to see National monument that is in this area. It is relatively close from the station (Gondangdia), under 10 minutes walking there, but the good news is, that the new station (Gambir), just next to National monument is in progress and it will be finished soon. The National monument looks like a giant obelisk, you can actually enter, take a lift up and see the beautiful of the Jakarta city. The monument is tall 132 meters and symoolizes the fight for independent Indonesia. Locals know this building under the name of MONAS, so be aware, when asking about the attraction. The entrance fee to get all the way up will cost you 50,000 IDR and they open every day from 8:00am to 3:00pm. The place is usually very packed and to get up will take you around half an hour, so plan accordingly.

Our next stop was National Museum. This was again in Great Jakarta area, not far away from National monument. This museum is one of the biggest in Jakarta and it is very well maintained. The entrance fee is only 10,000 IDR and you get time unlimited entrance, so you can explore as much as you can handle. There was so much to see, starting from some very old statues until the last century findings about the Indonesia. I specially liked the collection of pots, vessels and containers, in which indonesians kept water in seasons of dry hot summers. It was very significant, that Indonesia, more than any other Asian countries is very diverse and there are many artefacts in this museum that show the influence of so many countries and cultures in many, even common tools, that people used. I also enjoyed the collection of some weapons and musical instruments of natives from distant islands and collection of all sorts of houses, that were built around the Indonesia, with stress on weather and natural conditions in the specific location. Some of houses were built on ridiculously long poles. I have no idea how could they maintain stability of such a house and also, how these houses could be protected from wild animals. Hikari had to leave soon, since her flight was on that evening, but I still had enough time to enjoy all artefacts around. I spent in this museum around 4 hours and I consider it as a well invested time.

So how would you finish your visit in the city? What would you do the last evening? Honestly I do not know, but I went clubbing, even though it was wednesday, and people normally do not club on wednesday in Jakarta. I picked a club near Kota area (Colloseum Club 1001), which I knew from last days the best, and called to the lobby of my hotel, so they prepared a proper taxi for me. I took a ride to a club, which took less than 15 minutes and costed only 30,000 IDR. The entrance fee into the club was additional 50,000 IDR (included one drink), and additional drinks were around 40,000 IDR each. I spent over 200,000 IDR, but that is still a half what I pay just for an entrance when I club in Singapore and my senses were happy. I received a couple of hot deep looks with local girls and performed some funny moves, but it was all great. They played great songs there and the club was overally just OK. They even had some gogo dancers, and some live music and DJ as well. Around 4am, I just happily took a cab home, and it was even cheaper compared to my first ride (!).

Bali awaits me (day 4)

I woke up early the next morning, actually around 9am. I was a bit tipsy still, but I was able to check out quickly, take a cab to the airport (this time for only 140,000 IDR) and check-in at the airport gate of the terminal 3.

To sum it up, this was a GREAT trip, I have learned a lot about Indonesia, had a little bit of everything and I only hope the country get cleaner and I will be more than happy to visit it again. At the end, it is all about the people and Indonesians were nice, treated me well and always with a lot of respect.

I am at the airport, waiting for my next adventure, still in Indonesia, but this time it is going to be beach and resorts and parties and repeat. I am entering the wrong plane and almost ending up…

But that is the part, my next story will continue with.

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