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10 ways to escape Jakarta without leaving the city
Sometimes you just gotta get away. Here's how to escape Jakarta's slums, unbearable traffic and air pollution
Grime and gridlock, 9 million people, some rich, many poor. Jakarta is a sensory experience that can take some getting used to.
Here’s how a friend who grew up here described it: “Jakarta is only real when you face its slum areas, horrible sanitation system, unbearable traffic and air pollution.”
But inhabitants have learned to find respite, and now visitors can too. Here are 10 ways to escape Jakarta without leaving the city:
1. Take to the sky
Sandwiched between high-rises in Central Jakarta, the rooftop bar on the 8th floor of the Ritz Carlton (Jl. Jendral Sudirman Kav. 52-53), lifts visitors off the crowded streets for some spectacular sights of the growing metropolis, open spaces with green grass (yes, really), and a wide array of mojitos.
Kick back with a bucket of popcorn and an exhaust-free breeze during 8’s monthly movie screening.
2. Head to the sea
With its seaside loungers, sunset cocktails and fragrant frangipani trees, Segara (Jl Lodan Timur No. 7, Anchol) brings the feel of Bali to coastal Jakarta. Take a small sailboat for a cruise around the bay or a visit a nearby island for a swim.
For a more historical experience head to Sunda Kelapa Port, where you can hire one of the charming old rowboats (and equally old rowers) for a journey between the traditional schooners that have plied this harbor for centuries.
3. Go back in time
If time travel is more up your alley, Kopitiam Oye (Jl. H Agoes Salim 18) aims to transport patrons back to early 20th-century Malacca.
Marble-topped tables and hand-painted advertisements with old-style Javanese writing, evoke nostalgia for a time when Chinese coffee traders shouted out “ka fe tien” when they arrived at port.
4. Pretend to be a Dutch explorer
Residents are also re-embracing Jakarta’s colonial past in the old part of the city once known as Batavia, now known as Jakarta Old Town.
Rent a bicycle, don an explorer’s hat and pedal around the cobbled streets, admiring the Dutch-era architecture.
Grab a tea at Café Batavia (Taman Fatahillah) and snap a few wistful-looking photos. For a good view of the neighborhood check out the second floor of the Bank Mandiri Museum.
5. Find some song and dance
Tucked into a green nook amid south Jakarta’s narrow, winding streets, Salihara (16 Pasar Minggu) is a creative community space offering concerts, cultural performances and lectures on art and philosophy.
The center puts a modern twist on traditional Indonesian art, and workshops foster creativity among Jakarta’s youth, who spend time chatting in Salihara’s open-air café.
“There’s always a need for space that creates an intellectual interaction, and Salihara is a good place for young, free thinkers," says architect Zenin Adrian and frequent patron.
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6. Experience Chinese culture
“Chinatown is a universe in itself,” says Putri Minangsari, a cultural know-it all and contributor to socialite tabloid High End magazine.
When she wants to get away, Putri heads to Kelenteng Petak Sembilan (Jin De Yuan Temple), to revel in the smoke of burning joss sticks and stroll among the array of vendors selling everything from fresh sunflowers to catfish.
7. Travel to distant lands
Mall culture is a phenomenon among Jakartans, who descend on sprawling, air-conditioned complexes with their families every weekend.
In an effort to create a little more variety, developers are creating thematic sections, like the 3rd floor of Grand Indonesia, where you can stroll through New York, Japan, Holland, and the Middle East.
Says Loewy co-creator Andrew Santoso, “When you create a place, you want it to be as far from home as can be –- exciting but comfy.”
8. Find a bit of green
Quality parks are hard to come by in Jakarta, but Ragunan Zoo (Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta) offers wide walkways, multitudes of trees and a surprisingly well-kept orangutan sanctuary.
It’s a favorite place for jogging groups in the early mornings.
9. Go where everybody knows your name
A neighborhood known to elites, expats and up-and-coming artists, Kemang is right in the middle of the action, says film director Monty Tiwa. “They have drinks, they have pirated DVDs, they have good-looking people, they have everything.”
He likes Food Festival, an outdoor hawker stand he compares to Cheers, since people there “know your name.”
Another outlet with a regular crowd, Koi (Jl. Kemang Raya No. 72), is a favorite for all-day brunches.
10. Scrub away the city streets
Have your skin rubbed, slapped and kneaded by a petite spa attendant whose strength will surely betray her small stature.
At Beauty (Jl. Senopati No. 35), a South Korean lulur treatment is just the ticket to remove the sheath of pollution from a day out in Jakarta.
Sorry boys, Beauty is for women only.