Discovering Jakarta by foot

Jakarta Indonesia discovering the city with localsParticipating in a student survey in Jakarta

📍 Jakarta, 11th of August 2018.

This very long day had an amazing start – a bit of yoga and a couple of laps in the pool to wake up before we hit the road (wish we could build this into a habit!). We decided to forego the 12 EUR (!!!) breakfast in the hotel and rather seek something more interesting in Glodok – Jakarta’s Chinatown.

Crossing the street in Indonesia

The first challenge we faced was crossing the street. There are no pedestrian crossings, no traffic lights – just an endless stream of cars and motorcycles in an undefined number of lanes. We had to learn through observation, and much quicker than we had anticipated discovered the formula = 40% focus + 40% self-confidence + 20% insanity (some say courage). Basically, you need to find a tiny window of opportunity, stretch your hand (indicating “stop”) and just go. Just like catching a good wave, don't hesitate to stop in the middle of the street if you didn't manage to cross completely; let the traffic pass and wait for another good opportunity to cross. Yes, a bit scary. You get used to it 🙂 Reminded me of a scene from Disney’s Mulan  That being said, the amazing thing is no matter how busy, the traffic in Jakarta actually moves. Just a thought… - had you implemented the traffic lights we are used to back home, the whole city would probably just stop instantly.

The market in Glodok

Our goal for the morning was to have a coffee and lunch in the famous Kopi Es Tak Kie – a café we had heard about in one of the vlogs we watched while planning the trip. Despite what google said (potentially a problem with time zone settings on the laptop, to be fair), the place was closed and would only open at 6PM. Not being discouraged by the first hiccup, we settled for walking through the tiny market lanes, amazed by the foods we had never seen before. We must have looked like kids in a candy store with our eyes wide open, full of excitement. This is the first time we tried the absolutely delicious purple mangosteen and jackfruit. Up until now during this trip and especially at that moment, it was amazing to be in the position of not knowing what you are about to experience in terms of food and drinks. It’s like discovering the world anew. Simply amazing.

If like us, you want to explore the less touristy/upscale places, google and TripAdvisor are not the best sources of information since the majority of local places are not listed. Would rather recommend seeking advice from the locals or just exploring the surroundings.

The cool thing about most of the places around markets is that you can sit in a café and as long as you buy drinks there, you can bring in food from any of the surrounding street food booths. Having found one of those places, we shared a plate of Singapore-style fried noodles with seafood – simple, cheap yet delicious! (BTW, we didn't really have a clue what we were ordering since there is no English menu and nobody really speaks English, but that's part of the fun! :))

The Dutch quarter

Strolling through the market streets with weird goods (“who buys that?”), ice cream-selling tuk-tuks, genuinely fake converse flip-flops for half a euro (we know people who bought that :D) and an endless flow of people, we made our way to Kota Tua – the historic square surrounded by the Dutch-period architecture.

There are a lot of museums to visit around this area, however we rather opted for just observing people and the neon bicycles circling around the square. Just a moment after arriving, we got approached by groups of young people asking for a minute. Despite the strong instinctive reaction to decline, we agreed and launched into a series of interviews with students doing their English homework assignment. It was very endearing – the kids had notes neatly written in their notebooks (and some on the palm of their hands), touchingly nervous, they asked about our first impressions of Indonesia. Every interview was filmed, a picture with the interviewee and the support team taken, interview protocol signed <3 #superstars

On that note, we would recommend trying to get over the mentality that anyone approaching you wants something from you that you wouldn’t be interested in giving or receiving, and stay open-minded So far we have made great experiences chatting with random people on the streets – usually you get great tips, insights or just launch into an interesting conversation. Everybody is extremely friendly and respectful, especially if you act the same way yourself.

Jakarta is not the most fascinating destination in terms of sight-seeing, thus after 20 minutes on the square we continued our discovery of the city. Although there are many public transportation options (train, bus, taxi, grab, motorcycles, tuk-tuks), we chose the slow-mo option of walking. This gave us time to learn counting one to ten in Indonesian (not without the help of by-passers, giving us tips when we appeared to have forgotten the following number).

Monas and Jalan Jaksa

Monumen Nasional or as locals call it “Monas”, is a tall tower surrounded by a park in the centre of the capital symbolizing the fight for Indonesia’s independence. Since we were in Jakarta at the time of preparation for the 18th Asian Games ("Asian Olympics"), the whole city and especially this area was cleaned up, renovated (as we were told) and beautifully decorated with Indonesian flags. Although you probably wouldn’t spend too much time here, it is till worth seeing (just make sure, unlike us, you take a mosquito repellent).

Jalan Jaksa, a suburb adjacent to Monas, is very lively and has one of the best selections of street food. At last some famous satay and sweet-chili prawns (big stand with seafood sign somewhere around here) – yum! Although the plan was to try dozens of dishes, eating small portions filled us up quicker than we had expected, unfortunately 😉 Since this part of the city looked much more interesting than the one we were staying in, we booked ourselves a room in the hotel just around the corner (Tator, as recommended by various travel guides. It was ok, but surely you can find something at least as good and cheaper elsewhere).

A couple of cold beers to finish the long day

A couple of houses down the road we found a great pub with internet, cold beer and a fun crowd. This is also where we met Alfredo – an Indonesian/Thai translator with whom we had a great chat about Indonesia, the culture, the places to visit and shared a lot of jokes. Thank you! Upon his recommendation, we stayed to wait for live music and didn’t regret it – we met interesting people, we danced, we laughed a lot and with the sense of accomplishment grabbed a grab to finally go to sleep (30 min by car for just 2 EUR). Almost 20 km walked today!

Don’t forget to drink (preferably water ;)). A lot. It feels like no matter how much water you drink, you sweat it all out. Bottled water is available on every corner in mobile stands or supermarkets (the latter is about 10-15% cheaper, but everywhere still very affordable – 0.25 EUR for a half-litre bottle of water).


  • Yay, mangosteens! My favorite. So hard to find them here in CA…I don’t think they travel well. More food descriptions and pics please! It sounds delicious!

    • They are so yum! 🙂 yes, we will definitely work on improving our food reporting 😉 got way too excited the first few days 🙂

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