Jakarta is full of wonders, from history and architecture to food and music


One of the historical buildings at Kota Tua in Jakarta. — Photos: STEPHANIE LEE/The Star

Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, is a hub of activity for visitors who love history, art, architecture and food.

The city is slightly smaller than Malaysia’s tiniest state of Perlis, and is usually known for its epic traffic congestion. But beyond that and the city’s tall, modern buildings, however, there are lots of cultural activities and other interesting attractions that are worth checking out.

One of these attractions is the National Monument, an obelisk that’s located right in the middle of the Merdeka Square. Here, you can find the first Indonesian flag that was flown during the country’s independence day on Aug 17, 1945.

The National Monument at Jakarta’s Merdeka Square is where you will find the first Indonesian flag that was hoisted on its Independence Day.The National Monument at Jakarta’s Merdeka Square is where you will find the first Indonesian flag that was hoisted on its Independence Day.

If you want to learn more about Indonesia’s history and background, head to the National Gallery, which is both an exhibition space for artworks, as well as a museum.

The Grand Istiqlal Mosque and Jakarta Cathedral are also worth visiting, especially since there is currently an underground bridge being built that links the two buildings. This is a good sign that religious tolerance exists in multi-racial and multi-cultural Indonesia.

When we were there, the Jazz Festival 2024 was being held at the JIExpo Kemayoran, where numerous performers gave their best across 10 stages. Thousands of visitors came from all over the world to attend the jazz festival, including Malaysians.

The Jakarta Cathedral is a beautiful building with Gothic-style architecture. — Photos: STEPHANIE LEE/The StarThe Jakarta Cathedral is a beautiful building with Gothic-style architecture. — Photos: STEPHANIE LEE/The Star

Our local guide took us on a historical tour of Jakarta at Kota Tua, or Old Batavia, the next day. Batavia is the former name of Jakarta, during Indonesia’s colonial days. It is not surprising then to find plenty of Dutch colonial buildings in the area, many of which were built in the 17th century.

Because of the buildings, this part of the city looks and even feels considerably different from the rest of Jakarta.

Within Kota Tua, you will find Fatahillah Square, pretty much the “meeting point” for first-time visitors.

Here, we listened intently as the guide talked about how the buildings were once utilised as offices for the governors, and even showed us which space was a former beheading or hanging ground.

These buildings are now used as museums and art galleries, while a few have also been transformed into cafes and restaurants. There’s an old post office at this square too that still operates today.

One of the best ways to try authentic Indonesian food is to buy from street vendors like this one, a 'satay stall'.One of the best ways to try authentic Indonesian food is to buy from street vendors like this one, a 'satay stall'.

If you’re hungry, head to the Jakarta Chinatown food court where there are lots of dishes to choose from.

Tamrind City, also known as a “batik mall”, is an old mall in Jakarta where you can find an abundance of batik fabrics, clothing and other products on sale.

Another shopping complex you can check out is Sarinah, the first skyscraper to be built in Jakarta. You may want to get your souvenirs and other local products from the shops here.

Our drive to the artificial beach called Land’s End at Pantai Indah Kapuk 2 one afternoon was beautiful, especially for those who love architecture because the development projects here are unique. Every area follows a different style or theme, with one looking like “mini Venice”, while another featuring a whole section that’s dedicated to selling just bicycles and other two-wheeled vehicles.

At Ganara Art Pottery House, we tried our hand at pottery-making and painting. We had a tough time moulding the clay for our pots.

We also went to the Museum Macan (Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara), where we saw some sci-fi exhibits that was kind of creepy but fun at the same time.

Jakarta is not just a modern metropolis but a city rich with culture, historical sites and charming cafes as well as quaint places of interest that are worth visiting.


AirAsia now flies direct from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to Jakarta, Indonesia three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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