Jakarta public transport leaves a lot to be desired – it is terrible. Visitors to Jakarta are far better off to use one of the excellent taxi services.
The TransJakarta Busway is the mainstay of Jakarta’s mass transit system. The problems with TransJakarta begin at the stations. The flat top, steel and glass enclosures have no ventilation at all. By the time the bus arrives, you’ll be drenched in sweat. It’s hard to imagine how one could design a bus station to be any more uncomfortable than these are.
When the bus finally stops, it will be packed to the gills. A few people may get off, and a few may get on.
If you’re lucky enough to push your way onto the bus, you won’t need to hang on, because it’s like a sardine can. The buses are air conditioned, but it doesn’t help much when the bus is so far over capacity. And, pickpockets abound – be very careful with your belongings.
The best time to use the Busway is between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00p.m., and on Sundays. There is a downloadable map on their website. The fare is Rp.3,500, and there are no transfer fees.
Small local buses supplement the TransJakarta Busway; they run on set routes. Most of them are not air conditioned – they too are crowded, and often smell of diesel fuel. Fare is Rp.2,000
These small blue, and sometimes red minivans are called Microlets. They run on set routes in a fairly small area. The fare is Rp.1,500.
These noisy, smoking monsters are the most uncomfortable of all Jakarta’s public transport options. There is no set route and no set fare. Locals don’t seem to have a problem with fares, but foreigners have to bargain hard.
Taxi’s are more expensive, but the best option for visitors. Check out my post on Jakarta Taxi Safety for the ins and outs of taking a taxi in Jakarta.
Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta is a welcome relief from the chaos of Jakarta. Strolling among the 50,000 trees in the 147 hectare (363 acre) park caused me to forget I was in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities on Earth.
The zoo is home to over 3,000 animals. While Ragunan Zoo is not the best zoo in the world, it is certainly worth a visit. Much of it is not too unique – it has a lot of animals like zebras, elephants, giraffes, and deer that can be seen at pretty much any zoo.
The unfortunate thing about it is the very few people who go to tease and harass the animals. I have seen people giving ice cream to elephants, cigarette butts to orangutans, and throwing trash at Komodo dragons. There doesn’t seem to be any security on hand to prevent it – such a shame! They could really do with a strong educational campaign, and a bit stronger parental supervision.
The things that make Ragunan special are the Komodo Dragons, Sumatran Tigers, Orangutans, and the Schmutzer Primate Center – a zoo within a zoo.
The Schmutzer Primate center is a privately funded facility that is far superior to Ragunan Zoo itself. Built from a grant from a private party, the Schmutzer Primate Center is intended to be a research, education, and recreational facility. It has a theater, library, exhibits, as well as a vast tropical rain forest that provides an artificial environment for the gorillas, chimpanzees, gibbons, grizzled leaf monkeys, orangutans, and other primates that live there.
The Gibbon is one of the most endangered animals in Indonesia and there is a dire need for funding to feed those in rescue centers like this one, and the Cikananga Rescue Center in Malang, Java. The International Primate Protection League (IPPL) has a program to helps abandoned silvery gibbons in Indonesia.
If at all possible, go to Ragunan Zoo during the week. Weekends are very crowded with Indonesian families having a well deserved day out with the kids.
Ragunan is a great day out with friends and family. You can relax and stroll quietly through the gardens, or if you have children, there are a lot of things they’ll like. There’s a circus, boat rides, children’s zoo, and playground. Don’t worry about taking anything to eat or drink – there is an abundance of traditional foods and refreshments available. You might want an umbrella though – depending on the time of year, a afternoon downpour might be possible.
Jakarta is chocked full of places to shop. Besides the glut of modern malls, there are enough specialty markets in Jakarta to keep a dedicated market Rambo engaged for months.
If you’re really wanting to explore Jakarta’s markets in detail, Gagus Ulung recently published, Pasarnye Jakarte, 100 Tempat Belanja Barang Khas & Grosir Di Jabodetabek. In English – The Markets of Jakarta – 100 Special Places to buy Goods & Groceries in Greater Jakarta. It’s in Bahasa Indonesian, but there is plenty of pictures, so it’s easy to understand what each market is all about; addresses are also included. Most of the bookstores around town have it.
I have my favorites too, but there are not nearly 100 of them.
First on my list is Surabaya Street – a combination antique and flea market. On Surabaya street you can buy a old cannon, a steering wheel from a 18th century schooner, heirloom body armor, traditional handicrafts (carvings, puppets, musical instruments, art) jewelry, or a suitcase – pretty much anything.
One word of caution though – if you’re really looking for antiques, they are there, but there are also plenty of replicas.
One of the friendlier shopkeepers, Alfin (photo above) is a really nice guy, and his English is good. Look him up while you’re there – he may be able to help you find what you’re looking for. I cannot vouch for his business practices though, as I have not bought anything from him.
Surabaya street is in Central Jakarta in an area known as Menteng. It’s open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. everyday. Every taxi driver should know where it is.
Other Noted Markets
Pasar Baru is one of the oldest markets in Jakarta. It has shoes, textiles, clothes, household goods, sporting goods, and a number of other things at very good prices. Located in Central Jakarta.
Sarinah Department Store was the first department store in Jakarta. In addition to the variety of modern goods, it has two floors of traditional items from all over Indonesia. Located in Central Jakarta.
Pasar Tanah Abang features all things imported from Arab countries. It’s located in Central Jakarta near Plaza Indonesia Mall. Its huge, lime green building is hard to miss.
The artists of Pasar Baru Lukisan Potret will sell you original artwork, or accept a commission, and paint something just for you. It is in Central Jakarta on Jl. Gedung Kesenian. Another place to find all kinds of artists is at Pasar Seni Ancol in North Jakarta in the Ancol Recreation Complex, where you’ll also find a traditional Shadow Puppet Workshop.
Coin collectors congregate at Pasar Baru Uang Kuno, on Jl. KH Samanhudi, in Central Jakarta.
Pasaraya Grande is a huge, modern department store where you can find all kinds of things. Of special interest to travelers is the two floors of traditional handicrafts. It’s located in South Jakarta in an area known as Blok-M.
Pasar Rawabening Batu Akik is one of the regions largest precious stone markets. It’s located in East Jakarta on Jl. Bekasi Barat, Jatinegara.
Jakarta is a city of specialty markets where entire streets are dedicated to one product. I probably could not find them again, but as I was sitting in a taxi, I have spotted streets of wheel chair shops, BB gun shops, dolls, car upholstery, and just about everything else you can imagine.
For the urban shopper, Jakarta is certainly a mecca of opportunity. The American Womens Association has published 30 years of Jakarta shopping wisdom in The Jakarta Shopper’s Guide, available at Kinokunia bookstore in Plaza Indonesia, or at their center. Call 021 718-1877 for directions.
Saturday night was an interesting evening at Taman Mini, or Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park, in Jakarta. The South Sumatra pavilion hosted a special performance of Puyang Gadis Theater – a theater performance about a legend in South Sumatra in which a girl whom has the favor of a powerful Sultan, chooses to marry her brother instead; ultimately losing her life.
Taman Mini has 26 pavilions that culturally represent much of the diversity of Indonesia. They hold regular performances of traditional theater, music, and dance from all around Indonesia – highly recommended!
The evening began with delicious dinner of traditional South Sumatran food like Beef Randang – a very unique and delicious curried beef, and Sumatra Chicken Curry. Yep, Sumatran food is very spicy. If you like curry, chili, ginger, coriander, and lots of garlic, you’ll be right at home in Sumatra.
Following a few opening songs from some very talented singers…
The story begins…
Once upon a time in the small South Sumatran village of Kupang Lama, there lived a beautiful girl named Siti Lam Jenah. Siti was from a very poor family, so she had to live with her oldest brother Bujang Juaro, who was very famous.
One day Siti, and the other girls from the village went to the river to bathe and to wash clothes. The traditional bathing bowls are called Takuk Labu. Siti was not very attentive, and she allowed her Takuk Labu to float out into the river where it was picked up by a passing merchant ship.
It was a very fine Takuk Labu, so when the merchant ship reached port, the sailors turned it over to the boat’s owner, the Sultan of Palembang. The Sultan asked his Shaman to examine the Takuk Labu, and the Shaman said the bowl had been owned by the most beautiful girl in all of Sumatra.
Intrigued, the Sultan decided to visit Kupang Lama to find the girl and marry her. The villagers were quite surprised the day the Sultan arrived in his fine boat. The Shaman demanded to know where the owner of the Takuk Labu was, but they would not tell him. The Sultan said he would return in three days, and the girl must be handed over him then.
Fearful that the Sultan would not marry her, but make her a concubine, she decided to marry her brother, Bujang Juaro, who loved her very much. But there was the problem of the Sultan coming back. They hatched a plan – they would bury Siti alive so the Sultan could not find her.
When he arrived three days later, the Sultan was furious the villagers would not tell him where Siti was. He ordered his men to search the village, but to no avail. Ultimately he challenged Bujang Juaro to a fight to secure the whereabouts of Siti. Unfortunately for the Sultan, Bujang Juaro defeated him.
But, tragically for Bujang Juaro, after he defeated the Sultan, he remembered he had forgotten to give Siti a flute to breath through. Frantically, he dug where they had buried her, but could just find clothes, and jewelry.
The entire village was grief stricken. Then they heard Siti’s voice, “In the future there will be other beautiful women from Kupang Lama, but their years will never be long in order to prevent this from happening again.”
To this day, the villagers of Kupang Lama believe that beautiful young girls will die young, before they have a chance to marry.
Taman Mini is located in East Jakarta. It’s easiest to get there by taxi. It will cost roughly Rp. 70,000 in a Blue Bird taxi or about Rp. 50,000 in an Express taxi, if you’re going from Central Jakarta. The driver will ask if you want to use the toll road, which will cost an additional Rp. 8,500 in tolls but it’s well worth the time savings.
Operating hours – The park is open every day from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Admission fees – At the main gate (built in the traditional style of a Javanese split gate), visitors are charged Rp. 9,000.
Enjoy Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park – Taman Mini!