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Jakarta, Indonesia Guide

Despite its status as Indonesia's national capital and massive population of 28 million, Jakarta is not popular with many tourists. Many hidden delights lie within the sprawling and polluted exterior of the 'Big Durian’. Southeast Asia's biggest mosque, Indonesia's national museum, and the largest city square on Earth can all be found in Jakarta Pusat, this sprawling city's government hub. Jakarta Barat, on the other hand, includes Kota, the only surviving old town from Jakarta's Dutch colonial area, and Glodok, the city's Chinatown.

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Monas is the often-used nickname for the Jakarta national monument which towers 132m above Jakarta in the middle of Lapangan Merdeka, the world's biggest city square. Jakarta Pusat, as this part of the city is called, also contains Indonesia's presidential palace and the Istiqal Mosque, Southeast Asia's largest house of worship for Muslims. Indonesia's national art gallery and museum are also situated in this government and administrative hub of Jakarta.

Much of Jakarta's history, however, lies west of Jakarta Pusat in a small area called Kota. These Dutch colonial buildings, many of which have been converted into cafés or museums, are the only structures left of Jakarta's sole surviving Old Town. Chinese, on the other hand, is the dominant culture in nearby Glodok. Modern shopping centres and electronics shops now stand alongside the ancient temples of Jakarta's traditional Chinatown.

Visitors wishing to escape Jakarta's urban jungle need only travel 40kms south to Bogor, a satellite city where deer roam in the botanical garden near Jalan Bogor Palace. Boarding a jetty from Jakarta Utara, the city's main harbour, to the Thousand Islands province is another option. Even though mass tourism has destroyed many of this national marine park's finest diving spots, Thousand Islands visitors can still see butterflies and turtles hatch on Pramuka Island. A small zoological garden and underwater aquarium are Puteri Island's main attractions.

Restaurants and Bars

Even though Jakarta is the capital of the world's most populous Islamic nation, visitors can still drink alcohol in many of the city's nightclubs. Partying in Jakarta is actually quite a lively scene. Jakarta's hottest partying spots include Jakarta Selatan's Kemang street, Plaza Indonesia's upscale Ex Annex, and the popular backpacker spot of Jalan Jaksa. As for food, Jakarta boasts more authentic Indonesian dining options than anywhere else on Earth. Jakarta's restaurants are also cheaper than those in many other countries, so visitors will not have to spend too much money whether they feast on local street food or the massive Indonesian buffets served at many five-star hotels.

Shopping

Taman Anggrek, Indonesia's biggest shopping centre, is just one of many shopping options in Glodok, Jakarta's Chinatown. Several more upscale shopping centres are situated in Jakarta Selatan and the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle south of Jakarta Pusat. Menteng's massive Jalan Surabaya market is the best place to bargain for handmade jewellery, clothing, arts, and crafts. The Jalan Palatehan 1 and Jalan Kebon Sirih Timur areas are Jakarta's main antiques districts.