Part 1: Introduction + Jakarta
I don't travel frequently across Indonesia. There are a number of
reasons for that, such as for instance the tourist infrastructure in
Indonesia which is not that good (it can take a lot of time and money
to reach certain destinations in Indonesia) and security issues (at the
turn of the millenium Indonesia was a bit unsafe for travellers). I'm
catching up slowly, making brief trips to Indonesia every now and then.
This time I decided to visit Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and see
an long time friend there. Jakarta is not exactly a tourist
destination, in fact few travel to Jakarta to see the city. There is
actually not that much to see in Jakarta because a lot of colonial era
buildings have been demolished to make place for new developments. What
is interesting about Jakarta are all those malls and shopping
complexes, very elegant and comfortable inside. If you limit yourself
to the "good" areas of Jakarta (in the centre near the business
district), a stay in Jakarta can be quite nice. Nevertheless, it does
not make too much sense to spend more than a couple of days in Jakarta
unless you have a reason to stay longer.
The hotel in which I stayed was not cheap, but then it was also a four
star establishment with a great room. Taxis are cheap, but food
surprisingly is more expensive than in neighbouring Malaysia or
Thailand. Food is actually quite pricey, especially considering average
Indonesian wages. I was also told from my Indonesian friend that
travelling by plane in Malaysia is much cheaper than in Indonesia.
I didn't bother trying out the local specialities and ate mostly
international food in a variety of restaurants.
The place where I stayed was a nice four star establishment in
Jakarta's business district. Then I enquired about those islands
/ Exchange rate (August 2012)
1 Euro = 11700 IDR
1 Euro = 1.25 USD
ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a
Cirrus/Maestro ATM card.
phones and prepaid cards
I bought a SIM card from Tri, a 3G operator, for use in my smartphone.
Nothing spetacular, the usual combination of Internet flat rate (this
time 500MB) and airtime for voice calls. Coverage was good in Jakarta.
I used the Internet access of the hotel (WLAN) and the 3G one of the
No rain, dry weather with a lot of haze.
The usual set of vaccinations for the tropics.
Visa on arrival at the airport in Jakarta, costing USD 25, payable in a
number of currencies. Probably only available for western tourists and
tourists from developed countries (just guessing). The funny thing is
that you cannot pay this visa in local currency.
This was something which concerned me before the trip, but then nothing
weird happened during my stay.
- The National museum in Jakarta
- All those flashy malls and shopping complexes,
especially the high end ones.
- The traffic on the streets during an average day. I
made the mistake of trying to get out of Jakarta on a national holiday
when half of Indonesia was on the streets.
I was lucky to visit Jakarta during a holiday period, when there we
fewer people in Jakarta and less traffic on the streets. Otherwise, on
normal days, my friend told me that traffic in Jakarta is very, very
heavy. I used taxis (quite cheap and metered) to get around.
15.8: Kuala Lumpur -> Jakarta
Hotel HARRIS Suites fx Sudirman,
Jakarta. 68 Euro (788000 IDR, rate of booking.com) for a nice room with
everything on the 45th floor of the FX skyscraper. The room has
everything (LCD TV, A/C, fridge, electronic safe, phone, free WLAN,
furniture, carpet floor etc. But when I show the room to my wife (via a
video call) she complains that it is very simple. This is true, because
the room is not as filled with stuff as for instance the Boulevard
hotel in KL and is far less decorated. In fact, for 68 Euro in
Indonesia you could expect a bit more. But otherwise the room is ok and
perfectly adequate. Breakfast not included (costs 90000 IDR extra).
Adjacent to the hotel there is a small mall.
Weather: sunny in KL and in Jakarta.
Lots of haze in Jakarta, which makes the sky turn grey. Surprisingly
not too hot in Jakarta (or perhaps I'm acclimatised), despite the fact
that we are in the middle of the dry season.
I get up early at 6am in order to catch the 7am minibus to the airport.
Later I regret that I didn't catch the later 8am minibus, which would
have allowed me to sleep one more hour. But I received an email of
Airasia yesterday warning to be at the airport at least three hours
before the departure, because of possible delays and congestion at the
airport (Hari Raya holiday in Malaysia).
Anyway, I'm at this airport early but the flight leaves with some delay
and lands in Jakarta at 11:30am local time. I lose some time getting
the visa on arrival. This is actually not a visa. You only have to pay
the equivalent of 25 USD in one of eight possible currencies which
include the USD, the Euro, the Hong Kong dollar, the Australian dollar,
the New Zealand dollar but not the Thai baht.
Since I don't have enough of the suitable currency (why don't they take
Malaysian ringgit or other currencies?), I have to get out of
immigration, change some money in a bank, then get in again, ending up
being the last one to get the passport chopped.
Once beyond immigration the next challenge is getting some cash. The
ATMs here only dispense a max. of 2 million IDR (=172 Euro), too little
since my bank charges me a fee of 6 Euro for each international cash
withdrawal. I guess I have to change bank. So I simply change some Euro
cash at a money changer.
Then I try to buy a SIM card, but the store at the airport is out of
stock. So I simply catch a taxi to the hotel. This is of the Silver
Bird family and charges a fixed fee of 170000 IDR for the trip to the
Along the way to the hotel I see a relatively well developed country,
with good infrastructure. I was expecting a messy environment, but in
fact there is not much difference between this part of Indonesia and
The trip to the hotel takes about 45 minutes, mostly due to the traffic
jam. Once in the hotel I settle down and explore a bit the area around
the hotel. I head to a nearby mall and buy a SIM card (Tri) for my
phone. Some discussion with the people in this mall who try to sell me
more airtime than I can possibly use. In the end I pay 32000 IDR for a
SIM card with 23000 IDR of airtime.
Supposedly this SIM card offers no Internet, but once I use it I have
very well connectivity to the Internet. The only problem is that within
a couple of hours this SIM card has no balance on it anymore. Probably
it was the data services which ate up all airtime. I should have bought
the 500MB internet package for 35000 IDR, but in shop they were
insisting that I buy an additional 65000 IDR of airtime for calls which
I can't possibly use since one minute of calls is just 230 IDR and I'm
not planning to make hours of calls. When I asked for a smaller voice
airtime package they said it was not available, then however I was able
to buy 20000 IDR of airtime with supposedly no Internet package.
In the evening I call an Indonesian friend and we agree to meet