Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of thousands of islands, is known throughout the world for its biological diversity and Balinese beach getaways. As culturally diverse as it is biologically, the capital city of Jakarta is a melting pot of roughly 10 million people. Home to numerous expatriates from all corners of the earth, Jakarta has everything any cosmopolitan city has to offer – but you might just have to dig a little deeper to find it. While your first impression might leave you choking on fumes from the ubiquitous Metro Mini public buses that leave a trail of grey exhaust along the main thoroughfares, Jakarta quickly compensates with its high end shopping malls, excellent cuisine, and smiling faces. Known as the “Big Durian” after the notoriously stinky Southeast Asian thorny fruit, Jakarta certainly makes an impression on all who have counted themselves among Indonesia’s bule gila (crazy foreigners).
If you are relocating to Jakarta, the first challenge you might find yourself up against is the hunt for accommodation. While short term needs are easily met by any of the international or national hotel chains in the city, longer term accommodation can be trickier. The decision usually boils down to a villa or an apartment. For those of more modest means, there are also communal living arrangements called kost that include a private bedroom and bathroom with shared living area and kitchen. The area in which you choose to live is usually decided by your particular needs. Families often opt to live in Jakarta’s southern neighborhoods in order to have a larger house with a yard and easy access to Jakarta’s international schools. Kemang is an area of town most known for its expat population and as such has numerous boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and bars within walking distance. Singles and couples often live in Kemang or opt for the more centrally located apartments that can be found in and around the central business district. Centrally located apartments are often on the higher end of rental spectrum as they offer a host of luxury amenities such as on site gym, security, and pool.
Jakarta has much entertainment to offer both young and old throughout the year. The up and coming local and international artists have made great effort to broaden Jakarta’s cultural horizon and sponsor annual events such as the Jakarta International Film Festival and the Jazz Festival. Embassies and Consulates also bring in talent every month which include pianists, operatic performances, and chamber music. For athletic types, whether children or adults, there are numerous intramural teams who are very welcoming to newcomers, such as the football teams and Ultimate Frisbee leagues. If your idea of athleticism is lifting a Starbucks while you contemplate whether or not to buy that cute Kate Spade bag – Jakarta will not disappoint. With new shopping malls springing up every year, Jakarta is quickly becoming a shopping haven to rival the nearby retail center of Singapore. With numerous high end stores such as Bulgari, Valentino, and Gucci as well as moderately priced chains like the U.K.’s TopShop, there is something for everyone.
If you find yourself missing home while in Jakarta, you don’t have to go far to find a taste of comfort food, whatever it might be. Be sure to check out Scusa at the Intercontinental for Italian, C’s for steaks and seafood at the Grand Hyatt, and of course the place to see and be seen for Sunday brunch, Seasons Café at the Four Seasons. If hotels aren’t your thing – don’t worry – there are more than enough International restaurants tucked away in a neighborhood near you. Try the persistent favorite, Koi with mouth watering desserts or line up for freshly flown in mussels at Cassis every Tuesday. For consistently good Indian, try Kinara in Kemang. The newly renovated Blowfish is the trendiest place for sushi these days, and the attached club gets going by 11pm making a late dinner transition into drinks a step away. If you have a hankering for dim sum, you will not be disappointed in the consistently high quality of Din Tai Fung in Plaza Senayan Arcadia. And if you stay long enough – there are bound to many new restaurants popping up as the city’s economy continues to recover.