You work in Jakarta, and not by choice: that’s where you are assigned. Then you have a couple of guests coming to visit you – from France perhaps, or Japan, or Canada. Now immediately the problem of what to do with them raises its ominous head. What is there for visitors to see and do in Jakarta?
Answer: not much. It’s a business city, the seat of Government. The old buildings in Kota along Jalan Lada (‘Pepper Street’) might be interesting for a Dutch student of history but getting there through Jakarta traffic will kill the spirit.
So where to take them? Answer: only two places are truly worth the effort for visitors.
First is Sunda Kelapa. The sight of scores of classically-designed wooden ships awaiting departure for the Celebes is a photographer’s delight, and rich in history. Anyone who appreciates the romance of the seas and boating sport will be thrilled with the sights. If you are lucky you might even strike up a conversation with a sailor headed out over the Java Sea.This is where the Hindu kingdoms traded with Dutch marine adventurers some five hundred years ago.
The other – and even Indonesians do not really appreciate it – is Ragunan Zoo, the finest animal park in Asia. (That’s not saying much as the zoos in Bangkok, Tokyo and Manila are pretty horrible, and Singapore is just too pretty and expensive).
Now why should I go to the trouble of extolling the beauties of Ragunan when Wikipedia does it so much better: ‘Ragunan Zoo is a 140-hectare (350-acre) zoo located in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta, Indonesia. It is home to over 270 species of animals, 171 species of flora, and employs over 450 people. Many of the animals are endangered and threatened from all parts of Indonesia and the rest of the world. There are a total of 3,122 animal specimens including birds. Laid out in a lush tropical setting, such indigenous animals as the Komodo dragon, orangutan, tapir, anoa, sumatran tiger, banteng wild ox and various brightly colored birds are given ample room. The zoo is located in South Jakarta and is easily accessible through the Jakarta Outer Ring Road and TransJakarta Corridor 6 bus (grey color).’
It’s great to walk through as a forest of tall trees shelters you from the beaming sun. Lots of small warung have nice snacks or full meals and are friendly and chatty as well. Jakartans take Ragunan for granted, and think it’s low class; visitors from abroad are delighted with it.
ADVISORY: Just do not attempt a visit on a Sunday or national / religious holiday. Ragunan is one of the few cheap places for Indonesians to take their families and it is jam-packed with a tsunami of thousands of locals. Go on a weekday and it’s pleasant and quiet.