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Indonesia's Capital, Jakarta, lies on the northwest coast of Java, the most populous island in the world.
This sprawling metropolis is the republic's political and economic engine room, and home to over 10 million people.
The sheer size and frenetic pace of Jakarta can sometimes make it feel like a city unraveling at the seams.
But it's those ten million residents who hold it all together.
Long after the traffic jams are forgotten, it's the warmth, pride and smiles of the people, which are remembered.
Despite its rather gritty reputation, this is a city that often charms its way into the hearts of travellers.
To get to the heart of Jakarta, and indeed the entire nation, head to Merdeka Square.
Once a humble buffalo field, this one-kilometer-square park tells the story of a nation.
From its earliest kingdoms, to its throwing off the yoke of Dutch colonial rule.
From the square's center rises the towering National Monument, Monas, whose Flame of Independence shines its reassuring and unifying light across the entire archipelago.
All around the square are some of the capital's most elegant and important buildings, such as the National Gallery.
On the square's western side is the National Museum of Indonesia,whose majestic courtyard and stately rooms display national treasures from across the ages.
To the northeast, rises the gleaming minaret of Istiqlal Mosque, the nation's main house of worship and the largest mosque in South East Asia.
During Ramadan, over 100,000 worshipers gather at a time in this modernist masterpiece.
Lovingly constructed from Javanese marble and stainless steel.
Religious tolerance is one of the central guiding principles of the Indonesian Republic.
As a symbolic gesture of harmony, the mosque was built directly opposite the magnificent twin spires of Jakarta Cathedral.
But it's not just around Merdeka Square that you'll discover the spirit and riches of this city.
In the heart of Jakarta's old town, lies Fatahillah Square, home to Jakarta's best heritage architecture and some of its finest museums.
Housed in the old city hall, the Jakarta Historical Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the city's colonial past.
For over 300 years, the city was called Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies.
Known as The Jewel of Asia, this was the epicenter of the Dutch trading empire.
Also facing the square, the Wayang Museum celebrates the incredible puppets of Java and beyond.
While the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics showcases the paintings of Indonesian masters, as well as ceramics from all over Asia.
After you've explored the museums around Fatahilla Square, pull up a chair at Café Batavia.
Once the offices of the Dutch East India Company, for the last three decades this 200-year-old building has been serving up the coolest old-world charm in Jakarta.
Times haven't changed much in Sunda Kelapa either, which is just a short walk north of the old town.
Take a boat ride around this ancient port, and see traditional Makassar Schooners unloading and resupplying for inter-island voyages, just as they have for over eight centuries.
When it's time to take a break from the non-stop bustle of Jakarta, embark on a nautical adventure of your own from nearby Ancol, and explore the Pulau Seribu National Park.
Just a 30-minute ride from Jakarta, lies Pulau Bidadari, a tiny resort island famed for its tranquility.
On nearby Pulau Onrust, once the site of Dutch ship yards, the fortifications still stand.
Despite the British bombardments and tidal waves which rocked the island in the 1800s.
Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands and 34 provinces.
To sample them all in a single day, head to Taman Mini, a theme park that brings the entire archipelago to Jakarta.
From the temples of Bali, to the bull races of Madura, the ethnic, cultural and architectural diversity of this island republic is waiting to be discovered.
Jakarta is a gateway to Indonesia through which many rush.
But it's a gateway that offers much to those who linger.
From modern malls to roadside stalls.
From markets where you can snack for a few rupiah to restaurants where you can dine like a sultan.
From manic streets to places of absolute calm.
This is a city that rewards the adventurous, and those who appreciate the value of a smile.
Visiting Jakarta can be challenging at times, but this is a city where light dances from the most unexpected places, and moments.
As the Javanese say; Urip Iku Urup, to be alive is to be a flame.
So come, and share the light, and smiles, of Jakarta.
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Jakarta Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia (4K)

2167 Folder Collection
Eric Wang published on June 23, 2017
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