11 Reasons You Should Visit Jakarta Over Bali

Ancol Beach, Indonesia
Ancol Beach, Indonesia | © Everyone Sinks Starco/Flickr
Edira Putri

Perhaps a megapolitan city with sprawling skyscrapers and busy streets isn’t what comes to mind when you think about Indonesia. If you’re interested in a different side of Indonesia other than Bali’s nature and beaches, the capital Jakarta might be perfect for you. Here’s 11 reasons you should visit Jakarta over Bali.

The Diversity

Metropolitan as it is, Jakarta attracts people from across the archipelago to live and make a living there. That makes the city a melting pot of diverse cultures and ethnicity, although most locals in Bali are Balinese and Javanese. Bali’s local culture is fascinating to observe, but Jakarta’s diversity creates a unique dynamic that offers you plenty of different things to try and see, from people, food, customs, even houses of worship to visit.

The Food

When people from different localities migrated to Jakarta, they brought with them authentic recipes. From fancy restaurants to street food vendors, tourists can enjoy an extensive range of food to choose from. Coming from different parts of Indonesia there are many unique takes on popular foods like satay, soto, even the prized nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice).

A complete Indonesian meal

The Shopping Scene

Bali has its share of fabulous art market, boutiques and traditional marketplace, but Jakarta still dominates in terms of mega shopping malls and the modern shopping scene. There are over a hundred malls packed closely together in this urban jungle, making it one of Southeast Asia’s shopper’s paradise. Shoppers can find both local and international brands, authentic handcrafted goods and luxury items. Even better, once a year, the city hosts a huge discount event, the Jakarta Great Sale, where prices are slashed up to 70%.

The Public Transportation

Jakarta has one of the most reliable public transportation services in Indonesia, while in Bali, tourists have to rent their own bike or car to get around. The city’s Transjakarta covers virtually every area in the city, and it costs about $0.3 per ride. Jakarta is also building an MRT line that will be completed in 2018.

Transjakarta stop│

The Cityscape

While Bali’s natural charms — beaches, waterfalls, mountains and more — are absolutely mesmerizing, Jakarta offers different but equally stunning scenery. The concrete jungle presents an energetic landscape that turns into a breath-taking skyline at night. And that means endless choices of rooftop bars and romantic dinners overlooking the city lights.

Jakarta at night│

The Contemporary Art and Culture

Bali can pride itself in being a home selected by many international artists to live and create. We’re talking Antonio Blanco, Le Meyeur, and more. But Jakarta’s art and culture scene are also gleaming with mind-boggling contemporary artworks by youthful artists, both local and international. The city has numerous art spaces to visit, where tourists can admire different works of art — paintings, sculptures, installations, and more.

The Historical Beat

As the capital city and center of civilization, Jakarta has been through a lot of seasons and episodes. The Jakarta Old Town is one of the must-visit attractions that still has old colonial buildings repurposed as museums and cafés, including the old historical harbor that once serves as the city’s major port.

Colonial buildings at Jakarta Old Town│

The Museums

If you’re interested in learning about Indonesia’s history and culture, Jakarta is the place to go. The museums in Jakarta holds stories and artifacts from different parts of era and localities. In this city, tourists can visit all kinds of museums, from the National Museum, Textile Museum, Bank Indonesia Museum to many more. Often, the collections from Jakarta’s museums represent cultures from across the nation, including, of course, Bali.

The Islands

Bali is certainly not the only stunning island in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, and Jakarta’s area covers some of the most beautiful small islands in its own string of Thousand Islands. Among the hundreds of islands, about a dozen of them are open to tourists, presenting a tropical coastal beauty with plenty of activities to enjoy. The nearest island from Jakarta takes only a half-an-hour boat ride to visit and some of them are located close to one another so you can cover two or three islands in one row (that’s actually the Indonesian version of killing two birds with one stone).

Pulau Bidadari

The Nightlife

As the sun goes down, parts of the city transform into a large party ground that accommodates the city’s upper class and executive crowd, along with its many expats. Jakarta’s nightlife is notorious and still one of the liveliest in Asia. While the bars and clubs are also lively in Bali’s hip neighborhoods, in Jakarta you can actually party with locals.

The Day Trips

Not that you’ll ever run out of things to do in the city itself, but Jakarta’s strategic location as a heart of development and civilization puts it near other charming cities and attractions worth visiting. Bogor, for example, was the Colonials’ favorite getaway, a small lush city just an hour away. There’s also Bandung, with its perfect balance as both a modern city with hotels, boutiques, and cafés while accentuating its natural charms —mountains, magical crater, jungles, and more.

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