After spending nearly half the day at TMII, we decided to make our way back to Jakarta but not before making a stop at another of Jakarta’s attraction – the Taman Impian Jaya Ancol (Ancol). This huge sprawling collection of theme parks, water park, ocenarium, art markets, beaches, piers, golf courses and resorts is said to the be largest integrated tourism attraction in South East Asia. Visitors would need to spend the whole day here to properly do the place justice. Since we did not have the time to really do the full park, we decided instead to just focus on the Pasar Seni (Art Market) to look for some souvenirs to bring back from Jakarta.
Since it was already late in the afternoon, the first thing that we did after reaching the part area and pay the park entry was to find a place to have lunch. We had initially asked the taxi driver for his recommendation of where to eat in town. From my limited traveling experience, taxi drivers have always been the best sources of info when it comes to cheap, clean, safe and filling places to eat. We were also not too sure what constitutes authentic Jakarta (Betawi) cuisine so we didn’t really know what food to ask the taxi driver about. In the end, we decided to see what was available around Pantai Ria in Ancol and finally stop to eat at a place by the beach overlooking an off shore fishing platform.
(Fishing platform near where we had lunch at Ancol and the can of Pocari Sweat next to my trusted guidebook)A note about the food from our initial impression.
It seems that Nasi Padang restaurants were all over the place and available almost at all hours imaginable. While it is still an Indonesian style of food, it is not native to Java since it originally hails from further up in Sumatera. This made trying to figure out which types of food were native to the area much more difficult. I guess I could actually find some food/dish that was uniquely Jakarta if I did more research but I have a feeling that due to the influx of people migrating into Jakarta, the city may not have a unique food identity but rather one that appeals to all in the area. This led me to a line of thought on how true this idea might be to the other cities in the world. I know that I would not be able to point out what would be a food/dish that is uniquely Kuala Lumpur – the closest that I can think of is the food one could get in a 24 hrs mamak place.
Lunch for me was a simple but welcomingly filling bowl of bakso – meatball and noodle soup with sweet soy and fiery chilly sauces added to the soup according to taste. I have actually never had bakso before this trip so where better to taste my first example of the dish than in Jakarta itself. I have to say that I fell in love with the dish after that first lunch by the seaside even when I overdid it with the chili sauce. Good thing that we had locally made isotonic drinks that helped with the heat. Having a brand name that was called “Pocari Sweat” does immediately conjured images that you don’t want to be linked to something that you drink but trust me they are really hit the spot when it comes to the type of heat that we encountered in Jakarta.
BTW, when you charter a driver for the day, it is customary to include the driver in your meal plans so make sure that you are also sensitive to what the driver can eat. We didn’t really have much of a problem with that since we asked the driver to bring us there in the first place. Courtesy dictates that you allow the driver to make his/her own choice when it comes to food but if they tell you “terserah” (translated to “up to you”), which some would especially when it come to the lower income people like becak drivers, it would be up to you to order for them. Best bet in that case would be to order the same thing that you are ordering.
After we finished our lunch and rested by the beach for a bit, we proceeded to the Pasar Seni area. Set up as a group of connected huts, this artiste colony was sectioned into areas where they sold painted artworks, wooden sculptures, metal and bronze work as well as fabric/prints. Each artist had his or her own hut which I assume to be rented out to them where they displayed their works for sale as well as a place for them to create their next piece. There were no doors into each hut so visitors can get really up close to appreciate the available works and browse through them. Some of the huts seem to be left unattended which kind of begs the question on how the paintings don’t get stolen but I’m guessing there might be some honor system in play in the area to prevent that.
(Scenes around the artists' huts and some of the art that the had there)
(I was sorely tempted to get one of these paintings. They are of the style I've seen in old magazines and looked really cool)
(Artisans at work)
(The last sculptor in the previous set was working on making these statues. Anatomically correct fiberglass babies ... very creepy!)
After spending the whole afternoon absorbing the artistic vibe in the area and not finding the (very) particular item (fridge magnets) to bring back as a souvenir, we decide to head back to the hotel to rest after the long day. The total that we had to pay for taxi which was on meter the whole day came to 400,000 Rph which while looks a lot in Indonesia Rupiah is still cheap by KL standards considering the distance and the time that we spent that day. We were all tried by that time so we decided to take an afternoon nap before waking up to get ready to go out again for dinner. Following the guide book, we decided to hit another mall food court, this time the Block M Mall near the bus station. Block M Mall was definitely a step up from the Mangga 2 Mall that we were in the night before so we ended up having a bakso dinner (93,000 Rph) in one of the popular food chains selling bakso.
Since nothing seems to be opened in the mall at 9pm when we finished our dinner, we decided to get a taxi to the more upmarket Senayan Plaza Mall to end the night with some Starbucks. Grabbed half a dozen of donuts (27,000 Rph) from the local “Ringmaster” donut chain which turned out to be not as nice as the donut from JCo. When we reached Senayan Plaza, we discovered that they were also closing down for the night .. at 9:30pm .. even Starbucks! Coming from KL where late nights were the norm, this was actually surprising to us even after taking into account that Jakarta was 1 hour behind KL. It seems that most of the places opened after 9:30pm would be either the bars or the cinemas which neither was that appealing to us. Had we remembered where the Café Oh La La that we were at the night before was, we would definitely make our way there for another round of people watching. Since none of us did, it meant us going back to the hotel to turn in early on our last night in Jakarta.
Overall, Jakarta was not as intimidating as I had been worried about. The city was vast and we only went to a small section of it in the two days that we were there. The traffic jams were just as described in the guidebooks but with a little patience and proper planning, one can get through it relatively easy. Given Java’s reputation of being densely populated and Jakarta being the capital, I was actually surprised to see that it was not as crowded as like being in Hong Kong or Singapore. There were still a lot of places that it seems that we had it all to ourselves and sometimes you need to feel that to fully appreciate the moment.