Friday, December 20, 2013

Jakarta, Fun Filled Kiddie Paradise and Traffic Choked Culinary Adventure: Jakarta, Indonesia Series 15

 Jakarta, Indonesia
 Fun Filled Kiddie Paradise and
 Traffic Choked Culinary Destination 
(Jakarta, Indonesia Series 15)

I would break my blog’s general rule of
Stay, Stray, Play and Feast sequence in
reviewing our eight day stay in Jakarta
by starting the other way around, Feast.

It was our unforgettable dining adventure
that really made our trip very memorable as
 their exquisite dishes exposed and introduced   
us to  the cultural diversity of Indonesia,


 …by the way of its equally diverse
and varied  regional culinary delights.

So it would be
Feast, Stay, Stray & Play
for a while.

Feast, Feast, Feast
Food, Glorious Indonesian food.

Feasting for Indonesian food is something that
I have not planned when we visited Jakarta.

Unlike, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese dishes,
Indonesian cuisine is still a rarity an almost unheard
of in the international culinary map,

...but sumptuous feasting  is one of the best and one of
the most unforgettable experiences we had in the city.

We feasted on food every where, starting from
the hotels we stayed like Hotel Mecure in Ancol
 which I would rate as triple AAA food both on
what they offer at room service.

…to their massive spread of breakfast buffet
at Sunda Kalepa Restaurant that we look up
 to every morning  to energize us on or
exploration on Ancol’s various theme parks.

It is also this restaurant that introduced us to
the delicious Indonesian food on their extensive
dinner buffet of various Indonesian specialties.


When we moved Manhattan Hotel in Central Jakarta,
we also savored their delicious dishes in their all day
 a’la carte dining at the Central Park Restaurant.

Manhattan Hotel’s Central Park Restaurant also
offers and decent spread of breakfast buffet.


Our best dining experiences were at the restaurants
found outside the hotels, specially in the Glodong area
or the city’s extremely popular Chinatown district.

He had a binge eating spree at the Ikan Bakar Cianjur
that served a sumptous array of Indonesian dishes.


The food was so delicious and it was understandable
 why every nook and cranny of this wonderful restaurant
 was filled to the brim with diners from all over the
world wanting to try what they have to offer.

Caping Gunung Restaurant served as a refuge from
 the rain while we were visiting Taman Mini Indonesia,

…where we dined on sumptuous lunch
 of delicious Indonesian dishes, 

…and made our visit to the rain soaked
popular park worthwhile.

We also enjoyed the Chinese/Indonesian
 specialties on Restaurant Haka,


…that served an all time favorite Chinese dishes
which my family craves all the time even back home.

Despite being a conservative city, we also got
to dine in our all time American favorite
fast food chains like Wendy’s Hamburger,


..and A&W.


We started our Jakarta adventure in a really old
but still very comfortable Mercure Hotel in Ancol 

...where we stayed in a very large 2 bedroom suite
that is ripe for renovation but surprisingly we felt
right at home due to its homey ambiance.

We got the room for a real bargain of Php 9,000/night
 from and the hotel is located right at the
middle of a kiddie paradise that is Ancol Dreamland.


This hotel had a beautiful and topnotch
water park- like swimming pool complex'

… a spacious outdoor playground,

…an indoor play area,

… and entertainment center
that kids enjoyed very much.

We moved to Manhattan Hotel in
Central Jakarta after four days and
it was our home for the next five days.

It is a very modern hotel and the
Mars and Venus Suite that we stayed
was very spacious and comfortable,

…with large panoramic windows that
offered a magnificent view of the city.

It had a huge fabulous bathroom and the view
by the bathtub was even more spectacular.

…but the strong aromatic smell of the
air freshener that was irritatingly potent,

… made an impression like we were a herbal
apothecary office rather than in a five star hotel.

Ritz Carlton Hotel is old but had a well
maintained opulent and beautiful lobby,
and  I call this hotel a 5 star fortress

I did not get to stay in this hotel as it was
fully booked  being the venue of the
 medical convention that I attended.

I blogged about this hotel in this series
as  getting into the hotel’s meeting rooms
on peak hours was very  difficult,
because  of their vary strict and  tight security. 

It had a steel barricaded gates, where vehicles
are stopped, inspected, sniffed  by trained
 bomb sniffing dogs and passengers checked,

The lobby had an x- ray machine and all hand
carried items are screened while guests  and
delegates are searched with metal detectors.

The car traffic at the entrance gates and the
queue at the lobby entrance gets so
inconveniently long during peak hours.

Taking photos in front of the
 hotel was also not allowed.


A week in Jakarta is not enough to see
and explore this huge megalapolis.

We spent our first four days in Ancol Dreamland
and the kids extremely enjoyed the place.

I could compare the place to Singapore’s Sentosa,
although not as ostentatious but just as fun.

Just  like Sentosa, Ancol Dreamland is a
seaside  tourism complex  with multiple
theme park attractions built close to each
other and located one park  after another.

It is rather easy and convenient to stray
and go around Ancol Dreamland as there
is a free bus shuttle that would take guests
around the complex and to the different
theme park attractions in the area.


There is also a cable car that  provides
the passengers and the tourists a scenic
bird’s eye view of this vast tourism complex.

Central Jakarta

The city center is a shopping haven as it has
numerous malls of all kinds from regular to high end
 in almost every nook and cranny  of the city.

We were able to visit two upscale malls,
the Pacific Place, which is connected to
the second Ritz Carlton Hotel in the city.

It was a beautiful mall but we did not
get to explore it as we came there not
to shop but to visit Kidzania theme park
which the kids tremendously enjoyed.

Mega Kuningan Mall is located right beside
our hotel so we got to explore this mall lot.

This gorgeous mall was meant to target the
high end market and had a lot of imported
European and American signature outlets,

…but being ordinary tourists traveling on the budget,
this mall was not meant for my impoverished family.

We came to the mall as my daughter wanted
to buy sunglasses and we got one for her.

We also got to hunt for souvenirs at the Sarinah Mall,
 as it had a wide variety of native products coming
from the different provinces and regions of Indonesia,

While other malls in the city are selling expensive
signature brands to upscale and rich costumers.
Sharina showcases the country’s heart and soul,


…by selling  products made from indigenous materials,
created and hand crafted by talented native artisans. 

These are the things that tourists like us would
want  to bring home. It is a piece of Indonesia
that would remind us of our sojourn to this
culturally varied and  traditionally rich country.


Historic Jakarta Tours

We depended on a local tour operator to visit
the historic and cultural attractions of the city.

They provided a comfy tourist bus with a very
reliable driver who was able to navigate the
car congested streets of Jakarta that we still
arrived to our targeted destinations on time.

It was a traffic choked, rain soaked city tour
and even flood plagued, that we stayed
inside to tourist bus most of the time,

…still we got to enjoy everything and we were
immersed by the Oriental flora and fauna of this
busy and heavily populated huge metropolis.

We were able to see the National Monument
which the locals call the MoNas,

…the ancient port called Sunda Kelapa what
services traditional sea vessels called Pinisi,

…and the original Dutch colony of Oud Batavia
or Old Batavia that locals calls the Kota,
where the city of Jakarta was established.


The bus also got to cruise and the city’s famous

…where we mostly had the best gastronomic
experiences in the city during this trip.

We also booked a tour to Taman Mini Indonesia .
Had it not been for the heavy rain, this would have
been the main cultural highlight of our Jakarta tour.

The different provinces of Indonesia are represented
in the park in various pavilions showcasing the
architecture, clothing, dances and other cultural exhibits.

The rain stranded us inside the tourist bus so we toured
 the park in a bus, enjoying the sights from a distance.

Luckily, the rain stopped for a moment
and we were able to alight from the bus,

…and took advantage of the temporary good weather
to take some photos at the Sumatra exhibits.

We later retreated back to the bus
when the rain started pouring again.


AncolDreamland could compete head on with Singapore
 and South California as a kiddie paradise destination.


It is not as grandiose and modern as Sentosa 
but the numerous  theme parks that are located
so close to one another is just as impressive.

The theme parks in Ancol may not be as massive
and kitschy as those in Los Angeles, Anaheim 
and San Diego, but they are just as exciting.


The kids enjoyed Dufan or the 
Dunia Fantsi tremendously


…they marveled at the various breathtaking
aquariums in Sea World Indonesia,



…they were amazed by the exhilarating animal
and stunt  shows Ocean Dream Samudra.



My daughter had a blast of good time
wake boarding at the  Ancol Epic Cable Park.



There were pristine beaches, ecopark
golf courses, sea side malls,  water park,



…and one can even rent a boat and go island
hopping to the Thousand Islands nearby,


…but we didn’t have time to visit everything.


Three to four days is not enough to enjoy
and visit the attractions in Ancol Dreamland.


We transferred to Central Jakarta
on the next five days and there were
just too much to explore. 


The kids also had a great time at Kidzania 
and just for this theme park alone,
it is worth coming back to Jakarta again.

Jakarta is a huge megalapolis and five days  
is not enough to explore the huge city,

…considering the frenzied traffic,

...and streets and highways that easily
getting flooded during a heavy downpour.

Some would get turned off by the traffic
in the city, but I find the topsy-turvy a part
of the charm that is the chaos of Jakarta.

The jumbled frenetic traffic adds character
to this unique and onerous oriental city.

One thing I observed though, unlike in
Manila where the traffic is just as heavy, 


Jakarta does have the smog and grime
that we see in some major cities in the
Philippines  courtesy by our notorious
jeepneys  and dilapidated diesel fed buses.


When I was preparing for this trip to Jakarta,
I have consulted the net for reviews, and I have
always routinely read travel books like
the very popular and reliable Lonely Planet,

…as I always do to other destinations
that we have visited in the past.

Most of the reviews about Jakarta were disappointing
and majority of travelers’ opinions describe the city
as traffic choked,  higgledy-piggledy disorganized city.

We have been to several ASEAN destinations
 like Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and
several times in Singapore, and we enjoyed
all of these wonderful Asian cities,


…and every time some of our friends
hear about these places, we would always
get positive endorsements and approvals
of these popular Asian destinations.


This year, when some of my colleagues learned
that the whole family would be traveling  to Jakarta,
 their reactions were far from encouraging.

 “Why Jakarta?”, majortiy of who learned of
our coming  trip Indonesia would suggest
 other places like Yogokarta, and Bali,
but never the capital city of Jakarta.

Our personal experience, changed our views and perception
 about the city. We tremendously enjoyed Jakarta and we had
one the the most enjoyable and must fun vacation of our lives.

So Why Jakarta?

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