It’s that time of the year when we start to ponder how to spend the upcoming holidays, from the big celebrations to the lazy days in between.
TV producer Rian Salmun is not interested in rubbing shoulders with trumpet-blowing, firework-toting revelers on the big nights, but prefers a more intimate celebration at his home in Rawamangun, East Jakarta.
Apart from barbecuing, relaxing, chatting and his family’s annual ritual of a game of bingo, he says the night includes an exchange of gifts.
“Each of us must buy a gift costing between Rp 50,000 (US$5.2) and Rp 100,000, and we have to wrap it in newspaper,” he said.
Like Rian, many of us will be staying close to home over the holidays, either in Jakarta or nearby Bandung, with lots of attractions to be enjoyed in both cities.
Here are tips to make the most of the holiday season by getting out and about (take note that operating schedules may have changed due to the holidays).
Better shop around: Jakarta has it all for shoppers, from the plush shopping malls with all their seasonal attractions, to smaller but no less interesting retail centers. Recently refurbished and celebrating its 50th anniversary in business, Sarinah on Jl. Thamrin has a wide range of products, including traditional fabrics and handicrafts. Affordable batik of all shapes and sizes is found at Pusat Batik Nusantara at Thamrin City shopping center.
Mayestik market in South Jakarta has a great number of shops that sell local and imported cloth, from satin to cotton and everything in between, as well as sewing materials such as buttons and beads. Asemka market in Pinangsia, West Jakarta, offers cheap beauty accessories and a mind-boggling selection of souvenirs; East Jakarta’s Rawabening market has expensive sapphires and emeralds for jewelry lovers. No visit to Jakarta is complete without taking in the wild and wonderful flea market on Jl. Surabaya.
On history’s trail: There is a growing movement to enliven Indonesia’s museums, especially in Jakarta. Take a step back in time at Jakarta History Museum at the Old Town complex in West Jakarta. The interior of the 18th-century classical baroque building boasts European and Chinese influenced furniture from the 17th to 19th centuries. Within the same complex are situated the Puppet Museum, with models from all over the world, the Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum and Bank Mandiri Museum, showcasing banking industry artifacts. Textiles in all their glory are on display at the Textile Museum, housed in a handsome 19th century mansion.
The National Museum in Central Jakarta displays more than 100,000 archeological, ceramics and numismatics objects. And don’t forget to visit the Marine Museum while in North Jakarta. Occupying the premises of a fort built in 1652, it explores the seafaring traditions of the archipelago.
Joining the crowds: Many Jakartans flock to theme parks to enjoy family fun during the break. Dunia Fantasi in Ancol, North Jakarta, the local answer to Disneyland, offers rides and recreational attractions, including nearby SeaWorld aquarium. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, situated on 120 hectares, has an aviary and various animal menageries, orchid and flower parks, a children’s amusement palace, traditional houses of the country’s many ethnic groups and the famous Keong Mas IMAX Theater, shaped like a giant snail. Or visit Ragunan Zoo, with its 185 hectares that are home to more than 3,000 animals of 260 species.
More in store: The mountainous West Java capital has emerged as the favorite close-to-home playground of Jakartans in the 21st century, with its top-quality hotels and lifestyle offerings. Its factory outlets are regionally renowned (expect to hear Singaporean, Malaysian and other accents as you trawl for bargains), with Jl. Ir. H. Juanda (better known as Dago), Jl. Setiabudi and Jl. Riau the best bets. There are also “distros” selling stylish products made by local designers, from fashion to music, books and magazines.
In good taste: It’s advised to wear loose-fitting pants because the city is like a big buffet temptation at every turn. From traditional Sundanese cuisine of West Java – fresh and spicy – to the huge sampling of snacks, from siomay (dumplings), combro (cassava rolls with a fermented soybean filling) and tofu. Sweets range from iced drinks to cakes; check out the city’s many cakeshops for every delicacy imaginable.