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Saturday, 4 January 2014

Intriguing Indonesia - Journeying Jakarta

Jakarta is the largest city and main capital of Indonesia. This is where businesses flourish and the country is at its most modern. Charmaine* and I visited Freya* - a beautiful Indonesia-Chinese, and my very best friend, to get a feel of what this city is all about.

Note that all previous visits to islands of Bintan, Pinang and Batam - though also under Indonesia itself - are beach resorts and did not expose me much to Indonesian culture. Now this is where I would get a taste of the culture and how the wealthy Indonesian Chinese live, in the exotic city of Jakarta.

Basically, the days were spent similarly - meals at restaurants, shopping, spa and drinks in the night. We were there for just three-days, two-nights. Seafood there is cheap due to currency conversion, as are the spa treatments. Shopping is another story altogether - a normal dress made by a local designer would cost around SGD$200.00 at least, and the luxury goods are even pricier than Singapore's prices no thanks to high import tax.

Our hotel was located in Senayan City's vicinity - so we shopped mostly at Senayan City and Plaza Senayan. The former is the newer mall - large, imposing, glossy and filled with all kinds of fashion and skincare outlets and restaurants. Security at the malls were strict, with detectors and guards to check every patron entering. This made us feel somewhat assured.

Cabs - if no chauffeurs - try to take cabs under the Bluebird and Silverbird range. They're said to be safer in terms of price-wise and physical-wise.

Food-wise - one could indulge in seafood dishes, as mentioned, since the total costs would be low. For a seafood meal filled with prawns, crabs, fish, steaks etc - for about 4 persons, it cost only SGD$50.00. Feel free to order your abalones from their Ah-Yat Abalone as well - eat till you drop.

For a taste of true-blue local cuisne, try their Padang-style restaurants. Simple restaurants where the diners sit around long tables, and each was served with a plate of white rice and about 22 courses of meat, vegetables and seafood lined up in the middle of the dining tables. Some of these dishes are spicy - but trust that every dish is delicious. It made for a fulfilling, homely and nutritious meal. 

Though, I'd heard rumors that for some of these restaurants, they dump the unfinished meats / vegetables / seafood back into the cooking pot and then serve them again to the next batch of diners. I am not sure of how true that is - but I was grateful that I only got to hear it upon completing my meals.

Like all the upper class Indonesian-Chinese families, a good hair pampering session is a daily-must. They either engage the hairdressers to go to their homes to wash and style their hair, or hit the salons. So we popped into a lavish saloon and had our hair washed, blown dry and styled - my look for one of the days was "curls". 

We also had to go for spas - massages and scrubs - as part of the daily treatment routine. This particular one was named RELAX. So, we had ourselves a good coffee scrub each, and soothing Javanese-style massages, by service-oriented masseurs, finishing up with fragrant brewed teas. For a 90-minute session of scrub + massage + tips, it cost us SGD$40.00 each - which was definitely a lot lesser than what we were accustomed to in Singapore.

Hah, well darlings, I know you cannot see much from this picture - but this is one of the hotter rooftop bars in the vicinity - serving good food and drinks and filled with well-dressed party-goers. I cannot remember the name too, since Freya's brother took us there. A bunch of his Singaporean friends happened to be in town as well, so we had a great time dining and dancing the night away.

After partying, we stopped by one of the roadside stalls to buy fried rice that came with crispy prawn crackers (keropok) - and the piping hot fried rice was one of the most delicious we'd ever eaten, seriously. No, the advice is not to buy just from any random roadside stall, but make sure you have adequate recommendations from the locals if you must try the food.

Just so you know, Jakarta is a charming city (when not in a state of political or social unrest) filled with activities such as shopping, dining and drinking for everyone. For those who enjoy being pampered, the spas and saloons are the hotspots to head to.

We were also driven around by their family chauffeurs for sightseeing - beautiful, fortress-looking houses owned by the very rich - all the way to the slums of the city to see how the poor lived. It was a rather great contrast, all within the same city itself. The traffic jams can get very bad here so do beware of robbers or syndicated beggars while stuck on the roads.

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