For your first solo trip overseas, choose to stay within an urban area with hotel accommodation within easy (walking) access of a shopping mall and a public transport system that you can manage, to navigate around the city
Name of destination: Jakarta
Date of travel: 5 – 8 April 2015
Exchange rate: 1 Singapore dollar = 9577.39 Indonesian rupiah
It was a last minute decision to travel to Jakarta but well worth it. I was just telling a group of friends that every time I travelled up to Jakarta I was always well looked after as I had relatives who stayed in Jakarta but this time around it was just nice to travel solo and explore the city on my own time, at my own pace, independently. I think one garners a lot of confidence in travelling by oneself!
The first thing I looked at after I returned were my receipts because I track all my expenses – my Money Club members are in awe of this – they always wonder “What drives her to do that..?”
I didn’t think I saved a lot in Jakarta this time because I had shopped at Zara and Uniqlo at the Grand Indonesia Mall >.< but I was terrified to venture out to other shopping malls further away of which I had to take a taxi (which was how most business travellers made their way around the city); and I was not confident of hitching a ride on their public buses – yet!!
Then I totalled the purchases (excluding the optional shopping purchases) and was relieved I had spent not more than S$505 for a 4D3N stay..ok..pass!
I had asked some of my friends staying in Indonesia before going and found out there were new malls like Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia which I could easily access from hotels located just opposite the road as there was a connecting walkway –that sounded safe enough..
I googled Agoda with these two mall names and discovered I would be in the Thamrin vicinity.
I was looking for a value-for-money accomodation ( this translates into ‘ no-frills-accomodation-but-I- need- a-comfortable- bed- but- no- sharing- of- toilet dormitory- type- hotel ‘ ).
Whilst reading up on the city, I discovered how big a city Jakarta was – do check out this link to be familiar with the breakdown of its districts.
In the end, I stayed at Holiday Inn Express ( it was price-friendly and it fitted all my requirements 🙂
Then l sought a budget airline that would get me there and safely back. Eventually, following my instincts (still feeling cautious) I settled for no-frills Jetstar.
I am glad I did: I realised how little I missed the movies and the meals and I completely used that 1 hr 50 min plane journey to catch up on my sleep..flying simply has its benefits.
Admittedly, I had also chosen to fly with this airline then because soon after the crash of a Germanwings passenger plane in the French Alps, I was reassured by the prompt press release by Jetstar airways that from March 31st on all Jetstar Asia flights, there will always be two operating crew members in the cockpit at all times .. details like that matter to a passenger like me with an over-active imagination…haha!
After I had arrived at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Terminal 2, I bought the SIM card that my husband kept reminding me to do.
I bought it for 160 000 Indonesian rupiah.. buying anything at the airport means you pretty much know it’s way above the normal price (so my sister-in-law reminded me) But alas….being my first time on my own, and I don’t speak Bahasa Indonesian language, my personal welfare took precedence, I let that purchase go lah – no frets! 生命重要! (=my life more important!)
To travel to my hotel from the airport, I took the recommended ‘Blue Bird taxi’.
(Updates: After my return , I could not help thinking the taxi fare seemed expensive compared to the other lifestyle costs in Jakarta ..so upon asking my relatives staying in Jakarta, here is the link on how to travel from the airport to the city centre and back by NOT taking cabs.)
I arrived at my hotel safely ..
There was a bit of a jam (jams are a common occurrence in Jakarta); be prepared for that) at the inner road leading into the hotel and I managed to suppress a strong desire to ask the driver to stop me about 100 metres before the hotel to let me walk along the pavement which directly led to the hotel. Anyhow, he hardly spoke a word of English so I decided to just sit back and enjoy the wait…
Okay..this is the part you will like because I start showing you lots of photos 🙂
My choice of hotel was apt – I liked the free daily buffet breakfast (the line-up was basic but they changed the dishes every day)
My bed was comfy.
In the bathroom, the shower stream was inconsistent(see the part of the cord where it’s at a ‘right angle’ ..yup .. the first night of taking a bath was frustrating..!)
On the second night when I had ‘adjusted’ to my ‘home’, I rectified the problem by pulling taut the cord and securing it straight ..so yeah .. frustration of having inconsistent stream of water and or no water at all was solved..happiness!
However, a remaining grouse (which I could do nothing about) was the short-width sink in the bathroom – too small! Water kept lapping over on the floor and dripping on my clothes ..I made a note to feedback to the hotel counter staff..
Other than these minor kinks, the hotel Wi-Fi worked great ( so I had no need to use my 3G when I was in the hotel)..my sleep was sound as the room was well-insulated against outside noise (although it was facing the main road).
One is able to easily walk from the hotel to the three malls – Grand Indonesia, Plaza Indonesia, and Thamrin City.
The hotel staff graciously provided me with all the directions I needed!
However, be forewarned that the sidewalks can be pretty dusty or muddy(particularly so after it rains) >.<
Along the way, there are quite a few street hawkers, so if you are not one of those adventurous travellers who feel comfortable walking alone in such places, acknowledge that and book a hotel directly opposite the malls; you will feel safer and thus enjoy more of your stay!
After having prowled through Jakarta’s two big malls during the first two days, I thought I should visit *Tanah Abang Market (supposedly a bazaar where they sell a lot of local apparel). Along the way, while zigzagging through the stalls by the roads where the hawkers and the locals were chitchatting or waiting for their food to be served up, I chanced upon Thamrin City.
( *I did not get a chance to go to the Market as I spent the entire afternoon at Thamrin City!)
Finally, I got to see a local shopping mall! And it contained a sprawling hypermart (finally I could buy my ‘keropok’ here!) I was contented enough to bask in the company of local salesgirls and businessmen or women selling batik wear, fashionable chokers (some good buys here!) and trendy necklaces.
The highest floor was a little like a packing area where the shop vendors received their goods and began inspecting them openly while the customers (tourists and locals) gingerly stepped over the goods sprawled on its floor…it was messy but a friendly atmosphere prevailed.. I stopped by to scrutinise some dates from some vendors selling Middle Eastern carpets and other home ornaments as well as exotic fragranced incense sticks.
Not to mention the several local eateries at Thamrin City….definitely cheaper meals galore…all local food.
And oh a word about food sold in Jakarta ..one can eat a very satisfying meal at very affordable prices. For that same price of a bowl of udon bought in Singapore, in Jakarta I get to enjoy udon cooked in a rich broth with succulent meatballs accompanied by a sizeable side dish(eg. tempura sweet potatoes) …all prettily served!
Therefore, I had a great stay! Nothing beats the freedom of solo travel. I slept well ..ate well because delicious food was so cheaply priced (even in the big malls!) Service was great too 🙂
I also found the Indonesians on my trip hospitable, friendly and charming. Although I was unable to speak a word of Bahasa Indonesia, the gentility of the Indonesians quickly put me at ease and I was able to enjoy the rest of my trip in Jakarta! I will visit again – alone, and this time I will explore another part of the city:)
When it was raining on the third day, I was suddenly struck by the idea of what would happen if there was a flood in where I stayed and so I would not be able to catch my flight home that day because all roads leading to the airport would be closed …I had read on the internet that one traveller even hopped onto an open lorry because just about everyone else was doing that and he had learnt it would bring him closer to where he wanted to go..but…I have learnt, this is Jakarta .. it may not be as coordinated as in Singapore ..but live and let live ..the locals take things in their stride and ‘go with the flow‘ – life doesn’t grind to a halt just because a disaster bursts out….you just wait for the storm to pass (and I guess it finally will) and then pick up from where one was and carry on..serenely..