The 3 famous landmarks of Jakarta – National Monument (known affectionately as Monas), Masjid Istiqlad and Jakarta Cathedral, demonstrates the Indonesia’s early leaders’ forward-looking policy of tolerance for all religions in the city, despite the fact that the majority of the population are Muslim. The Monas stands at the centre of Merdeka Square, the central park of the city, itself being a gaint tower with a burning flame on the top. From the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Jakarta city. Around the base of the tower, along the walls, there are frescoes and statues in Javanese style with a strong Hindu influence in its artwork – highlighting Jakarta’s beginning as part of the Hindu Majapahit empire.
About a 20-minute walk away from the Monas lies the Istiqlal Mosque, or Masjid Istiqlal, (Independence Mosque) in Jakarta, Indonesia is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia in terms of its capacity. Just across the road from Istiqlad Mosque, there is the Jakarta Cathedral which is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Jakarta, Its official name is Gereja Santa Maria Pelindung Diangkat Ke Surga which in English means “The Church of our Lady of Assumption”. This cathedral was consecrated in 1901 and built in the neo-gothic style.
The short distance between each of these landmarks was not a coincidence – according to Abdul, our tour guide from BMW Tours, these landmarks were built within walking distance together so as to showcase the inclusive nature of Jakarta and no religions will be sidelined or favored over another in this city. Before the airport was moved to the outskirts of Jakarta, any travellers flying in by plane will be able to see clearly these 3 landmarks lined up in a straight line – a deliberately planned signal to showcase Jakarta’s welcome for visitors of all religions.
Within the city centre itself, Jakarta is sprawling with numerous malls, shopping centers, and traditional markets. Shoppers will be spoilt for choice on the shopping complexes to explore but these are mainly higher end goods. For the authentic Indonesian and cheap shopping experience, the ITC Mangga Dua and Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua (Mangga Dua Morning Market) is the perfect place to be. These huge shopping centres specializes in clothing, (fake) branded goods – shoes, handbags, luggage, leather stuff, and fashion accessories. Just across the road, Mall Mangga Dua and Harco Mangga Dua are the place to find all kind of electronic stuff (computers, pirated DVDs, audio players, gaming consoles, home theater, among others).
These shopping complexes are so crowded and big that it could take you almost 2 days to complete them all if you go shop by shop. Whatever you are preparing for – wedding, child’s birthday, prom night, new home – you can find all the things you need here and over 10-20 stores serving the same niche. You just have to know where to look out for e.g. the baby’s products, toys is tucked away in one corner of a floor. However if you find it, you will think you are in another place altogether with princess’ costumes, giant teddy bears, all kinds of remote control cars, helicopters around you.
There is just one thing in Jakarta that might be quite bothersome – traffic jams; there are a lot of cars on the roads and even crossing the road takes a bit of skills as shown in the following video where our guide, Abdul from BMW Tours took on the challenge and brought us safely across a busy road. Also check out how our driver managed to do a U-turn in the midst of busy oncoming traffic. So don’t drive in Jakarta – get a local driver if you really need to do so or you could end up being bullied by the traffic
On our second part of this trip to Indonesia with BMW Tours and Garuda Indonesia, we proceeded to Bandung, a 3-hour drive away from Jakarta. The famous tourist attraction in Bandung has to be the Mount of Tebgkuban Perahu Volcano Crater. The Tangkuban Perahu is an active volcano, located 30 km from city of Bandung. It is the only crater in Indonesia where you can drive up to its rim and take a look at the huge pool of water in the crater. If you smell something funny here, it’s probably due to the sulphur fumes that are still being emitted by the volcano.
Since you will be at the top of Mount Tangkuban Perahu, depending on when you are there, the temperature here can get quite low especially around December to February. If what you are wearing couldn’t keep you warm, don’t worry as there are many entrepreneurial Indonesians selling scarves, jackets here. There is nothing much to do here except being amazed by the crater and shopping around the makeshift huts selling various tacky souvenirs.
Besides the Bandung Mount of Tebgkuban Perahu Crater Volcano Tour, another must-do activity here in Bandung is Factory Outlet Shopping! Factory outlet shopping became a trend in Bandung in the late 1990s mainly due product overruns and rejected goods meant for export, from Bandung’s garment export factories. Bandung account for 75% of all of Indonesia’s such factories. Here in Bandung, you find all kinds of popular brands everywhere around the world in these factory outlets – Abercrombie & Fitch, Eddie Bauer, MAG, Nautica, Fendi, Elle, Hugo Boss, DKNY, Espirit, Calvin Klein, Armani, Crocodile, Balley Apostrophe, Alfred Dunhill, Nike, Reebok, Limited, The Gap, Banana Republic, Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo, Adidas, Puma, Ann Taylor, D&G, BCBG, J. Crew, Allure, Bennetton, Cerruti 1881, Victoria’s Secret, NY & Company, Sag Harbor, Old Navy, Ocean Pacific, Roxy, Hush Puppy, Versache, Table Eight, Cherokee, Express, Karen Scott and Sears. I bet you recognise a handful of these brands and the products sold in these shops are of good quality and doesn’t look like a rejected product.
These factory outlets are mostly located around Dago Street, Martadinata Street, Setiabundhi Street and Buahbatu Street. The most famous and well-established of all these factory outlets is the Rumah Mode. Besides offering a wide selection of clothes and bags for bargain-hunters, it also boasts many eateries and cafes just around the main Rumah Mode shop. Perfect places to rest and refill your stomach before the next round of shopping! If you want to explore around these factory outlets, make an appointment with BMW Tours who conducts such shopping tours.