When most foreigners flock to Bali, we decided to take on the adventurous route to Jakarta and Bandung in Indonesia.
Admittedly the idea was impulsive, and the timing, as I would later learn, not the best.
Apparently we visited during the peak of Ramadan. Think of it as the week before Christmas. Everyone was on holiday, shopping and fasting, and I stood out like a bandaged thumb in a more Bali-appropriate attire.
It was crazy, noisy and well, I got all that immersion into another ASEAN society.
Don’t expect that just because you’ve been to Vietnam or Thailand, that you’d get an easy peasy time getting around town. NO!
Still, If I could name the top 11 most memorable experiences in Indonesia, they’d be:
1. National Monument in Merdeka Square. Iconic and splendid! It was
just so hot that June morning, so it was a click and run moment.
2. Istiqlal Mosque. The grandeur was just overwhelming; it was a first for me to ever enter a mosque! Istiqlal, by the way, means Independence. My first attempt was not permitted due to attire violations. The second attempt went smoothly.
Tip 1: Wear decent clothing. (Don’t be hard-headed like me.)
Tip 2: Bring a plastic bag to place your shoes, in case you don’t way to pay the persistent vendors outside the mosque.
Tip 3: Bring wet tissues if you feel iffy about the barefoot tour. I was too courteous to wear socks inside, so the wet tissues saved the day!
3. St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral. Of course a must visit for every Catholic, plus it’s right across the mosque! The church was being
cleaned during this period but we got to say a prayer to an Asian-looking
4. National Museum. Everything about Indonesia’s history, archeology and geography is here–all 6 floors! To be honest we got so tired halfway, you need at least a day if you want to explore it all.
A lot of the materials/copy are in Bahasa, so I skipped a lot of relics. The top floor is the winner – not to miss is the awesome jewelry section!
The place is not air conditioned, and you could not bring water inside too – so drink up before and after you visit.
5. Tangkuban Perahu. Moving to Bandung, our first stop was this magnanimous stratovolcano. Per Wikipedia, its last eruption was in 2013 so it’s quite active. I honestly thought we’d get the chance to trek on or very near the crater, but it was a touristy trek. Still, the weather in Bandung is much cooler than in Jakarta, and the view was spectacular.
I could linger there all day and not get tired! Our drone couldn’t get over the view as well.
Not to be missed in this was the side stop for the Tea Plantation. Pretty!
6. Keraton Cliff
– This Bandung Keraton cliff was another highlight of the trip because we got to ride motorcycles to and from the mountain! Here we got another ultra cool spot and a breathtaking view of the heights. There is also a camping site. Visit early so that you can have the deck to yourselves (no photobombers).
7. Lembang Floating Market – Last stop in Bandung! Food, fun and fish!
Sadly when when we got there, it was nearly sunset, so we were not able to explore the mini park. Instead, we ate to our heart’s delight with an awesome spread of rabbit satay, gado-gado and banana fritters!
8. PT Kereta Api – The 4-hour train ride from Bandung to Jakarta was filled with so much view of plains and ricefields, it was like a Luzon (Philippines) tour on tracks.
The beauty of the timing (Monday before Ramadan) was that there were barely people in the train.
We could literally move from one seat to another, while taking videos of the sights. There was also free food! I got tofu and chicken.
9. Plaza Atrium Mall – The Plaza Atrium mall in Jakarta was not your usual luxury city
mall. It was busy, noisy and had the food court named Food Colony that we kept coming back too.
Weird, huh? We barely eat in the food courts in Manila but the draw here was that everything was Indonesian food that we wanted to try (satay, fried duck, fried fish, durian shakes, ketoprak and karedok).
The latter 2 were vegetables and noodle dishes doused with peanut sauce, so everything was flavorful and healthy.
Did I get my peanut fill? Yes. Did I eat there again? Yes!
10. Heef Hotel. Our hotel was quaint, very IG friendly because of strategically placed cute chairs, wall decor and a transparent elevator. I never got the chance to take photos because either it was dark or I was too tired to remember!
The breakfast buffet spread was simple and very Indonesian – I say very local because it didn’t have eggs or cereal – what you’d expect from a Western friendly buffet. Vegetarian-wise, it was filling but Westerners expecting for a full-on continental breakfast may find the other fares too exotic.
11. Last but not the least, McDonald’s. It has always been my rule not to eat fastfood in other countries, but in Indonesia, I broke the rule twice – ate at KFC (2x) and McDonald’s (1 very big meal).
KFC was NOT noteworthy because they have NO gravy!
But, McDonald’s was a delight because they had all sorts of sidings (sambal and fried shallots) that were so cute and appetizing in the photos, we bought them all just to sample them!
The sambal did not go well with my fish and chips, but the shallots rocked. The tartar sauce was just mayo, but it was having ICED MILO in the menu that made McDo here the overall winner! Plus they had World Cup decor throughout the restaurants while in Manila, no one seemed to care about the World Cup.
Turns out I haven’t posted about the food, uh-oh! More on those soon! I must tell you about the gado-gado, durian shake and rabbit satay! Stay tuned.