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The Indonesia National Monument (Monas) towers 433 feet (132 meters) above Jakarta’s geographical center, topped with a gilded flame. Designed by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, it houses a museum of dioramas and an observation platform.
Jakarta Chinatown, better known to locals as Glodok, was born after the massacre of 5,000 Chinese in 1740, when the remaining population were moved to a separate settlement outside the city walls. Today it’s a bustling hub where Chinese eateries, temples, street markets, and medicine shops nudge up against electronics stores.
In East Jakarta, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia Mini Park) showcases the sheer diversity of this archipelago of approximately 18,000 islands. The 247-acre (100-hectare) space houses full-scale replicas of homes from different cultures, plus museums, theaters, gardens, a waterpark, an aviary, an IMAX cinema, a cable car, and more.
Jakarta’s old port, Sunda Kelapa is a popular stop on any tour of historic Jakarta (or Batavia, as it once was). Wooden 2-masted pinisi sailing ships still moor here, while porters move goods to and fro as they have since the 13th century. Converted warehouses hold the Maritime Museum, and a watchtower and lighthouses stand guard over the bustling harbor.
In the town of Ciater, north of Bandung, West Java, warm steamy waters rise from the earth, heated by the Tangkuban Perahu volcano nearby. A number of resorts and spas channel these hot springs into natural bathing pools, some with attractions such as waterfalls, and all offer admission to guests who would like to spend the day lounging.
Opened in 1868, in a grand building on Merdeka Square, Indonesia’s National Museum is one of Jakarta’s most fascinating attractions. A rich collection spanning hundreds of thousands of years covers everything from early hominids to the archipelago’s spectacular range of textiles, along with gold, statuary, and architectural models.
In a historic building on Fatahillah Square, at the heart of Jakarta’s Old Town, the Wayang Museum is devoted to Indonesia’s rich tradition of puppetry. Puppets are on display from across the archipelago, as well as Asia and Europe, and include shadow puppets, giant costume-style puppets, and rod puppets more similar to those found in the West.
Jakarta’s best-known street market, Jalan Surabaya Flea Market (Pasar Jalan Surabaya) offers a cornucopia of choice, from factory-made junk and (generally) fake antiques to vintage finds. Head here for everything from textiles to jewelry, furniture, old coins, ship salvage, rare vinyls, old typewriters, and ancient cameras.
Fatahillah Square (Taman Fatahillah) is the heart of the Jakarta Old Town (Kota Tua) with a cobbled square with historic colonial buildings. Notable landmarks include the Cafe Batavia restaurant and bar, Wayang Museum of puppetry, and Jakarta History Museum, housed in the old town hall.
Jakarta’s middle classes love a good mall as much as any southeast Asian cosmopolitans, and South Jakarta’s Pejaten Village contains many key elements. A medium-size mall, Pejaten Village has junk food by the gallon, popular Indonesian mall brands such as Matahari department stores, and a smattering of international brand names too.
Sibling to the hugely popular Waterbom Bali, Waterbom Jakarta is a North Jakarta water park. Occupying around 9 acres (4 hectares) of landscaped grounds in Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK), it offers slides, artificial waves, a lazy river, and areas for younger kids. There are a range of food options as well as gazebos for rent.
Indonesia’s first outpost of the children’s edutainment concept that’s taken the world by storm, KidZania Jakarta occupies over 80,000 square feet (7,500 square meters) of space in South Jakarta. Younger kids will thrill to the opportunity to role-play careers from firefighter and doctor to beauty therapist in a miniature model city.
Jakarta’s favorite recreation area, Ancol Dreamland (Taman Impian Ancol) occupies a slice of waterfront. First opened in the 1960s, the site houses beaches, hotels, a gondola, food options, and tourist attractions. Some of the best-known are: Fantasy World (Dunia Fantasi), Ocean Dream Samudra, Sea World Ancol, and Atlantis Water Adventures.
Ancol Ocean Dream Samudra, an “edutainment” theme park, centers on dolphins but is home to creatures including sea lions and penguins. In addition to animal and stunt shows, the park has a 4D cinema and an underwater theater with shows featuring dolphins and divers. Children will enjoy the small selection of rides and the bird park.
South of Bandung in West Java, eerie mists cloud dead trees around the pallid waters of an acid crater lake: Kawah Putih (White Crater). More pale turquoise than technically white, Kawah Putih fills the caldera of an extinct volcano. The water is far too acid for swimming, but you can walk out onto a jetty to photograph the unusual site.
A charming escape from downtown Jakarta, the Bogor Botanical Gardens (Kebun Raya) are some of southeast Asia’s oldest educational gardens, officially opening in 1817. More than 15,000 species of plants, including hundreds of palm species, deck 215 acres (87 hectares) of lush green grounds amid the cool, rainy highlands of West Java.
Once a cool hill-station escape from Jakarta, today Bogor feels more like a suburb of its sister city. Best known for the Bogor Botanical Gardens, which date back over 200 years, it also offers some splendid colonial-era architecture and makes a great jumping-off point for the lush greenery and tea plantations of West Java’s Puncak Highlands.
Lush, green, and at the heart of Halimun Salak National Park, Mt. Salak (Gunung Salak) is one of West Java’s most accessible volcanoes. The summit at 7,254 feet (2,211 meters) is an overnight trip for most. But the waterfalls on its lower slopes—including Nangka, Luhur, Daun, and Kawung—can be hiked in just half a day.
Home to animals from pandas to Komodo dragons, Taman Safari Bogor (Bogor Safari Park) is one of West Java’s most popular animal attractions. It offers safaris, live performances, a range of adventurous theme-park rides, and animal-photo opportunities. Conservation and animal-welfare standards are better here than at many Indonesian zoos.
Set in Puncak, high in the cool West Java hills around Bogor, the Gunung Mas Tea Plantation dates back to the Dutch colonial era. Today, the 6,000-acre (2,428-hectare) site is owned by the Indonesian government. Visitors can tour the tea factory and plantation and also opt for hiking, horseback riding, and even paragliding in season.