Indonesia’s modern outlook, colonial past, vibrant art and spiritualism are all evident in Jakarta, its thriving capital
Where to stay in Jakarta
Mix business with culture at Raffles Jakarta where the group’s trademark high-end hospitality is blended with modern facilities (the hotel opened in March 2015). Rich interior design pays homage to Indonesian artist Hendra Gunawan, who died in 1983, having spent 13 years in prison under the Suharto regime for political activism.
Vibrant carpets, crystal chandeliers and furnishings inspired by his most colourful work include a 10,000-piece glass mosaic from an anonymous artist and light fittings styled like the claws of Indonesia’s national symbol – the bird-like Garuda.
Soaring above the emerging commercial hub of the Kuningan district, the 129 rooms and 44 suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows – many with a garden view. Gunawan’s influence is also reflected in bespoke embroidery and furniture, while opulent marble bathrooms come complete with deep soaker tub and separate ‘rain’ shower.
In addition to a business centre and four meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 65 guests, the Raffles boasts a 2,500 sqm ballroom that can hold 3,500 people. Sweat out the jet lag in the impressive fitness centre, outdoor pool or 14th floor exterior jogging track.
Where to eat
Cement business relationships over an 11-course traditional taster menu in the elegant surroundings of the century-old Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, which once housed the fine arts circle of the Dutch East Indies. Start your evening in the Writers’ Bar at Raffles and be sure to order a Jakarta Sling – the hotel’s twist on the Tanqueray gin-based cocktail synonymous with its Singapore flagship – made with locally sourced star anise and Sumatra passion fruit juice. Don a jacket for Arts Café by Raffles, a fusion of East and West, which on Director’s visit served four mouth-watering courses including tuna sashimi with roasted foie gras, and braised beef wagyu.
Or why not glimpse another side of the city at The View – slick dining from the 22nd floor of the Fairmont Hotel, just south of the central business district, with a nightcap on the balcony of the adjacent K22 Bar overlooking the Senayan National Golf Club.
What to see
Jakarta’s historic centre offers a glimpse of its colonial architecture, though sadly many buildings have fallen into disrepair. At weekends families and classes of schoolchildren – many proudly wearing English Premier League shirts – flock to Fatahillah Square to ride pastel-coloured hire bikes and be entertained by street performers.
The Jakarta History Museum is housed in what was once the city hall of Batavia (the former capital of the Dutch East Indies which now corresponds to part of present-day Jakarta), while the Wayang Museum showcases a national obsession for shadow puppetry with more than 1,000 exhibits – the largest stands at 3.3m.
Closer to home, the Raffles links directly to the neighbouring Ciputra Artpreneur Centre with a gallery of original works dedicated to Gunawan’s legacy, plus a theatre showcasing popular Broadway productions and an exhibition space.
“A lot of business etiquette in Indonesia is common sense,” says Chris Wren, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia. “If your host doesn’t drink alcohol, don’t drink alcohol. Avoid raising voices or direct contradiction. Also, don’t get angry if your client is running late – Jakarta’s notorious traffic may probably be the reason. And should you want to be very pure, don’t pass or receive things with the left hand, wait for your host to sip from a cup of tea before you do and never take the last piece of anything – it always gets left, usually as a tip for the maid.”
For the flight
Christopher Koch’s 1978 novel The Year of Living Dangerously, set against the backdrop of the 1965 coup against President Sukarno, was remade into a 1982 film starring Mel Gibson as an Australian journalist and Sigourney Weaver as a British intelligence officer in Jakarta. Production took place in Manila after authorities in Indonesia refused filming and a ban on showing the film in the country was only lifted in 1999, some 17 years after its original release.
Rates at Raffles Jakarta start at £210 per room per night (excluding breakfast)