A hidden city tour in Jakarta

This year, I went on a second Hidden City tour with Ronny, having done the first one a couple of years ago in East Jakarta. This time we went to the more familiar and ‘touristy’ area of Kota Tua in North Jakarta, to meet some of the people that were impacted by the recent floods in the city.

Ronny and his team do a fantastic job taking you to places you might never venture on your own. No wonder that their tour is rated amongst the best in Jakarta.

Photo walk North Jakarta

Not the typical sights you would expect on a ‘tour’, but these are eye-opening. People live under bridges along the river, and everything they possess gets washed away every time there’s a downpour. They save their meagre possessions in surprising nooks and crannies, and what might look like a pile of trash to some might be another person’s treasure.

It gets reinforced time and again that the less ‘stuff’ you have, the less you have to lose. And it doesn’t cost a penny to smile, or to pose with attitude!

Jakarta Old Town

There’s something about old heritage structures, whether spruced up or decrepit, that makes me admire a city. I guess, for me, that’s the ‘character’ of the city.

I was convinced that Jakarta was soulless, but after reading about the old Dutch quarters of Kota, there was some hope. Convinced Souvik to wake up early morning today, and head out to Taman Fatahillah and the port of Sunda Kelapa. Early morning on a weekend is definitely the best time to drive around Jakarta; the less traffic there is, the more you can admire leafy lanes and colonial-style villas. We reached Kota in no time, and imagine my delight at finding this:

Yes, a big wide open square, with bikes for hire! Of course, this being the early hour, we were among the first to wander around, but this could be my favorite hangout place!

So we hired a couple of these rickety bikes (most of them had dysfunctional brakes!) minus the pretty hats, and set off to Sunda Kelapa just a km away. The route is not pretty, but the port is interesting. Apparently nothing has changed here in a hundred years! Nice 🙂


We cycled a little through the old quarters to spot my favorite kind of old buildings.

Just that we’ll have to get out there much earlier, to avoid all the unpleasant traffic.

We ended our little excursion at the very colonial Cafe Batavia, full of old world charm and excellent music.






Ujwax on a holiday

I’m getting back to blogging after a week, not because there was a dearth of topics, but rather because there was so much else to do with my cousin, Uju, around. She is not your typical shopping maniac, so I had planned more sightseeing, which ended up something like this:

Day 1: A walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, and dinner at Al Fresco’s

Day 2: Trek at Ba Vi National Park, dinner at j.a.f.a. We also baked a flourless chocolate cake sometime during the day, and enjoyed it for the rest of the week.

Day 3: Visit to the Flower Market, then walk around Tay Ho to Tran Quoc Pagoda, and back home on a motobike (xe om). Later, shopping at Old Quarters (we got beautiful gifts for Uju’s sister, Aparna, and ordered some clothes to be tailored for ourselves), dinner at Thai Express, and ice cream at Fanny.

Day 4: Visit to the Temple of Literature, relax, pack for the next 2 days.

Day 5: Flight to Hoi An. We spent the afternoon at the seaside, and evening in Hoi An ancient town, where Uju couldn’t stop admiring and photographing the delightful architecture. Ordered some shoes – leather ones for Uju, silk for me, bought lanterns. Dinner at Mango Mango and ice cream at Casa Verde.

Day 6: Tour to My Son, to see the ruins of the Champa kingdom, short stop at Kim Bong Carpentry Village, and long stop at Hoi An market to sight-see and shop some more. Back to Hanoi.

Day 7: Sightseeing at Hoa Lo Prison museum, collected some of the tailored clothes, ordered some more, dinner with our neighbours.

Day 8 & 9: Heavenly bliss at Halong Bay; Sindhu joined us for this one. A fun drive to Halong with lots of food, plenty of activities on the cruise – trekking to the peak of Titop hill, kayaking in the Bat cave, getting awed by the limestone in the Surprise cave, wine tasting, chilling on the deck, admiring the rock formations.

Before we knew it, Uju’s trip had come to an end 😦 . For a non-shopper, she was surprisingly tempted by all the Vietnamese offerings, and did a healthy count of souvenirs and gifts 😀 . Of coursed, there was plenty of space for her shopping – after handing out the vast number of Gangar snacks that she’d got for us :-P.