Jakarta – A Surprise from the Big Durian

JakartaWhenever you arrive in the tropics the initial reaction is always the same. You step off the plane into the arms of the local weather and frantically try your best to adjust…your clothing, your pace, your attitude.  

The feeling of being wrapped in a warm blanket during the height of summer is not easy for anyone and takes more than a set of Jetway steps to get used to. 

For me it’s about 7 days before I calm down completely and sink into vacation mode. Shedding all residual sub-conscious  ties to work and melting into a relaxing state; free of those exaggerated concerns associated with daily life.

On my arrival, Jakarta  was sitting on a balmy 93 degrees along with what felt like 100% humidity…she was warm to say the least!  

She was ready to burst! 

My plan was a simple one. Eat, sleep, and then sleep some more. The first two I accomplished without a  problem. It is 4 am so I guess I have failed miserably on the third.

Fish always seems a fitting meal when in the islands even though I have never really considered Jakarta to be island-like. It is more a huge bustling mega-city suffering the same issues as all large centers of population plus a few extras thrown in for good measure.

On this night though, I was in for a treat. 

Some friends of mine took me to Bandar Djakarta in the Ancol area. The restaurant is on the ocean and is surrounded by palm trees draped in flickering lights.  The tables themselves jut out over the water and a band plays in the background.

Containers of fresh fish are on display for your selection; a gentle breeze, a flash of distant lightning, and you are no longer in the hustle and chaos of Jakarta.

You are relaxing in the clear  glow of a moonlit sky now recovering from the trauma of an afternoon storm.

Ancol itself is a haven with two faces. An area set aside to provide a respite for all those in Jakarta; residents and travelers. The night-time face brings with it a sense of romance and peace. That quintessential warm tropical breeze, waves that are little more than ripples caressing the shore, and the glimmer of a full moon…throw in a palm tree and you’re in a velvet painting of paradise.

By day this same area is a carnival. Fun houses, street performers, plastic on metal elephants spinning in a circle like a horizontal ferris wheel, and the inevitable open air bus train that transports visitors around the park.

An attraction for any occasion.

Tucked away on the periphery of Ancol, in an area that until recently was prone to flooding by the ever-present ocean swells, is a beautifully maintained cemetery dedicated to Dutch soldiers and civilians executed in WWII. It’s a serene place in complete contrast to the screams and shouts of the carnival atmosphere surrounding it.

I was enjoying the night-time face; its alternative experience would be left for another time.

There was not much more I could ask for. Grilled fish, grilled shrimp, tofu stuffed with chicken and spices, cut vegetables, sambal, rice, and a variety of sauces. Good company and the embrace of a country I have grown over the years to anticipate with excitement; each return trip.

I was set to sleep well… until 4 am at least.

For photos of Indonesia click here.

13 thoughts on “Jakarta – A Surprise from the Big Durian

  1. I would love to visit Jakarta one day. My dad was one of the soldiers here and even though he came home relatively undamaged physically, it screwed him up mentally … I’ve never been further than the airport until now but can’t wait to explore all those places on Java where my dad used to live his nightmares…


    1. I have written many articles on this subject right here on the blog. One called “Indonesia and Me” talks about it; maybe there will be some similarities between our families.


    1. This spot inside Jakarta was a great spot but the city itself is more an exercise in tolerance and patience as it is so heavily populated and the traffic is incredible.


  2. Ancol certainly sounds like a peaceful and refreshing place to spend a night or two! I’d love to recreate your experience eating that delicious dinner by the water. I can see the storm rolling out from here 😛


  3. Yummmmm I love fresh sea food. Being landlocked here in Canada we don’t get much, but when I travel I definitely take advantage. That restaurant looks lovely!


  4. Hi Tim,
    I wish I could quit saying “I wish” so frequently, my mom spoke to me about the camp and some of the horror that occurred there. I remember the sadness, anger and fear that I would see in her eyes when ever so spoke of that long ago experience. I wish I would have paid closer attention and had a deeper understanding of her suffering. You writings offer a sense of gratification and validation in that the unknown doors are finding there way in finally being able to close. My mom always struggled with an inability to relax. You have created a vivid sense of the Indonesian culture that I saw in my mom. I don’t have much of that in me, I guess you can say I have been Americanized and that makes me sad and maybe that explains my deep interest.
    Appreciate your talent and graciousness in sharing.
    kind regards,


    1. Thanks Eve. I too paid little attention to Mums stories until about 2003. At that point I became fiercely interested in my heritage and in particular her history. I think it was due in large part to the birth of my niece. I wanted her to be able to know her Oma and what she had gone through in life.


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