Jakarta isn't a city one would immediately think of as a leisure travel destination. For sure, the infamous twin attacks on the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriot hotels 5 years ago didn't do much for the image of the Indonesian capital. BUT, having visited Jakarta recently during a whirlwind business-related trip, I found the city not quite as notorious as it'd been made out to be. In fact, the Indonesian capital reminds me very much of Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur; vibrant, organic, haphazard, but with a bit more chaos thrown into the mix. The key, for a safe travel, is to keep a low, austere profile. Basically, don't be an ostentatious fool. Exercise prudence and caution as you would anywhere out of Singapore, i.e. watch your belongings and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Here are my tips, gleaned from the locals, for a reasonably enjoyable trip.
When booking a flight, reserve a front row seat for priority disembarkation.
When checking in at the airport, request the Fast Track clearance (you'll get a piece of paper that says so), to entitle preferential clearance at the domestic immigration counters in Jakarta.
Oh, and try as best as possible, to travel light. Baggage clearance is notably sluggish, and, speaking from first-hand experience, having to retrieve checked-in baggage will impede airport clearance significantly.
Also, retain Rp150,000 in cash when departing Jakarta, you'll need to pay for the airport tax (paid when checking in to leave Jakarta).
*my thoughts go out to the passengers and families of AirAsia Surabaya-outbound flight QZ8501*
It's strongly advised to take private transport (the blue bird cabs are reliable options, or even better, hire a personal private chauffeured vehicle) to get around anywhere, even if that anywhere is just across the street. There's a reason why most major malls have security checkpoints at all entrances.
For airport transfers, the silver bird limousine service is recommended to maximise comfort for what may turn out to be an exceedingly long journey. Budget
about 2 hours, at least, for travel between the city center and the
airport. Distance-wise, the journey should take only about half an hour. But during peak hours, Jakarta's legendary traffic woes manifest, and traffic crawls to a snail's pace. Worse still if it rains, because the transfer turns into a 3-hour long journey, and so, you'll need to set off at least 4 hours before your flight. And pee (and poo) before you set off.
Because of the very favourable exchange rate, grooming ablutions are a must-do. Mani-pedis, hair treatments, and massages can all be done a fraction of the prices in Singapore, and in spas that are just as posh, if not posher. The 4th (or was it the 5th?) of Grand Indonesia is lined with salons to cater to your every pampering need. Also, get a massage in one of the hotel spas, it's incredibly pampering, and you won't have to pay a pretty penny for it.
See here for elaboration.
Grand Hyatt Hotel
Grand Hyatt is one of the most luxurious business hotels in Jakarta. Boasting sleek, minimalist tendencies, the 5-star hotel is perfectly aligned with my modernist sensibilities. It's also right smack in the golden triangle, where the heart, and hub, of business are. Best of all, it's linked to Plaza Indonesia, a sprawling mall not unlike Paragon in Singapore. Oh and by the way, there's an Hermes boutique housed within the hotel itself, in the lobby. #justsaying
The hotel is vigilant about security, and every vehicle is searched, with sniffer dogs (the most adorable goldies!), even before entering the driveway, so rest assured that you're in relatively safe hands.
I'd recommend the Grand Suite, a comfortable, luxurious suite spanning 100 sq meters and perched on the 28th floor. The room rates start at USD710 per night before taxes. Check-in is at their club lounge at the 22nd floor, so you'll get properly welcomed with cocktails and canapes while checking in.You also get deluxe amenities, in the form of the green tea and cucumber range of toiletries under the very fancy June Jacobs Spa Collection.
Living Area facing the study, with complimentary seasoned nuts, cashews and macarons.
The opposite end of the living room with the business centre study
The adjacent dining area with a coffee machine. There's a separate powder room off the dining area.
The spacious bedroom
Bathroom with a humongous jetted soaking spa tub with windows overlooking the city, an in-wall tv, and double sinks.
The separate shower stall with a rain shower.
The adjoining walk-in closet with a dressing area (so big you can practically sleep in here!) connecting the bedroom and bathroom
Grand Hyatt Jakarta
Jalan M. H. Thamrin Kav. 28-30
Jakarta 10350, Indonesia