AsiaLifestyle

Indonesia: A combination of culture, nature ad magic

For the second time this year, the Indonesian Embassy invited Kuwait Times and other Kuwaiti media to visit and discover the wonders and the beauty of Indonesia. After welcoming us in his office at the embassy, the Ambassador of Indonesia to Kuwait Tatang Budie Razak enthusiastically explained the purpose of this invitation and its importance on shedding light on Indonesia’s tourism sector that attracts more than 12 million foreign tourists and more than 200 million local tourists every year. This makes tourism one of Indonesia’s top sectors because of its natural beauty and diverse culture. Indonesia is a country with a population of 262 million – and the largest Muslim population in the world – which makes it a very interesting country to discover and learn more about.

The ambassador was proud to speak about the latest update on Indonesia’s development, especially in Palembang, the capital of south Sumatra province which will host the Asian Games in 2018. The ambassador’s eyes filled with affection and pride when speaking about the 17,000 islands and the 700 ethnicities spread around the country, with more than 1,000 languages that can puzzle and captivate anyone who visits Indonesia.

Razak explained the various abundant natural resources that Indonesia is known for around the world and its products that are available at reasonable prices. This ranks Indonesia’s GDP 15th in the world, with almost a trillion US dollars in 2017.  He wished us good luck on our trip to Indonesia as we left, eager to visit this wonderful country that we had heard so much about. We visited three cities – Jakarta, Puncak, Bogor and Palembang.

Jakarta

The estimated time from Kuwait to Doha is 1 hour and 25 minutes, and from Doha to Jakarta 8 hours and 45 minutes. The transit time is 4 hours and 20 minutes, so basically it is considered a long flight. Is it worth it? You have to continue reading to know.

The first impression you will get when you reach Jakarta is how well the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is organized. The buildings in Jakarta are innovative, and the city in general looks new and well-structured. Jakarta is the capital and is considered the most populous city of the Republic of Indonesia. It is located on the northwest coast of the world’s most populous island – Java.

Jakarta is the country’s economic, cultural and political center, with a population of 10,075,310 (as of 2014), so it is only normal that the locals’ first concern is the traffic. To solve this problem, several attempts have been made to reduce traffic congestions on Jakarta’s main arteries, one of them being the ‘odd-even’ policy which was introduced in 2016, which designated cars with either odd or even-numbered registration plates on a particular day. I personally found this solution very smart and effective.

If you ever go to Jakarta, you will be confused which hotel to choose to stay in because of the numerous and luxurious choices that you have. We checked in at Pullman Hotel Thamrin CBD – a five-star hotel that in my opinion deserves its stars. If you want to enjoy the beauty and the charming view of Jakarta from above, all you have to do is to make a reservation at the SKYE Bar & Restaurant, which is located in the heart of the city on the 56th floor rooftop of BCA Tower. The restaurant has a unique Southern-American influence in its architecture and interior design, and the view from above is simply jaw-dropping. At SKYE, it’s not only about the view, but also the food is really tasty. It serves international ethnic cuisine focusing mostly on Hispanic food, with a strong integration of Middle Eastern and Asian delicacies. I recommend trying the steak there – it was just yummy!

National Museum

If you are interested in learning about the history, culture and heritage of Indonesia, then the National Museum is the right place to visit. It is also called the Elephant Building after the elephant statue in its forecourt. The museum is regarded as one of the most complete and the best in Indonesia, as well as one of the finest museums in Southeast Asia. The architecture of the building is a fusion between a colonial style building and modern architecture design. The museum has preserved about 141,000 objects on various themes such as the environment, knowledge, technology, economy, social organization and residence patterns, with gold and ceramic objects.

Personally, I was fascinated by the treasure collection that consists of gold and silver jewelry decorated with precious stones. Most of the gold collection originates from different kingdoms and Muslim sultanates in the archipelago during the 16th until the 20th centuries. The most important objects on display are regalia and heirlooms from previous kingdoms, such as ceremonial objects, betel sets, containers in animal shapes, jewelry, performing art objects and weapons. The museum is open from Tuesday till Sunday from 8:30 am till 4:00 pm.

National Library

I believe that you can figure out how much a country takes care about education by focusing on its city’s library, and the National Library is no joke at all. Let me start by complimenting its building. The building is 130 m tall with 27 floors. It is well-designed, clean, painted white and decorated with mirrored windows. When you enter through the door and pass by the lobby, the first thing you notice is the enormous bookcase from the bottom to the fourth floor, with thousands of books in it. And if you look at the ceiling, your eyes will be caught by a round-shaped illustrated map of Indonesia, designed like a dome over your head. This view reminded me of a Harry Potter movie because it was really kind of magical.

It has a variety of facilities, such as reading rooms devoted to the blind and elderly. The government has made a great effort to attract youngsters and people in general to encourage them to study and read by providing them spacious areas with energy-saving concepts and many windows.

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Indonesia Miniature Park)

You cannot miss visiting Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Indonesia Miniature Park), or TMI for short. This is because the park is a summation of Indonesian culture, with virtually all aspects of daily life in Indonesia’s 26 provinces summarized in separate pavilions with collections of rumah adat (traditional houses built in any of the vernacular architecture styles of Indonesia). Indonesian architecture, clothing, dances and traditions are all depicted flawlessly.

There is a lake with a miniature of the archipelago in the middle of it, gardens and parks, cable cars, museums, Keong Emas Imax cinema, a theater, restaurants and several religious buildings of several official faiths meant to showcase the interfaith tolerance and religious harmony of Indonesia. For all these reasons, TMI is considered to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. It is a perfect place to spend a whole day.

As part of our tour, we paid a visit to the Ministry of Tourism, were we met its Director Nia Niscaya and had a very friendly discussion about the culture, habits and the things that distinguish Indonesia from other cultures. It was such an exquisite meeting!

Jakarta Aquarium

Jakarta Aquarium is a nice place to visit with your family – it is located in Neo SOHO, a shopping center in west Jakarta. It is considered to be an edutainment destination, and if you are ready to embark on an underwater adventure, Jakarta Aquarium is the place, as it is the home to more than 600 species.

Shopping

One of the most delightful experiences is shopping in Jakarta, where you can find topnotch brands and the latest trends and designs, such as at the Grand Indonesia Shopping Town in central Jakarta. My shopping tip for you if want to buy more and spend less – visit malls such as Sarinah Shopping Complex and Plaza Semanggi, where you can find local clothing such as batik, which is considered to be a trademark of Indonesian heritage.

Batik

The uniqueness of batik lies in the technique of wax dye applied to whole cloth. It is made either by drawing dots and lines or by printing with a copper stamp called a cap. The tradition of making batik is found in various countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nigeria. The batik of Indonesia, however, may be the best known. Indonesian batik made on the island of Java has a long history of acculturation, with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures, and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique and the quality of workmanship.

Puncak, Bogor

Are you sick of the traffic, loud noises and the hectic busy life in the city? Then you will definitely fall in love with Puncak,Bogor. Puncak, which means ‘peak’, is a weekend getaway. It is a mountain pass where you can find peace and tranquility with spectacular views of tea plantations. Here you can enjoy the clear and clean air and scenery.  Far from the city’s noises, we went to Puncak, where we checked in at Royal Safari Garden Hotel, a hotel that makes you get back in touch with nature.

Royal Safari Garden Hotel

At the hotel, you will be able to clear your head from the wild and busy life, meditate and become completely relaxed. The positive energy around you is unlimited. It is a family-friendly hotel surrounded by trees, a waterpark, mini golf course, a reptile area, bird park and pony rides.

The staff is extremely nice and friendly and the service is quick. The room’s names are inspired by animals, such as the lion deluxe room or panda deluxe room.  The rooms are very clean, spacious, practical and equipped with satellite TV and minibar. The bathrooms have shower facilities. Royal Safari Garden’s Jambo Restaurant serves Indonesian dishes, while the Sky Garden Restaurant serves local and Western food. It is a perfect place to bring your kids for a weekend and take them to the Taman Safari Indonesia.

Taman Safari Indonesia

Pullout: Only when you see the lions and the majestic presence of the white tigers up-close that you get this extreme intense feeling and the adrenaline rush through your body

This is the ideal fun place for children and grownups to get ultimate pleasure and amusement. It is considered to be the biggest zoo in Indonesia. You need two days to cover the entire area and enjoy the place. The park covers up to 50 hectares. Before going to the zoo, make sure to buy carrots from the many vendors by the roadside to feed the animals. The best experience you can get from the safari is to see and feed the elephants, zebras, goats and hippos.

Only when you see the lions and the majestic presence of the white tigers up-close that you get this extreme intense feeling and the adrenaline rush through your body. Inside the zoo there are more animals to see, shows to view such as the ‘Wild-Wild West’, the lion show and the sea lion show, and you can interact and ride the elephants and ponies. There are also restaurants and shops with good-quality souvenirs.

Paragliding at Puncak Pass

Are you an adventurous person and like to take risks? Do you like dangerous things and have no problem to try new things and feel the adrenaline rush. Paragliding from above the Gunung Mas Tea Estate from a hill 1,350 m above sea level is the place for you. This location is not only for paragliding, but is also a popular touristic destination because of its flawlessness. The adventure starts from the beginning of the road, where you can hire men with small motorcycles to get you up to Gunung Mas.

The roads are narrow and slippery, so wearing suitable shoes is a good idea. Reaching to the top is a spiritual adventure, because you can actually inhale the fresh air, unite with nature and the sky above you, enjoy the mesmerizing scenery and breathe again. When you are at the top, it is like everything stops and you reconnect with your inner self and simply be grateful for the God-given nature.

If you decide to actually take the leap and jump, you should come early in the morning and check the weather, because if it is raining, your plan to jump will fail. I personally loved Puncak,Bogor – it is also very popular amongst Arabs, because many Arabs have opened businesses and restaurants here. I advise you to try the machbous (rice with meat) at Zahra Al-Jazeerah Restaurant – it is really delicious.

Puncak Tea Plantation

The Gunung Mas tea plantation was cultivated in the Dutch colonial era, although it is now a government-owned estate. The site sprawls over more than 6,000 acres, where row after row of tea grows in cool climes of between 18 and 25 degrees. The lush hillsides and processing plants of the Gedeh tea plantation are worth a visit.

See tomorrow’s issue for the second part of the story

By Sahar Moussa

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