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Introduction to Jakarta

General Short History Religion Etiquette

Welcome to JakartaHotels.com

Welcome and thank-you for visiting. We at JakartaHotels.com have put together this information more as a primer for the first or second time visitor - certainly 'old Jakarta hands' will already know most of this material. That said, this should get most people off to a good start. If you are looking for more information on Jakarta there are any number of good guide books from which to choose. BTW, if you are one of those Old Jakarta Hands and you think we missed something, don't hesitate to drop us an email.

General Information
Jakarta is located on the island of Java and is the capital city of the sprawling Indonesian archipelago. As such it is the seat of the Indonesian Government as well as the center for business, arts, culture and religion. With an ever increasing population of approximately 13 million people, just everything about Jakarta is bigger, more complicated, more crowded and more expensive than any of the other travel destinations in Indonesia.

However, if you happen to be in Jakarta on business or in transit for a few days do not despair. The fact is, that with a little guidance and some careful planning you can have a very pleasant stay in Indonesia’s largest city.

A Short History
The present day metropolis was founded by the Dutch Governor Jan Pieterzoon Coen in the year 1619 on the site of an existing Javanese village known as Jayakarta. Renamed Batavia it was located on coastal flatlands near the mouth of the Ciliwung River because it provided a safe harbor for the trading ships of the Dutch East India Company. Following the customs of their homeland, the Dutch built gabled houses and narrow streets and dug canals. Unfortunately, what worked in Northern Europe was a disaster in the tropics and the canals have been a source of foul odors and disease since they first appeared.

For a period of five years (1811 – 1816) the British occupied Java and it was governed by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who made improvements to Jakarta visible to this day. Sidewalks five feet wide (kakilima) were added to the streets and many public buildings were put in place, including the present day Presidential Palace.

From 1817 to 1945 the Indonesian Archipelago under Dutch Colonial Rule became known as “The Spice Islands”. The Dutch East India Company a.k.a. “Die Kompanie” was based in Jakarta and plantations throughout the islands provided, coaco, cloves, cinnamon, paprika and other spices for the tables of Europe and beyond.

1941 saw the ouster of the Dutch by the Empire of Japan as part of it’s grandiose “East Asia Co Prosperity Sphere”. This amounted to little more than Indonesia supplying the Imperial war machine. The Dutch returned in 1945 and attempted to reclaim their lost colony. A bloody civil war followed. Led by the charismatic Sukarno, Indonesia won independence from the Dutch in 1947. Bung Karno as he is still affectionately known, was elected President of The Republic of Indonesia. He began to convert Indonesia into a productive “developing country” and reshape it’s capital, now known as Jakarta. Monuments and statues celebrating Independence were put up throughout the city. In the 1970’s locals and visitors alike used these various monuments as landmarks to navigate around the city.

The very first 5 star hotel, Hotel Indonesia was opened in 1960. In 1966 Sukarno was “replaced” by a little known general, named Suharto. Under Suharto’s “Guided Democracy” there was a thirty two year period of economic growth and industrial development. Most obvious to residents and tourists alike, was the variety of architectural styles reflected in the skyline of this modern looking metropolis. Long, wide thoroughfares with shrubs and flowers planted in the medians now cut through the Central Business District (CBD), and toll roads crisscross over the slower moving traffic. Skyscrapers, office buildings, high rise apartment buildings pierce the sky and shopping malls and five star hotel complexes dot the landscape.

There are only 5 religions recognized by the Indonesian Government. These are; Islam (90%) Christian Protestant & Christian Catholic (8%), Buddhist and Hindu (2%). Because 90% of the Indonesian population is Muslim it is often noted that Indonesia is the world's largest Islamic country.

Social and religious requirements have, over time, been modified, combined and refined to form an acceptable code of conduct known as adat or traditional law. While Islam is the predominant religion of Indonesia, the daily practice of this religion is somewhat tempered by elements of Hindu-Buddhism, adat and vestiges of animism. It is therefore somewhat different from what is commonly understood as traditional Islam.

Throughout Indonesia there is a very pronounced belief in a “spirit world.” In Java there are literally hundreds of places where “spiritual energy” is believed to be concentrated. The belief is that this spiritual energy can be absorbed by followers and can be used for either good or evil.

Despite a lengthy colonial period, missionaries were only successful in converting small pockets of the Indonesian population to Christianity. Jakarta is home to the largest Cathedral in Indonesia St. Stefan’s Cathedral which is located within sight of Indonesia’s largest Mosque.

Simple Etiquette
Cultural etiquette has been described as the unspoken but assumed behavior that conveys politeness. Therefore it is important that you take the time to learn about and follow “local etiquette”. In Indonesia, there are a few specific rules that visitors should be sure to know about and follow.

Never hand anything to an Indonesian with your left hand. As in most Islamic countries the left hand is considered “unclean” and thus insulting. If this makes the action somewhat cumbersome by having to change hands, take the time to do it anyway. Handshaking is customary for both men and women on introduction and greeting. Indonesians will frequently touch one or both hands to their chest after shaking hands as a sign of sincerity.

There are a few differences in the use of hands and feet for indicating actions or getting attention. The proper way to summon someone is to use one of the Indonesian words Pak, Mas, (for men) and Bu, Mbak (for women) and make a scooping motion toward you with your hand, fingers facing down. Crooking the index finger as is common in the West is not polite here.

Also, be aware of where & how you position your feet. Exposing the sole of your shoe is considered impolite as is pointing with your foot to indicate an object. Shoes should be removed when entering mosques or, usually, when entering someone’s home. If you are unsure, ask.

Be aware that emotional displays of any emotion are considered rude.

Women should avoid wearing halter tops or shorts as well as tight fitting or revealing clothes in public.

Lastly, visitors should keep in mind the importance of status in Indonesian society. In Indonesia everyone has status, but that status is situational. A street vendor or cab driver may have very high status in his home community either through leadership ability or religious training. Try to understand the different situations that arise in day to day activity and modify your personal behavior to meet those situations appropriately.

Jakarta Hotels - Monumen Nasional
Jakarta Overview

Be advised that the time in Jakarta is GMT + 7 hours.

Situated at the mouth of the Ciliwung River, Jakarta has been recognised as a city since 1527. Originally known as Sunda Kelapa, (then Jayakarta before the Dutch arrived and renamed it Batavia), Jakarta first came into prominence as a seaport.

Comprising a land area of some 650 square kilometres, Jakarta proper is divided into five administrative jurisdictions: Pusat (Central); Selatan (South); Barat (West); Utara (North) and Timur (East).

The Ciliwung River is the dividing line between east & west Jakarta. Most of the high end luxury hotels are located in Central and South Jakarta. See map.

With its location at the mouth the Ciliwung River, Jakarta is basically in a flood plain. This, coupled with fact that several areas of the city are below sea level, means that several areas in Jakarta are prone to flooding during the wet monsoon. Visitors may be inconvenienced a little bit (traffic jams and the like) but visitors will rarely be directly affected by any flooding.

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