JAKARTA is a relentless city.

Noisy, humid, traffic in gridlock - the Indonesian capital, on the north-west island of Java, is like nowhere else.

And now Garuda Indonesia, the country's national airline, is flying there direct from London (with a touch down in Amsterdam), it's a city open to more visitors than ever before.

It's difficult to judge how far Soekarno-Hatta airport is from the centre of Jakarta.

Conservative estimates suggest an hour, although my journey takes more like three hours. So bad is the traffic in Jakarta that lateness to appointments is not just tolerated but factored in.

During peak hours, the city almost completely comes to a standstill, and there aren't many pavements, so walking is normally out of the question.

In light of this, Jakartans have decided the best way of getting from A to B is by scooter. There are about seven million of the two-wheelers in the city, making every traffic light and junction look more like an off-road rally.

Tourists can hire scooters, but it's not the most relaxing way of getting around. Instead, it's best to carefully plan what you're going to do and set off early.

One place you should visit is the Jakarta History Museum in the old town hall of Batavia.

It's a well-maintained colonial building dating back to the 17th century when Jakarta was part of the Dutch empire, as beautiful on the outside as it is interesting on the inside.

There are multiple ornate rooms with maps, furnishings, weapons and artworks detailing the city's colourful past.

National Monument is another spot worthy of your time. The monument, not unlike Nelson's Column in appearance, was built to recognise Indonesia's struggle for independence in the 1940s.

Here, you can sit, enjoy an ice-cold drink from one of the many vendors, and hopefully take in some rare quiet. During my visit, there aren't many people around here at all, giving the place an oddly tranquil feel.

Tradition is a big deal in Indonesia, and there are many sites explaining the country's rich and varied past. But with a population of around 240 million, making it the world's fourth most populous country, and a staggering 50 per cent of the inhabitants aged below 30, the future is going to be infinitely more exciting.

As a result of that youthful boom, Indonesia is in transition from slightly creaking former colony to world-leading technology hub.


The Hermitage

It's among the most luxurious hotels in Jakarta, and is certainly one of the newest. Despite a recent extensive renovation and extension, the beautiful art deco building contains many nods to its former existence as a government office, a school and a telephone exchange.

A swim in the open-air rooftop pool provides the perfect start to a day, and soaking up the view at sunset, while sipping a gin and tonic, is about as relaxing as it gets.


Grand Indonesia Shopping Town

This is one of the largest malls in Asia, and whether you're looking to pick up some bargains and visit the high-end boutiques or not, it's worth seeing simply to experience how big and confusing a shopping centre can be.



Skye bar and restaurant is particularly popular with tourists and well-to-do locals. Situated on the 56th floor of an office tower, it's easy to see why - you get an incredible view of the city, with its neon towers and high-rise apartments.

Eastern Promise

This Jakartan take on a pub offers great food, dartboards and pool tables, and it's nowhere near as seedy as the name suggests.

Cafe Batavia

Opposite the National Museum in Old Batavia, this Dutch colonial restaurant is also the second-oldest building in Jakarta. The menu includes Western, Japanese and delicious local cuisine.


Andy Welch was a guest of Garuda Indonesia who offer flights from London Gatwick to Jakarta five times a week, from £528 return, per person, in economy class, including 30kg baggage allowance.

Visit garuda-indonesia.com