Sunday Times travel expert Richard Green responds: It’s true that most tourists give Jakarta a very wide berth and just change planes at the airport on the way to Bali or Borneo, but if you have decided to give it a go, it is a good opportunity to flavour the history and diversity of the world’s fourth most populous country.
It’s not the easiest city on earth, but after a few days I developed rather a soft spot for it, and whatever happens on your visit, It’ll make the unique tranquillity of Bali feel all that more blissful.
While the featureless sprawl you see from your aircraft window on landing in Jakarta looks terrifying, head to the historic Kota area and you’ll find a rather attractive hotchpotch of colonial architecture that is perfectly manageable on foot.
A few minutes walk north of the Kota train station and you are in the centre of old Batavia, as the Dutch colonists called Jakarta. Around the cobbled Taman Fatahillah Square, you’ll find the Jakarta History Museum (housed in the old town hall, built in 1627), Fine Arts Museum, and Puppet Museum, and just west over the canal is the grand residence of the former Dutch Governor General.
Walk north along the canal past fine 18th century mansions until you come to the last surviving Dutch drawbridge, the Maritime Museum, Watchtower, and fish market, and the old port full of brightly painted wooden schooners.