How to spend 12 hours in Menteng, Indonesia

Home to the early Dutch colonial officers and city planners, Menteng, in the heart of Jakarta, has stood the test of time with its tree-lined roads and stately, time-worn buildings. What keeps it going — and shielded from the dreaded wrecking ball — is the ownership and protection of old money families (à la Crazy Rich Asians), as well as business brought in by the spate of dining and entertainment establishments that have moved into the neighborhood in recent years. The area’s rich history is also a magnet for architecture buffs and other discerning local creatives who visit to admire or document the well-preserved Indische architecture (20th-century European modernist structures tailored for the tropical climate).

8AM Grab breakfast at Berrywell

There’s nothing like a heavy and  nutritious breakfast to start the morning. At Berrywell in ShopHaus, a trendy lifestyle destination, you can load up on low-fat wraps and smoothie bowls. Keshia’s favorite is the Berrywell Signature: “It comes with a cold smoothie base of Brazilian açai berry, strawberries, raspberries and coconut water, and is topped with kiwi fruit, coconut flakes, chia seeds, banana slices, cacao nibs and homemade granola. Yum.” berrywell.co.id

9.30AM Tune the senses at Taman Suropati

Bounded by the residences of the governor of Jakarta, the American ambassador and other imposing estates, this green space is, “hands-down the artsiest park in all of Jakarta. Music lovers come here to hang out and watch other people sing or practice their musical instruments.” The friendly vibe makes it extra special. Keshia says, “If you’re a musician, I’d encourage you to join in or start a jam — people here are very welcoming.”

11AM Browse and buy beautiful batik at Bin House

Josephine Komara (or Obin), has been creating exquisite, contemporary batik fabrics for almost 35 years. Prices are steep, but even a browsing visit would be well worth your time. Check out Obin’s Cita line, with its youthful vibe and more affordable price tags, and sip on complimentary, homemade iced lime tea. If you’re keen to take home a memento, there are silk batik-made plush animals that would make cute and thoughtful souvenirs. IG: @binhouse_official

12.30PM Up your politico cred at SDN Menteng 01

On the tiny street of Jalan Besuki sits SDN Menteng 01, a primary school with a bronze statue of a smiling boy reaching for a butterfly — it’s the boyhood figure of Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, who attended school here for a year and a half. The statue of the school’s most famous alumnus serves to inspire students to reach for their dreams. “You can take a peek but it’s a school, so try not to linger and disrupt activities,” says Keshia.

1.30PM Stop for a cuppa at Coffee 31

Need a pick-me-up? Then grab a cup of cold es kopi susu (iced Indonesian milk coffee; espresso with fresh milk and palm sugar) at Coffee 31. “For the newly opened café, a compact venue that occupies a patio space, as many as 150 cups of es kopi susu — brewed from Indonesian coffee beans — can fly off the counter on a busy morning,” says Keshia. “It’s good stuff.” IG: @coffee31menteng

3PM Get a dose of art and culture at Cemara 6 Galeri

Drop in to Cemara 6 Galeri, an art space that houses a permanent collection of artworks by old Indonesian masters like Popo Iskandar and Affandi. There’s also a collection by Toeti Heraty, recognized locally as the grand dame of Indonesian arts and culture. “In comparison to other newer gallery openings, Cemara is small and low-key. But they do impress. I was recently inspired by their retrospective on Indonesian female artists,” says Keshia. cemara6galeri.wordpress.com

4.30PM Treasure hunt on Jalan Surabaya

There was a time when you could find actual treasures on Jalan Surabaya. A Menteng resident once described it as a place where “rich children sold off their parents’ heirlooms, to pay for illegal procedures”. These days, there isn’t much to look at — save for a collection of vintage vinyl records sold by an unnamed corner shop. The selection features everything from Malay folk to Motown and classical music. “A famous music producer once shared that visiting international artists (like Katy Perry) are sometimes taken here for a look-see,” says Keshia.

5.30PM Knock back some pre-dinner drinks at La Vue

Stretch your legs and catch the sunset hues  from the comfort of La Vue Rooftop Bar as the sun dives behind the city’s skyscrapers. Situated at the top of The Hermitage hotel and spread across two floors — lounge area seats are the best — the bar offers 3600 views of the Indonesian capital. On the menu are local beers and inventive cocktails. “I like La Vue for its millennial-friendly prices — they’re affordable compared to other fancy rooftop bars,” says Keshia. hermitagejakarta.com

6.30PM Enjoy a meal and a movie at the Metropole

Take a short walk to Hello Sunday, at the historic, Art Deco-style Metropole building, and treat yourself to French bistro fare — we recommend the Rosemary Chicken. The Metropole is also home to one of the oldest cinemas in town. “This is one of my favorite places in the city; my parents used to take me here. The main building has been nicely renovated, to retain its vintage façade, and there are plenty of other food options available — perfect for pre- or post-movie dining,” says Keshia. Cinema 21 at the Metropole screens all the latest blockbusters. IG: @hellosundayindonesia

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More architectural gems

Masjid Cut Meutia

This mosque, which doesn’t orient itself to Mecca (thanks to a previous iteration as an architectural firm), might be the only one of its kind in the world. Marked as a heritage site, Masjid Cut Meutia is also a fine example of Indische design — think high ceilings 50 large windows and more. Jln Taman Cut Meutia 1

PGI Cikini Hospital

Before being turned into a hospital, this building stood as the residence of Raden Saleh, a pioneering painter considered one of the first Indonesian modern artists. The structure features neoclassical and pseudo-Gothic and Chinese accents. Note: Franz Ferdinand, of Austro-Hungarian royalty, whose assassination was said to have triggered the beginning of WWI, was once hosted at the residence. Jln Raden Saleh Raya 40

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How to get around

  • Commuter trains. Menteng is covered by three stations: Cikini, Gondangdia and Sudirman. While limited to a few areas now, the rail network is set to expand with the proposed openings of new MRT and LRT lines in mid-2019.
  • Transjakarta. The city’s buses operate in their own dedicated road lanes and they ply a network that spans all of Jakarta. Pink, women-only buses are available on certain popular routes. Get the Trafi mobile app for route and schedule info.
  • Gojek and Grab. Ride-hailing apps — ‘nuff said. Extra tip: use the phrase “ikuti peta” (“just follow the map” in Bahasa Indonesia), and you could save you and your driver some trouble.

This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Rusmailia Lenggogeni

Photographed by

Yohan Liliyani

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