A Guide to Exploring Jakarta, Indonesia via MRT

The Jakarta MRT system, launched a year ago, has become one of the best ways to traverse the gridlocked city and explore its diverse communities and subcultures.

MRT Bundaran HI

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Every Sunday, from 6am to 11am, the heart of Jakarta — stretching from the National Monument in Central Jakarta to Senayan in the south — is off limits to motorized vehicles. This car-free day, near MRT Bundaran HI station (near the iconic Welcome Statue) attracts eclectic company — spot pet owners out walking their dogs, ducks and goats (yes, you read that right) and tarot readers. Explore around the station area and you might find the reptile or vintage bicycle communities. The former is easy to spot with owners chilling with giant pythons wrapped around their necks; the latter can be found gathered with their treasured two-wheelers — on special days they go out in themed costumes, too.

 

MRT Bendungan Hilir

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Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, falls on April this year, and this is when Pasar Benhil (Benhil Market) near MRT Bendungan Hilir comes alive with colorful food items sold to people breaking fast. From 11am to 7pm, find stalls selling desserts (such as chewy potato balls in palm sugar soup and areng palm fruit boiled in plain syrup) and other local bites sourced from or inspired by traditions of various regions across the country. Bestsellers include squid with chili sambal, as well as different types of curries, including the very Indonesian bamboo shoot and fish roe curries.

 

MRT Blok M

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Known as “Little Tokyo”, the area around Blok M station features izakaya, sushi (Kaihomaru is must-try) and ramen restaurants, alongside manga shops and karaoke bars. The neighborhood is reminiscent of vibrant Shibuya — and, similarly, can feel a bit seedy at night. There’s the popular, annual Ennichisai Festival, which is also the biggest Japanese culture and food festival in Indonesia. Organized by the local Japanese community, visitors can expect quite the spread of Japanese food, cosplay events, and live music and dance performances.

 

MRT Cipete Raya

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It’s around here that you can find Rossi Musik, the grandfather of local indie music venues. The grotty building, a dilapidated shophouse surrounded by bank buildings, garages and hardware stores, features strictly for-decoration-only elevators and attracts both local and international indie bands of different genres. Attending a gig or album launch here is somewhat of a hipster’s rite of passage. The small auditorium has hosted American rock band Turnover, American indie rock/dream pop band Wild Nothing and New Zealand musician Connan Mockasin, among others. Check online (fb.com/rossimusik) for program lineups.

 

MRT Lebak Bulus

At this final stop, check out Kios Ojo Keos, an indie bookstore managed by Efek Rumah Kaca, a beloved, socio-politically conscious indie band. The store offers indie books of varying genres (some in English) and indie albums on CDs (remember those things?), and it hosts live gigs, talks and screenings — find its full program online (FB and IG: @kiosojokeos). Members of the band can usually be found busying about the small but intimate space, so feel free to approach them for a chat over very affordable coffee.

Written by

Lia Lenggogeni

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