Bounded to the north by the Java Sea and the south by the low Bogor Hills, Indonesia's overwhelming capital, JAKARTA, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. From a mere 900,000 inhabitants in 1945, the current population is well over ten million and continues to grow at a rate of 200,000 every year. The capital currently sprawls over 656 square kilometres of northern Java. Unfortunately, few foreign visitors find the city as alluring as the local population, and down the years Jakarta has been much derided. Its dangers have been much exaggerated, and except for the period around Suharto's downfall in May 1998, the safety of foreigners has not really been in question. Yet the suburb of Kota in the north, the former heart of the old Dutch city, still retains a number of beautiful historic buildings, as does the neighbouring port of Sunda Kelapa. The capital also has some of the country's finest museums, including the Maritime Museum, the Wayang Museum and the National Museum.
The site of modern-day Jakarta first entered the history books in the twelfth century, when the Pajajarans, a Sundanese kingdom based in West Java, established a major trading port at Sunda Kelapa and held on to it for over 300 years. In the early sixteenth century, the Islamic Sultanate of Banten, 50km to the west, invaded the city and renamed it Jayakarta, "City of Victory"; the date of their invasion, June 22, 1527, is still celebrated as the city's birthday today. By 1619 the Dutch had won control of the city and the newly named Batavia became the administrative centre of their vast trading empire; it was also given a facelift, with a new network of canals and a host of imposing civic buildings. When the Japanese invaded Batavia on March 5, 1942, the city was once again re-titled Jayakarta, or Jakarta for short. Immediately after World War II, a British force engaged the new Republic of Indonesia. Dutch power declined, and many of their buildings were pulled down. In 1949, Sukarno entered Jakarta, amid scenes of wild jubilation, to become the first president of the Republic. In the following two decades, ugly, Soviet-style monuments sprouted like warts on the face of the city and huge shantytowns emerged on the fringes to house economic migrants from across the archipelago, a population shift that continues to this day. Since then, Jakarta has continued to be the focus of Indonesia's changing political face, most recently and dramatically with the demonstrations against Suharto in May 1998, during which time the city was looted and set alight by angry mobs, who were apparently orchestrated by elements in the army. The city is much less tense at the moment, though the armed forces still maintain a presence. Some radical Islamic groups have emerged, but the general population remains stoically oblivious to them.
What to see:

Taman Impian Jaya Ancol (Ancol Dreamland)
This colossal recreational resort faces the enchanting Jakarta Bay. Its prime attraction is Fantasyland, an amusement park that keeps children, especially, entertained the entire day. Art buffs and tourists in search of souvenirs should visit Pasar Seni art and handicraft market. Others might like to check out Sea World (an oceanarium) for an educational tour on marine life or Ancol Water Park for yet more fun. The Ancol Marina operates as the gateway to the neighboring Thousand Islands.

Sea World
This giant oceanarium proudly introduces visitors to more than 4,000 fish and sharks from 300 species. Come and enjoy the deep-sea panorama while strolling through an 80-meter tunnel. The fascinating creatures live in some 500 million liters of seawater and are fed three times a day (some hand-fed). The attraction also features a theater which plays three educational films in English and Bahasa Indonesia.

Monas (National Monument)
Standing at 132 meters and topped with 35 kilograms of gold, this imposing obelisk is Jakarta's most famous landmark. Construction started in 1961 under President Soekarno but was not completed until 1975, under President Soeharto. The monument houses a couple of museums. The Freedom Hall depicts Indonesia's struggle for independence through a series of dioramas, whereas the Hall of Contemplation displays the original Declaration of Independence document and a recording of the speech. An elevator takes one to the observation platform, which commands a bird's-eye view of the cityscape.

Where to eat:

This hip restaurant is composed of a fashionable blend of antique charm and modern comfort. Hazara serves up Indian and Thai cuisines from two separate kitchens. Sample classical dishes in comfortable surroundings richly set with museum quality antiques and artifacts. Enjoy cocktails in the Face Bar, a beautiful Oriental bar filled with items from old Thailand, China and Bali.

Empire grills
Empire Grill boasts a casually elegant setting for those interested in a meal to remember. It is also Jakarta's only revolving restaurant and, being located on the 35th floor, commands a picturesque view of Jakarta's cityscape. With superb international cuisine and the best T-bone and Tenderloin Steak in town, it makes a perfect spot to wine and dine. Various kinds of wines and champagnes, as well as alcoholic cocktails are available. Nightly piano tunes add to the romantic atmosphere for first dates or anniversary dinners.

Daily Bread
One of the locals' favorite hangouts in Pondok Indah Mall, Daily Bread is a friendly, Parisian-style cafe with a red, white and blue decor and wrought-iron chairs and tables. With jazz music playing in the background, this is a pleasant spot for your afternoon tea. Popular choices among the pastries and cakes on offer include the Chicken and Mushroom Croissant, cheese and chocolate brownies, chocolate cake and blueberry cheesecake. For the health conscious, the range of salad sandwiches make excellent alternatives. In addition to coffee and tea, soft drinks, milkshakes and smoothies (vanilla, chocolate, mocha and strawberry) are also available.

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