After asking advice on Facebook about recommendations for Jakarta we had a similar response from everyone. The majority said they hated it and most advised us not to go. Words used to described it were ‘chaotic, dirty, hectic, polluted, disorganised and busy. Could it really be as busy as Mumbai? We were intrigued as to what we would find.

Jakarta is a bustling busy city of over 13 million people and it sprawls over 661 square kilometres. Although there are very few specific tourist attractions, there’s plenty too look at on the streets, and having spent many weeks in smaller towns and cities we were excited to be spending time in a busy city with an edgy vibe about it.

We stayed in Kemang, a trendy area of the city that is home to many bars, restaurants and shops, all walkable from our b&b.

We decided to explore the city using the local minivans and trans Jakarta busway system, the only bus service in with designated stops. We headed up to an old area of the city called Kota (Batavia), which was the old administrative district of the Dutch trading empire. The journey there was an interesting one as the minivans are amazing for people watching. You don’t have to move as the interesting people come to you.  Street sellers flogging drinks, hair clips and cigarettes and the occasional beggar jump on at the junctions. Buskers stand on the streets playing guitars and drums and thousands of motorbikes weave crazily in and out of the busy traffic.

Jakarta bus - backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'the boy' on the local bus

Having said that the local minivans can be a bit hair raising. You can flag them down at any point, but the driver tends to keep the bus in motion whilst you attempt to jump on or off, even with a baby!

In the centre of Kota is an attractive cobbled square surrounded by museums and street sellers. Hundreds of bikes, each with a coloured hat tied to the handlebars, line the centre of the square ready for people to hire. It was relatively quiet and we were able to stroll around the area very easily away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets.

Backpacking with a baby around SE Asia

Bikes for hire in Kota town sqaure

Later that day we found an amazing kiddies play area inside a one of the many shopping malls. It was a children’s dream with mini train rides, cable cars, log flumes on an indoor water network and a soft area for ‘the boy’ to crawl and run around on.  He seemed to enjoy having the freedom to roam around and we loved the fact that it was spotlessly clean. A rare occurrence for most days!

We found Jakarta to be very friendly and the local people were incredibly helpful in giving us priority on public transport. As we spent a full day out and about we used the buggy and although some of the back streets are a bit rough and ready the main streets and walkways are easy to navigate with wheels.

Backpacking with a baby SE Asia, Jakarta street seller

Jakarta street seller

Good food, good people and a good time. Jakarta was a pleasant surprise.

Top tip of the day:
If your baby is attracting too much attention when you’re in a hectic city, use your buggy mosquito net during the day. The additional layer of fabric helps keep unwanted hands away from your baby.