Explore Jakarta: Kota Tua and Cafe Batavia

This morning, Agent D left home around 5 a.m. for work. I woke up (barely) around 4.20 a.m. to fix him a simple breakfast which he could eat on the way to the airport. My hands and legs seemed to be strangely moving on their own in synchrony while being detached from my brain (which was still in deep slumber).

OK let’s boil water. Hand gets kettle and fills it with water. Finger pushes the boil knob. Legs move to the refrigerator. Hand opens the refrigerator door and gets 2 slices of bread and pops them into the oven. Legs move to the Master Bedroom and arms prepare Agent D’s suit and tie. Bread is ready. Hand butters bread with a knife and layers on a thick spread. 

Come to think of it, I can’t even remember if I spread kaya or blueberry jam onto Agent D’s bread. Hmm or perhaps it was nutella instead :/ My only faint memory was that of saying “bye-bye!” at the doorway and waving Agent D off. My legs must have found their way to the bed because the next thing I knew, the alarm clock was ringing and it was time for me to change to head down to Kampung Kids (Tuesdays are my volunteer days).

So please pardon me if this post isn’t too coherent – I’m still in sleep deprivation mode.


Today I’m going to write about my trip to Kota Tua when my folks visited in February. My dad is a history buff and so I thought he might like exploring the streets of Jakarta’s old town.

According to Mr. Wikipedia, Kota Tua was an important commerce hub in Asia since the 16th century. Thus, it was home to several important historical sites and buildings like the Former Court of Justice (currently the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum), the oldest surviving church in Jakarta (Gereja Sion), the 18th century City Hall (currently the Jakarta History Museum), and so on.

As we got out of the car and stepped onto the streets of Kota Tua, I felt as if I was transported to an earlier era of Jakarta. The entire street was lined with old colonial buildings of Dutch-influenced architecture.

IMG_6698

The entrance where my driver dropped us off.

IMG_6699

Stretch of old colonial buildings.

IMG_6701

A cute little cafe.

We took a short walk down the street and found ourselves at the Central Square. It was BUSTLING there – vendors selling food and souvenirs, street buskers (SO MANY. They were practically 1 cm apart), Indonesian tourists with their selfie sticks, bicycle rental shops, and so on. What a sight really!
One great pity is that many of the colonial relics are decaying. While there have been attempts to preserve and restore some of  the buildings (e.g. the Kota Post Office building has been converted into a contemporary art museum), many are sadly deteriorating and quite a number lie in ruins till this day.
IMG_6705

After preservation works – Post Office building.

IMG_6710

Colonial architecture steadily decaying.

I really hope that most (if not all) of the historical sites can be restored to their former glory SOON. And that one day, Kota Tua will achieve the status of a UNESCO world heritage site. 🙂
To escape from the heat, my parents and I decided to head into Cafe Batavia for some cooling down. Our bodies had probably lost about 3 buckets of water by then (one bucket each) and there was a strong need to re-hydrate. That feeling of stepping into an air-conditioned space with nice soft music playing in the background – SO GOOD.
IMG_0598

Upper level of Cafe Batavia.

Rated #13 out of 6,402 Restaurants in Jakarta on Trip Advisor, Cafe Batavia lives up to its name in terms of ambience. Set in a 200-year-old colonial building, Cafe Batavia is actually the second oldest building in Central Jakarta after the Fatahillah Museum (!!). The cafe’s decor oozes history and gives a glimpse of what life was like in the colonial era. At certain times of the day, the cafe has a live band playing downstairs.
IMG_0591

Wall backdrop consisting of picture frames.

If you have a choice, sit upstairs by a window overlooking the square.  It’s perfect for people watching and looking down on the happenings in Central Square (from the comfort of your seat).

IMG_0594

By the window.

The cafe serves quite a variety of food; from authentic Indonesian food to Chinese food (including dimsum) to Western food. They have an extensive cocktails menu as well. I can’t say much about their food because we only had drinks there (it was tea time).

I’d recommend that you try the traditional drinks (which we did). There are 4 types of drinks made from different herbs and spices and one can have them hot or cold. We ordered three traditional drinks to share amongst ourselves – two of them tasted really nice while the other was…well…an acquired taste. We were such thirsty hippos that when the drinks came, we slurped them up really fast! And FORGOT about taking pictures again. 😦

I’ll be visiting Kota Tua sometime soon to explore their Puppet Museum and Kite Museum. Looking forward!

Of Buffets and Spas in Jakarta: Hotel Mulia The Cafe & Martha Tilaar

I’ve been kept busy by friends visiting from my home country (3 friends on different days in the span of one week!). Perhaps God knows life in Jakarta can get lonely at times and He somehow orchestrates circumstances to bring close friends to me (through their work). Being with old friends gives me the feeling of a home away from home, something I can’t quite explain in words. And I’m so thankful for them.

Jialing came last Wednesday to meet her clients and I brought her out for a massage and a traditional Indonesian dinner. On that same weekend, Adeline stayed at our place to spend time with me before meeting company clients on Monday. We ate A LOT, did hair spa, foot reflexology, pedicure, and facial together. And just 2 days ago on Wednesday, Pam flew in for work as well! We spent the entire day enjoying a sumptuous buffet and 2 hours of body spa. As one can see, although there’s quite a bit to do in Jakarta, FOOD and SPAS/ MASSAGES always top the list for visitors here (actually even for me as a “local” heh).

Today, I’m going to write more about my buffet experience at The Cafe @Hotel Mulia and spa experience at Martha Tilaar Salon Day Spa, a household name in Jakarta. I’ve long heard that the various buffet options (there are a number of restaurants serving buffet there) at Hotel Mulia are VERY GOOD but have not got down to trying any of them yet. These days, buffets are reserved only for special occasions due to slowing metabolism rates. *21st century concerns* Sigh, gone are the days of eating till you feel like puking but yet  feeling so satisfied because you got your money’s worth.

From Mr.google, I found out that The Cafe @Hotel Mulia is ranked #1 out of 6,401 Restaurants in Jakarta and given a rating of 4.8 / 5 on Zomato. Woah not bad at all. After reading that, I got quite excited about having their lunch buffet! Eat good food first, can always lose weight later right? Rightttt.

IMG_6902[1]

Interior of The Cafe @Hotel Mulia. (main area)

The lunch buffet costs about IDR 360k/pax without drinks. It is housed in a very spacey and pretty area with lush greenery outside their full-length windows. I liked how they drew the curtains so that sunlight could stream in. Service was top-notch, as with most other well-known restaurants in Jakarta.

IMG_6927[1]

Happy diners – Pam, Ivana, and myself.

The entire cafe is divided into two separate sections – “real” food and dessert. Some guests might forget about/ miss the dessert section because it’s at another end of the cafe, on the far left side of the entrance. The decor for the dessert section is more whimsical, which I adored. I made a mental note to leave 30% of my tummy space for desserts later.

IMG_6901[1]

A fragment of the main buffet section.

IMG_6903[1]

You can pick and choose the ingredients for your gado-gado.

IMG_6909[1]

Seating area at the dessert section.

The buffet spread was REALLY WIDE, one of the widest I’ve seen around. The food selection was international with various live stations — Indonesian cuisine and desserts, Japanese cuisine,  Indian cuisine, Korean cuisine, Western cuisine, Chinese cuisine including dim-sum, and the list goes on. We were spoilt for choice. 🙂

Here are some pictures (not all) of the food I ate:

By the time it was time for desserts, I think I was already 90% (and not 70%) full. So much for mental resolutions. Blame it on the good food. I took some pictures of the pretty dessert section for your viewing but they didn’t turn out too well on my iphone camera (sorry!).

I have a very sweet tooth by nature i.e. I’m the sort of person that can have 2 rich, fudgy cake slices for lunch and nothing else. Given two options – savoury or sweet – I would always choose the sweet one without any hesitation. Hence, desserts are usually my most anticipated part of any buffet! I have a soft spot for them.

IMG_6912[1]

Desserts shared amongst the 3 of us.

IMG_6928[1]

Dessert we-fie.

Sadly, the desserts didn’t quite match up to their looks and our expectations. They were not bad, but they weren’t fantastic. The ice-cream erred on the airy side. The various shot-glass desserts were fluffy and quite plain tasting while the macaroons were a tad too soft (I prefer them slightly crispy) and sweet. The grape mille-feuille was not bad though and the Indonesian kueh was good. That said, I would still return to The Cafe for their main food.

After lunch, we headed to Martha Tilaar Salon Day Spa. Pam, Ivana, and myself  chose the “Peach Delima Body Treatment” because it smelt SO GOOOOD compared to the other products. Martha Tilaar has a whole range of body treatments with different fancy names but they’re essentially the same thing — with different products (e.g., peach, ginger, herbs, etc).

IMG_6916[1]

Martha Tilaar Center at Kuningan.

I prefer going to the Martha Tilaar Center at Kuningan because it’s the original outlet and is very well maintained. Although Martha Tilaar has many outlets all over Jakarta and Indonesia, many are actually franchises and the quality of service differs.

IMG_6917[1]

Before spa – Ivana with her lemongrass drink.

A choice of cold/hot lemon grass drink or hot ginger tea is offered before and after spa. I find the cold lemon grass particularly refreshing. Oh and in case you were wondering, all Martha Tilaar body treatments are done in a private room.

My “Peach Delima Body Treatment” started off with a (peachy) body scrub. After washing off the scrub, I had a full body steam in one of these things below:

IMG_6925[1]

The circular opening is for your head.

The (peachy) steaming lasted for about 10 minutes. I could fill my entire body perspiring inside. The therapist then got me to lie down on the spa-bed face down and and massaged me with peach-scented oil. She began with long, sweeping strokes followed by muscle kneading and rolling, where my muscles were worked on (like kneading dough). 

Over the past 7 months in Jakarta, I’ve visited quite a number of massage parlours. All of them use different massage techniques, some rougher than others (e.g., shiatsu massage, thai massage, etc). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Martha Tilaar adopts more of a swedish massage style – which I prefer. After the massage, I felt so soft all over as if I was wrapped in a cloud.

The body massage lasted for about 45 minutes. Thereafter, my therapist applied a nice-smelling peach mask over my whole body. While waiting for the mask to set, she filled up my bathtub with warm MILK (or something that looks like milk and smells nice). THE CREAM BATH was my favourite part of the spa experience!! After a soothing massage, it was simply heaven on earth soaking in the warm milk. One word – shiok.

IMG_6919[1]

If not for the fact that my therapist had to go home, I would have stayed in the tub the whole day! Soon, my therapist knocked on the door and told me to wash up (with peach bath soap). She gave me some peach moisturizer to apply on my body.

All in all, our “Peach Delima Body Treatment” lasted for 2 hours. The three of us smelt so peachy sweet after that and we all went home and had a good night’s sleep.

Here’s the bill payment for your reference. I got 20% discount off the total bill because I’m a Martha Tilaar member (just spend more than IDR 1 juta within a month and you can qualify for membership). Have fun! 🙂

IMG_6931[1]

Our bill payment at Martha Tilaar.

Of Hair and Beauty Salons in Jakarta: Anna Wijaya

So the weekend went by and Adeline came and left. It’s always nice having familiarity around. No need for introductions or small talk; we can simply start from where we left off and delve into deep girly talk.

Adeline wanted to do a few things in Jakarta, one of which was hair treatment/ hair spa. I usually do my hair treatment at Anna Wijaya Salon in Grand Indonesia. (Due to the not-so-ideal air in Jakarta, I find hair treatments quite a regular necessity here). However, due to time constraints, we decided to check out the Anna Wijaya Salon in Ambassador Mall which is nearer to where I live.

Exterior-wise, the salon at Ambassador Mall looked slightly oldish compared to the one at Grand Indonesia. Another difference is that hair treatments are done in a private room at the Grand Indonesia outlet (more exclusivity for a maximum pax of 4). BUT…there was quite a big difference in prices. Same treatment options. Same products used. Same procedures. Yet the price difference was about Rp 100, 000 (!!). I am totally going to the one at Ambassador Mall from now on. 

The hair treatments at Anna Wijaya make use of Kérastase products which are pretty good. After each treatment, I can feel an overall difference in my hair – smoother, silkier, and more healthy-looking. Back in my home country, hair treatment using Kérastase products would cost double to even triple the price. *perks of living in Jakarta*

I opted for the “fibre reconstructing hair treatment” targeted at dry, damaged hair which has been treated before (i.e., rebonded, coloured, permed, etc) whereas Adeline opted for “colour hair treatment” meant to bring out the colour in her hair and make it more reflective. I used to choose the “nourishing hair treatment” not knowing that it was actually meant for dry, damaged and UNTREATED hair. Sigh I blame it on my lousy command of Bahasa Indo back then.

The entire hair treatment process took about 1.5 hours and started off with a hair wash. After the hair wash, the treatment was applied to my hair. While waiting for the products to set in, I got a head, neck and shoulder massage (very shiokkk). Adeline was very pleased with her massage, saying she felt very “de-knotted” haha.

 Most hair salons in Jakarta also offer other (legit) services. For example, eyebrow trimming, manicure/ pedicure, foot reflexology, etc. Why not, right? Since our hands and legs are free. I decided to get a pedicure done while Adeline chose a relaxing foot reflexology.

After steaming my hair, I got it washed again. At this point, you can either choose blow dry to IBU-STYLE (at an additional cost) or normal dry. Of course, we chose the former option. We were in Jakarta, after all. 🙂

Here are some end-product pictures:

IMG_6880[1]

After-treatment hair (prior to this, I had loads of flyaway hair).

IMG_6885[1]

My newly-painted nails.

My pedicure turned out so-so only but I’m not blaming them, After all, they’re a nail hair salon. Just in case anyone is interested in the breakdown costs, I’m posting the bill here for your reference.

IMG_6879[1]

Bill payment for my visit to Anna Wijaya salon.

Anna Wijaya Salon aside, I’m sure there are many other hair salons that offer the same services with different price ranges. I’ll be checking out another salon next time round!