There is nothing Jo and I love more than to have family and friends stay with us in Jakarta. Visits no matter how short are precious opportunities to catch up on news from home and beyond, chill at home together and a chance to put our ‘Jakarta tour guide’ hats on.
So, if you are expecting a guest (or two, or five!), here are a few things we do to prepare for them. All are small, but can make all the difference when you are welcoming guests to your Jakarta home, or any guest for that matter.
In the spirit of Indonesian hospitality we say Selamat Datang!
Welcome to Jakarta!
Before guests arrive
- A few weeks before guests arrive, I like to send a quick email to chat about what clothes to pack, what not to pack because I will provide it, the Aussie treats we are missing that guests should pack! our address to have handy for customs officers on arrival, pickup details, availability of ATM’s (Automatic Teller Machines) currency, and food requirements. Jo also likes to give these packing tips:
- Best to pack light, breezy, natural fibre clothing.
- Long, light layers are best to avoid mosquito bites and sun exposure.
- Pack modest clothing options, especially if swimming in public places such as water parks.
- Pack extra important medications and bring scripts.
- One of the first things people arriving into Jakarta experience, as they exit the Arrivals terminal of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is the ‘wave’ of tropical heat that envelopes them. To prepare our guests for this, we arrive at the Airport with a bag stocked with chilled water and drinks for the car ride home (that could be anything from 1 – 2 hours) and some simple snacks just in case anyone is peckish.
Making your guests feel at home
- Internet access is an essential for travellers of all ages today. We write our password on name cards (only important ones!) and hand it out when guests arrive at the house.
- Jakarta is the city of electronics and you can purchase all manner of adaptors, chargers and power boards with international fittings (albeit pink!) These are the types of things that are easy to make available for guests to use, and hopefully make ‘staying connected’ easy for them whilst they are in Jakarta.
- Tap water in Jakarta is not fit for drinking but safe to shower and wash in. We make sure we communicate this to our guests when they first arrive and they quickly get the hang of cleaning their teeth with bottled water.
- Keeping guests hydrated in Jakarta is important. Houses, cars and shopping malls are all air-conditioned which can be especially drying on the skin. We keep a carafe of drinking water next to the bed for guests, which is filled daily, and make sure we’ve shown our guests where to help themselves to drinking water in the kitchen.
- Most bedrooms in expat houses in Jakarta are well cooled using either air-conditioning or fans and very comfortable for sleeping. But every guest’s sleeping temperature is different. To ensure everyone sleeps comfortably, we make sure guests know where to find the air conditioning remote control.
- We also leave light cotton blankets out for those who like to sleep with a fan only.
- I know I love to read local newspapers whenever I am visiting a new town or city. It’s a great way to get ‘a feel’ for a place. Similarly I’m a bit of a collector of tourist books, brochures and magazines. So putting together a basket containing local newspapers, interesting Jakarta books and brochures for guests to enjoy is a lot of fun. It also gets guests chatting about local Indonesian issues and asking questions about how we see things living as an expat here, as well as thinking about where they’d like to explore.
- Setting the breakfast table the night before is a simple way to ensure guests who wake early, (mostly Australians, due to the time difference) have a chance to grab a bite before the whole house wakes, and perhaps be updated on local Jakarta news.
- Easy to ‘help yourself’ foods such as local fruit and muesli are perfect for any early risers.
Your local area
- A great way for guests to acclimatise is to enjoy a walk in the local area. Not only do they get their first taste of Jakarta street life and beautiful flora; getting out in the sunlight also helps long distance air travellers to adjust to a new time zone.
If family or friends have never visited a majority Muslim country, or Jakarta, I like to mention the most obvious of Muslim rituals; prayer and in particular the call to prayer.
- Indonesian and Non-Indonesian Muslims pray 5 times per day, and for each prayer session, they are called to pray by the local Iman who broadcasts this message in Arabic over a loud speaker, lasting several minutes, and can be heard for kilometres around each masjid (mosque).
- The first prayer or ‘Fajr’ begins between dawn and sunrise, which is approximately 4:45 am. The remaining prayer times are 6:00am (sunrise prayer) 12:00 noon (prayer time between declining of the sun and sunset) 4:30pm (before sunset prayer) 6:00pm (prayer at sunset) and 7:00pm (prayer after disappearance of twilight)
- The majority, if not all household staff working in expat houses are Muslim. Every home will have designated spaces for private staff prayer. Prayer is very personal and staff are very discreet when they are called to pray. It just becomes part of the rhythm of the day.
- If guests are visiting on a Friday, drivers in particular will take time out of their day to perform Friday prayers. Friday prayers begin at 12:00 noon and finish around 12:30-12:45 pm in Jakarta.
Preparing to explore
- I always have a collection of water bottles, hats, scarves and simple handbag essentials in case guests don’t have room to bring them.
- A scarf has a multitude of functions, but the main ones in Jakarta include: to wear in air-conditioned places like the car, shopping malls or restaurants where it can be chilly, placing around your shoulders in traditional public places, and places of worship. Eg, The grand mosque of Jakarta, (Istiqlal mosque), National Monument (MONAS), and Gereja Katedral Jakarta (Catholic Cathedral Jakarta) or protecting your neck and shoulders from the sun.
- Carrying a water bottle is an essential if out and about in Jakarta, so too is a hat.
- Essential handbag items include: sunscreen, mosquito repellent, tissues (sometimes needed in toilets in Jakarta tourist areas), hand sanitizer, and adhesive plasters.
A touch of Indonesia
- There is no better way to add a touch of Indonesia to your guest’s room than by including traditional Indonesian textiles. Ikat or Batik pillow cases are perfect, so too are batik runners placed at the foot of your guest’s bed.
- This is an obvious one but worth mentioning. A simple reading lamp and clock that can be read in the dark are both useful for guests.
- Serving a welcome drink is a custom enjoyed in many Indonesian homes. I don’t tend to serve a traditional welcome drink to guests on arrival, but I do like to serve Indonesian drinks to guests at other times. I particularly like rambutan or lychee iced tea which is refreshing after a day out exploring as well as lemongrass and ginger tea. Hot lemongrass and ginger tea is soothing on the throat and the perfect Indonesian fusion to share with guests in the morning. The heady aroma of lemongrass and ginger steeping, spreads throughout the house… the quintessential fragrance of Indonesia!
- Of course not forgetting coffee! Indonesia has a long-standing coffee culture and the 3rd largest producer of coffee in the world. This is one local product we are really excited about and happy to share with guests, both at home as well as out and about.
- A simple way to add a touch of Indonesia is by adding fresh flowers or greenery from your garden to guest bedrooms, bathrooms and living spaces.
What else do you do for house guests visiting in Jakarta?
Let’s extend this list! Looking forward to chatting in the comments section.
If you are planning on having guests visit you in Jakarta and are looking for places to go, local recipes to cook, tropical fruits to share, looking to buy flowers, fabric and souvenirs, where to have clothing made and where to sip coffee you might also like:
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Words: Liz Photography: a journey bespoke