Culture Experiences — from Jakarta to Bali

When people think of Indonesia, many automatically think of Bali — the holiday paradise to which people from around the world flock for fun, relaxation, great value for money and wonderful service and hospitality. Bali has always long been a popular holiday destination and Bali resorts offer travellers a range of great accommodation, leisure and culinary opportunities. However, as some of the most astute world travellers are realising, Indonesia offers a plethora of fabulous cultural experiences, not only in Bali but also the Indonesian capital Jakarta, located on the coast of Java.

Here we take a look at some of the travel highlights of the Indonesian capital with consideration of some of the significant cultural differences between Java and Bali.

Javanese ethnicity

The volcanic island of Java has a large population that is quite homogeneous in nature — at least, significantly more homogeneous than the populations of Indonesia’s other large islands. The Javanese and Sundanese people are the ethnic groups native to the island.


The official name of Jakarta is the “Special Capital Territory of Jakarta” and it is positioned on Java’s northwest coast. The population of Jakarta is in excess of 9.5 million people (making it the most populous city in Indonesia and Southeast Asia) and it is the country’s political, economic and cultural centre.

Cultural features of Jakarta

Many Balinese people and people from other parts of Indonesia and Southeast Asia have made Jakarta their home and have contributed their languages, dialects, foods and customs. The term ‘Betawi’ describes the descendants of people residing in and around Batavia (the former name of Jakarta) and the Betawi language and culture are quite different from those of the Javanese or Sundanese. In fact, the Betawi language is most closely based on the East Malay dialect and features words from Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, Sundanese and Javanese languages.

Despite the historical significance of the Betawi, in Jakarta cultural pursuits such as the arts, music, and wedding ceremonies show a broader Javanese influence as well as the influence of other cultures, particularly the Chinese. The Chinese culture is evident in the popularity of everything from Chinese cakes, sweets and firecrackers to wedding attire.

What can visitors expect in Jakarta?

Jakarta is a vibrant, dynamic and cosmopolitan city; it holds great appeal for tourists. The Indonesian capital carries an infectious energy. It has a sophisticated infrastructure, impressive shopping centres, facilities for sports and recreation and great nightlife.

The city features many modern elements including world-class museums, cultural centres, transport options and noteworthy hotels. Jakarta has a number of performing art centres and art centres in which traditional Indonesian arts can be seen and witnessed through performance. Performances of traditional music can be heard at some of the city’s finest quality hotels and also at theatres.

A number of art and cultural festivals and exhibitions also have a home in Jakarta.


Jakarta features many different culinary options and eating complexes that range from the modest and inexpensive to the finest quality, luxurious restaurants.

Traditional Indonesian food, including regional specialties, can be found as can international options including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and French foods. Soto Betawi is one of the most popular local dishes and is a broth made from cow’s milk or coconut milk, with beef tendons, intestines and tripe.

How is Jakarta culturally different to Bali?

Balinese culture carries a predominantly Indian influence and features a diverse range of art forms including traditional dance and music. Bali is respected as having one of the most diverse and creative performing arts cultures in the world.

One of the most distinctive cultural features of Bali is that jewellery is an important part of tradition and so it is common for Balinese people to proudly carry and wear items of adornment in gold and silver.

Essentially, Bali is a paradise for shopping and taking a holiday. The island offers some beautiful natural views, opportunities for activity and amazing resorts and accommodation options. The tropical climate is enjoyed by visitors, and the volcanically active but fertile island is perfect for growing a range of crops, coffee and rice.

In Bali, celebrations are common and to acknowledge many different occasions — some closely follow rituals while others are more improvisatory and flexible. Many Balinese celebrations feature participation and audience involvement and are often loud and quite boisterous.

Indonesia is a culturally rich and diverse country that offers so much for travellers.

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