For most travelers, Jakarta, Indonesia, is either part of a business trip or a pit stop on the way to more popular tourist destinations such as Bali and Yogyakarta. In truth, most find little that makes them want to linger in Indonesia's capital: A large, crowded city on the island of Java, Jakarta evokes few beautiful or memorable images. One exception is the Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, the city's art building.

To appreciate this city, visitors need to seek out Jakarta's sights that invoke the historical heritage as a meeting place for East and West. These include the remnants of the Dutch colonial era and the old schooner harbor, Sunda Kelapa, still hard at work and looking much as it did in previous centuries.

Don't be surprised, though, if modern Jakarta begins to grow on you: Its jarring mix of trendy nightspots, teeming streets and occasional political demonstrations bespeaks a place where the present is unfolding in an exciting—if not always orderly—manner. The city's image is slowly changing, however, and Jakarta has many fine hotels, shopping malls and golf courses in and around the metropolitan area to entice visitors to stay a little longer.

Because of the natural disasters that hit Jakarta and much of Indonesia in recent years, we advise that you call ahead or check with your travel agent about possible event cancellations and venue closings before you travel to Jakarta. Travelers to Indondesia should be aware that tsunamis and earthquakes are part of the travel equation. Both are unpredictable, but travel warnings from embassies come into force quickly in the unlikely event that they should occur.

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