A State Of Trance (ASOT) is a weekly radio show hosted by DJ Armin Van Buuren, playing promotional and commercial trance mixes. And every now and then, special episodes featuring guest DJs will be held in various nations.
During January to March 2014, the special episode ASOT 650 was taking place all over the world, with Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur being the closest happening to Singapore.
Happening over the March weekend, ASOT is one of Asia’s biggest trance events, seeing people of many Asian nationalities coming together to celebrate the love of trance and rave parties. Singaporeans, Malaysians, Thai, Filipinos even Australians can be spotted partying here.
This was my first overseas trance party, which is what inspired this trip. Other than that, there’ll be mostly food restaurants I’ve tried in Jakarta.
A&W Jakarta Airport (Soekarno–Hatta International Airport)
After touching down in the late afternoon, we did what every 90s era Singaporean would do; make a beeline straight for A&W. This is the fast food restaurant that abandoned Singapore years ago, taking along with it their precious waffle ice cream and root beer float.
Root Beer Float and Fried Chicken. I’ve to say the fried chicken was pretty sad- dry and puny. Even Singapore’s KFC is way better. The Root beer float however, brought many memories back with the distinct taste of fizzy root beer with sweet, creamy soft serve ice cream.
Waffle with Ice cream. The waffles still tasted fluffy and pretty awesome to me, although that could be a nostalgia bias. I think sometimes we take Singapore’s service standards for granted, seeing how with barely 10 customers in the fast food restaurant, the Jakarta A&W crew still took 15 minutes to prepare my waffle.
My root beer float wasn’t filled to the brim as well, which made my eye twitch. Good memories though, come back to Singapore, A&W 🙁
Hotel Mecure Convention Centre Ancol
Address: Jalan Pantai Indah, Taman Impian Jaya Ancol, Jakarta 14430, Indonesia | Tel: +62 21 6406000 | Website
After about an hour plus ride via taxi from the hotel, we arrived at Ancol, a sort of atas Sentosa-ish area complete with security guards and a toll fee.
Superior Twin Room. The 4 star hotel rooms were pretty decent I suppose, clean and simple but nothing very fancy at our level. Rooms cost around $70 SGD per night upwards.
At Hotel Mercure, you can see tons of Singaporeans gathering and getting hyped up for the event. And figuring out how to get there.
Hotel Mercure was supposedly nearest to where ASOT 650 was going to happen. It wasn’t. The organizers changed the venue at the last minute to the EcoPark, about a good 40 minutes walk away.
By Taxi however was only about 10 minutes ride, IF the roads weren’t as constipated as my tummy after having a double McSpicy. The traffic situation in Jakarta is truly as legendary as foretold.
Tons of motorcylist will also offer to pillion you a ride from the hotel to ASOT’s destination for some negotiated price, which seems highly dubious. But I have seen many tourist take up the offer as not much choice was available.
But you know what we did?
We took a boat. The Ancol Ecopark where ASOT 650 was going to be held at was literally across the river from our hotel. Seeing a couple of boats along the bay, we managed to negotiate for about $200k IDR or $23 SGD (for 5 of us) to get us a boat ride across, beating the traffic in style.
ASOT 650 New Horizons
Address: Ecopark, Ancol, Jakarta
The event we are all here for. It’s hot, sweaty and packed with party people all over Asia. Security about illegal alcohol is pretty strict here, and you can’t even bring a bottle of mineral water in which some might use to smuggle booze in. Every ounce of liquid high has to be bought inside at exorbitant prices.
We prepaid for tickets in advance at about $55 SGD, as these tend to sell out fast. However, there are a lot of bootleggers reselling tickets at the event as well, so it’s not hard to get a ticket in the end, just expensive.
Beautiful LED lights all around, with a very enthusiastic crowd. This area is known to get a bit rowdy though, so I’d highly advice always travelling in a group to party.
Ok technically, it says no cameras are allowed within the event. But what’s an event cover without photos? So yea, I had to be pretty discreet with my shots and the number of them are pretty limited here.
But as you can see here, the party gets pretty wild with amazing light show effects and splendid DJs playing.
The lineup at ASOT 650 include: Alex Morph, Andrew Rayel, Armin Van Buuren (the man who started it all), Paul Van Dyk and John O’Callaghan.
My personal favorite at this event that made us all go ‘mfft chk mfft chk’ was Andrew Rayel’s set. To be honest I think he did a better job than Armin Van Buuren, who got a bit tame and too slow for my liking at times.
Toilet queues are crazy, swarms of people, many drunkards and overdosed hippies, ASOT 650 is not your typical family event. Still tons of fun to Trance lovers, but self-control is definitely required and I think events themselves shouldn’t be blamed for how society chooses to act.
Oh yea, we took a boat back to to hotel again. Best idea to beat traffic ever.
Morrissey Boutique Serviced Apartments
Address: Jalan Wahid Hasyim No. 70, Menteng, Jakarta, 10340, Indonesia | Tel: +62 21 29933333 | Website
While many Singaporeans returned shortly after this weekend event, I stayed on for a couple more days to explore Jakarta. The next afternoon, we checked into Morrissey Serviced Apartments, closer to the city and shopping district.
Morrissey Serviced Apartments doesn’t look and sound much from outside, but once you step in it’s an entirely different perception.
Amazingly classy and modern interior design, the whole hotel looks like a piece of art. Black and white backdrops with hints of contrast everywhere, not to mention interesting table pieces and decorations. Architects and interior designers will go nuts here.
Studio Room. The rooms at Morrissey cost $115 SGD and upwards, but was extremely worth it for the decor. Way better than Hotel Mercure the previous night.
Although small and compact, the studio room comes complete with sink and stove, with a laundry room down the hall. Very much like a chic new york studio apartment, clean and simplistic. Hotel staff are also pleasant and very amiable. Only thing missing was probably a bath tub though, so we had to make do with a standing shower cubicle.
Amenities include a rooftop pool, gym and free wifi. We stayed in a lot here.
Ocha and Bella
Address: Morrissey Serviced Appartments
We had complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant, which was called Ocha and Bella. I love hotel breakfasts and always make it a point to wake up and smell the coffee. And bacon.
An Italian restaurant with a huge brick oven to fire up pizzas, the interior has a lot of natural light, making it so cheery and happy in the day.
There is an overwhelmingly large number of staff here, which is a stark comparison to Singapore restaurants.
A good hearty breakfast spread is available, with live omelette station and many classic western items. Food was pretty good, but I hated the self-service one-touch espresso machine which didn’t have its water level calibrated properly, causing overflow every single time.
You’d think they’d figure out the problem after the 3rd time my latte overflowed.
A mix of Chinese and Malay influences, the streets exhibit culture and decorations from both races.
We took the Tuk Tuk or Auto Rickshaw down the road to visit the malls. I really hate bargaining, but these guys don’t go by meter charge and it’s important to know how far your destination is and give them a figure you’re willing to pay, if not they’ll rip you off.
Both Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia were pretty much like Paragon and Ion Shopping centre, with very corporate and glam shoppers, littered with exquisite high end brands. Not exactly excited by this, however I did find Beard Papa at the basement, selling their signature cream puff for just $1 SGD a bun!
HELL YEA. Singapore’s Beard Papa goes for something like $2.80 a bun making this quite a steal. Best find in the shopping mall. Prices for branded goods were slightly cheaper than in Singapore, and you even see Singapore brands within like Sushi Tei.
Sate Khas Senayan
Address: Jl Salemba | Jakarta Pusat, Jakarta 10340, Indonesia | Tel : 2131926238 | Website
Well Sate Khas Senayan is basically a chain restaurant, but tastes nothing like one. There are multiple outlets all around Jakarta and in many shopping malls. I’ve heard that the street Senayan stalls are also very good, and way cheaper than the restaurant versions.
A very traditional setting with wood as the priority emphasis. Large number of seats and friendly staff.
Kopi Tetes. Coffee grounds are filled in the filter, then hot water is also poured in to slowly drip down into the glass below filled with condensed milk. This was an amazing coffee although a bit sweet. Very good aroma and strong taste, pour it over ice for a chilled and less heavy taste.
Sate Ayam. Chicken satay set over a bowl of charcoal that keeps it warm.
Sup Kambing. Mutton soup which didn’t have that typical lamb gamey taste and was actually really delicious. The lamb ribs also just dropped off the bones so easily. It even comes with Tulang or bone marrow!
We had beef, chicken, chicken skin, sausage, prawn satay as well as a freaking grilled fish and mutton soup. Yes it was overkill, but this was arguably the best satay I’ve had in my life. And everything here only costs about in total $40 SGD (2 of us eating, but from our wastage, could probably feed 3). Highly recommended to try when in Jakarta.
Beer Garden (Kemang)
Address: Jalan Benda Raya no. 7, Kemang, Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta, Indonesia | Tel: +62 21 7891145
Before dinner, we stopped by Beer Garden at Kemang for booze. Kemang was supposedly described by an Indonesian friend as being an indie hangout with little shops like Haji Lane. Kemang is nothing like Haji Lane. It’s mostly furniture shops, random restaurants and petrol kiosks here at Kemang area.
The 6.00 – 8.30 pm happy hour promotion at Beer Garden though was absurdly cheap compared to Singapore. For $17K IDR, or about $1.90 SGD a beer, you can enjoy a bottle of Bin Tang, Anker, Bali Hai or Pu Tao Chew Chiew, which was a sweet grape beer.
The are other Beer Market branches nearer to central Jakarta though, so you don’t need to go to Kemang which is a bit further south.
Yellowfin Sake Bar and Kitchen
Address: Jalan Senopati No.42, Kebayoran Baru, Kota Jakarta Selatan, DKI Jakarta 12110, Indonesia | Tel: +62 21 7220394 | Website
Arriving here by taxi, which had to make a massive round even though it was just across the road where we were, the restaurant looked promising and we came here because of the numerous popular reviews online.
Sashimi Moriawase. A pleasant mix of raw Salmon, Scallop and Yellowtail. Not the freshest I’ve had, but pretty decent.
Soft Shell Crab Roll. Either the chef didn’t fry the crab till the shell was actually soft enough to consume, or they used the wrong crab. You can actually still taste the sharp shell pieces inside this roll.
Gindara Saikyo Yaki. Grilled black cod marinated in Saikyo miso. Flavour was lacking and the cod was overcooked with flesh flaking off with a touch.
Buta Bara. Pork belly yakitori with Jalapeno butter. As one of their signature’s, this was majorly disappointing. First off, this was the toughest pork belly I’ve tasted ever; I’ve bitten on leather softer than this. After chewing for probably 2 minutes, I force swallowed it but my dining partner had to spit it out as she had the chewing power of a toothless 80 year old.
I promptly asked the server to exchange another buta bara and he went to check with the kitchen. A couple minutes later, he came back and told us that it wouldn’t matter if we changed it because THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE NORMALLY. I’m amazed which self-respecting chef would allow this kind of standard daily.
So I asked if we could change a different dish instead, and the staff said he couldn’t cancel the dish. Boy, I’ve operated 3 different Point-Of-Sales machines in my life and I assure you the only reason you can’t cancel is if you don’t want to.
Absolutely appalling. Probably sensing our murderous intent now, the restaurant manager then came over and said she could cancel our dish, and apologized. Damage was done though, and nothing could salvage the fact that the food quality is absurdly low. With a small bottle of sake, we paid about $60 SGD per pax at Yellowfin, which is considered pretty pricey in Jakarta already.
I swear even Sakae sushi in Singapore has better standards than Yellowfin Sake Bar and Kitchen. Avoid at all costs.
Fatahillah Food Fest
Address: Fatahillah Square, Jakarta Pusat | Facebook
Bringing together Indonesia delicacies from all over the country, the Fatahillah Food Fest is held at the iconic Fatahillah food square over 4 days, and brings together tourists and locals alike.
Roasted duck and chicken rice anyone? Reminds me of home.
You even see siew mai here!
The combination of different foods from Indonesia showcases their mixed heritage and brings together this curated 4 day feast.
The 35 food booths included classic foods like nasi goreng kambing (goat fried rice), soto udang Medan (Medan-style prawn soup), ayam/bebek tangkap (Aceh-style fried chicken/duck), bebek panggang (roast duck), mie bakso (meatball noodles) and lontong sayur (Medan-style rice cakes and vegetables in coconut gravy).
The Fatahilla food fest event aims to promote the revitalization of the Kota Tua (historic Old Town) part of Jakarta.
Streets of Jakarta, Old Town (Kota Tua)
I can’t leave a country without walking the local streets and trying the street food (at risk of severe diarrhea, which is why it’s usually done on the last day).
A very creepy street basker performs. Well, she really doesn’t need to do anything accept stand still to scare my pants off.
We bought a dish made of duck egg, crispy rice, pork floss and dried shrimp. Honestly I have no idea what this is as I couldn’t understand Indonesian. If someone can leave a comment on what this is, I’ll be very grateful.
We also tried grilled corn with enough chilli sauce to burn down the Amazon forest.
Most locals just chill in the open square with mats out and enjoy the local street fare. Many, many young baskers with guitars will come to you and play some songs in hope for some spare change. What I can tell you is once you start giving, they never stop coming. This was really immersing in the local atmosphere.
Address: Jalan Batu Tulis Raya No.45, Gambir, Kota Jakarta Pusat, DKI Jakarta 10120, Indonesia | Tel: +62 21 3459991
For the final meal of our Jakarta trip, we decided to try Pondok Laguna, which has pretty good ratings on Tripadvisor for their seafood.
The interior is pretty casual and looks like an affordable restaurant with a lot of open area.
I’ve to say, the food is so-so. Curry fish head doesn’t have the curry flavour and spice like Singapore’s version. The amount of clams were pretty generous though. We also tried the Tahu Kapis (fried beancurd), which was pretty much the best dish. Salted egg prawns were a flop though, and I somehow expected Pondok Laguna to have fresh seafood. Wasn’t all that fresh either.
The saving grace of Pondok Laguna is that the prices here are really cheap. Eat in a group and you’ll barely feel the pinch on your wallet, even by ordering an insane number of dishes.
There is still loads of good food to try in Jakarta, and I’ll be back someday to do so. All in all ASOT 650 was a great party, but you have to be careful of your surroundings. Singaporeans tend to be too careless because we live in the safest country in the world.
What I recommend from my experience is to definitely try Sate Khas Senayan for their amazing satay and book a room in Morrissey Serviced Apartments. Prices can be cheap if you know where to go, especially if your currency is stronger, but also expensive and not value for money if you don’t.
Oh yes, do cater A LOT of travelling time, espcecially to the airport. I’ve heard airport taxi rides take 3 hrs because of jams, causing friends to miss their flight. Till next time Jakarta!