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Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia's huge capital, sits on the northwest coast of the island of Java. A historic mix of cultures – Javanese, Malay, Chinese, Arab, Indian and European – has influenced its architecture, language and cuisine. One of the world’s greatest megalopolises, Jakarta is a dynamic city of daunting extremes that's developing at a pace that throws up challenges and surreal juxtapositions on every street corner. An organism unto itself, this is a town in the midst of a very public metamorphosis, and despite the maddening traffic, life here is lived at an all-out pace, driven by an industriousness and optimism that's palpable. Dysfunction be damned.

From the steamy, richly scented streets of Chinatown to North Jakarta's riotous, decadent nightlife, the city is filled with unexpected corners. Here it’s possible to rub shoulders with Indonesia’s future leaders, artists, thinkers, movers and shakers in a bohemian cafe or a sleek lounge bar and then go clubbing till dawn and beyond, the sober desires of current lawmakers notwithstanding.

One excellent surprise you'll find in Jakarta is that once you past the taxi drivers who offer their services at the airport and really meet the locals, you will find that the people are among the most friendly, hospitable, and helpful people you'll find on earth, if you keep away from the mini-bus drivers who are notorious for being the harshest on earth. However, understand that Jakarta being a melting pot, you are guaranteed to meet people of all sorts here.

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