Indonesia’s sprawling capital is one of the fastest-growing, most chaotic and most exciting places in South-East Asia. It is the gateway to a vast, vibrant and varied island nation that’s home to dozens of fascinating cultures. Formerly the colonial capital of the Dutch East Indies – when it was known as Batavia – Jakarta has grown from its original seaport district into a huge modern conurbation of high-rise hotels and apartments, thronged shopping malls and wide, crowded avenues.
Founded nearly eight centuries ago, Indonesia’s second largest city has seen empires come and go. The founders of the Hindu Majapahit Empire arrived in late 13th century and remained until the 17th, to be followed by Muslim rulers of Mataram, then the colonialists of the Dutch East India Company. In recent decades, Surabaya has grown into a cosmopolitan seaport and conurbation where 21st century hotels, apartment towers and shopping malls stand next to historic mosques and palaces.