If you’re in Jakarta this particular time of the year, you will be in for a treat. Held at the central-northern part of the city at Jakarta International Expo Kemayoran, Jakarta Fair 2018 is back for the 51st edition for 39 straight days until 1 July. The annual event claims itself as ‘the biggest, the longest and the most complete fair in Southeast Asia’ with more than 500 live events, 125,000 sqm exhibition space and more than 2,500 tenants.
What to Do
The fair is indeed extensive to the point of everywhere you look, there’s always someone selling items for much lower prices, street food stalls cooking up local favourite dishes and giant tenants flashing their latest automobile range or smartphones. Having been a regular visitor for more than 15 years, I would suggest that you best go with a purpose. While almost all of the items you can find are sold for much less than in shopping malls, a purposeful note of what you’re actually looking for can come in quite handy. There are 12 indoor halls exhibiting products from cars, phones, bed duvet, local food to bathroom equipment -just in case your bathtub at home goes broken- and the best-in-class slow cooker pan. These huge halls combined with the outdoors area make it impossible to visit every section in a day.
No one would judge you if you come home and end up buying the big stuff like the latest motorbike because brands like Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki occupy the big island space in the outdoor courtyard with massive price cuts. If you can manage to hold yourself up, walking out from the fair with two or three cheaper-than-usual toiletries and perfumes is not a bad idea too. You get the drift.
What to See
If you’re new to Indonesia and its vast islands, heritage and stories, Jakarta Fair is a good place to hike up your knowledge too. Whenever I have a foreigner friend visiting me on these particular months, it’s a good idea to include a trip to the Fair and head to Hall C where almost all provinces in the country showcase each of their indigenous culture. And yes, that includes lower-priced sarong or batik too.
The organiser ensures no visitors are left behind. Each member of your family can enjoy themselves, kids with their go-carts, youth with some mobile game providers and the rest can watch bands perform in the enormous outdoor concert stage. Come evening, the mood lifts up from the popular Indonesian bands and singers like Jamrud, PAS, RAN, Maliq & D’Essentials and Sheila on 7.
What to Eat
I would be completely out of my mind if I do not eat Kerak Telor here at the Jakarta Fair. The people of Betawi, an ethnic group native to the city of Jakarta invented this dish. Kerak is ‘crust’ in Bahasa Indonesia and Telor is ‘egg’ so this is your not regular fried egg meal. Think spicy omelette made from duck eggs, glutinous rice topped with shredded coconut and fried shallot. Chicken eggs and less spicy options are possible, just tell the guy what to adjust. It’s the dish of the Fair so please do not leave without having a bite.
Over the years, as the street food scene evolves around younger generation with trends like shaved ice, fried stuff and cheese or salted egg-infused dishes, the Fair seems to attract like-minded sellers. The result is the over-abundance of Indonesian street food found every direction you look at the outdoor area. I tried Es Kepal Milo, a dessert that went viral recently. It is basically a serving of shaved ice of the size of a hand palm topped with generous amount of Milo condensed chocolate milk, nuts and cereals. You might want to look into your sugar intake after having this one; don’t say we didn’t warn you.
American Donat is another classic that I cannot miss every year. Somehow they only show up at the Fair and cannot be found anywhere else for the rest of the year. This is something that the regular visitors would appreciate, a blend of classic Jakarta Fair snacks and in with the new stuff. No one would judge if you snack one too many. The Jakarta Fair is too fascinating not to eat your way through.
Jakarta is infamous for its traffic so it is best to plan your journey. Parking can be an issue for first-timers and it can take up to an hour to get a lot. Fortunately, TransJakarta buses stop at the Expo and provide convenient point-to-point ride wherever you depart from the city. Online car-hailing services are also reliable for easy and affordable options to reach the Fair.
With so many (like hundreds many) stalls selling Kerak Telor, one may wonder which one has the best version. I’d say, approach the ones with crowds. Usually during the peak hours the seats are all taken and the seller would be glad to spare you some if you stand near him and order. I have never experienced lousy Kerak Telor there before so the ones that can sell inside the Jakarta Fair are all legit.
No less than 5.7 million people (yes, you read that right) visited the Fair last year. Expect a super crowded fair during the weekend or public holidays. The Expo is equipped with ample facilities such as ATMs, restrooms and first-aid clinics just in case and I feel that the event does better each year to enhance visitor’s experience. So, who are you going with this year?
For more information including concert schedule, list of tenants and exhibitor maps, visit the official website of Jakarta Fair 2018.