Jakarta is Indonesia's centre of commerce and communications, of manufacturing activity and consumption, of research and publishing. It has the highest per capita income and the greatest concentration of rupiah billionaires. Jakarta is not often rated very highly as a tourist attraction, but if visitors can tolerate the traffic, then it is possible to spend an enjoyable few days visiting the excellent museums, admiring the architectural heritage of the Dutch era, strolling through the old harbour or discovering some of the many antique, arts and crafts shops. Night owls are invariably bowled over by the city's nightlife, which offers superb variety, from sipping top-notch vintages in lounge bars to downright dirty clubbing.
Today, Jakarta is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city, with a population of over 8,000,000- making it the largest city in Indonesia. Metropolitan Jakarta, known as Jabodetabek (metropolitan Jakarta includes the satellite cities of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi), has an estimated population of 23 million, making it one of the ten largest metropolitan areas on earth. Growth has been rapid. Jakarta, like Bangkok, is perceived by the poorer rural Indonesians as a city paved with gold, and they have flocked to the capital in their thousands.
The central area is dominated by office blocks, international hotels and wide, tree-lined roads. Off the main thoroughfares, the streets become smaller and more intimate, almost village-like. These are the densely inhabited kampungs where immigrants have tended to live - one-storey, tile-roofed houses crammed together and linked by a maze of narrow paths. Initially, kampungs developed their own identity, with people from particular language and ethnic groups, even from particular towns, congregating in the same place and maintaining their individual identities. Today those distinctions are less obvious, but the names of the kampungs are a reminder of their origins: Kampung Bali, Kampung Aceh (North Sumatra) and Kampung Makassar (Ujung Pandang), for example.