Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 16 April 2015 • Destination
There are tons of books and literature about Kota Tua or the old city of Jakarta; and for good reasons. Kota Tua or Batavia was one of the most important ports of the world during the 16th century. Because of its significance, Kota Tua is one fo the many few places recommended in the Indonesian Lonely Planet and almost all other references about Jakarta. Rather than breaking down each and every part of it, I thought I’d share bits and pieces that I like most about the area, particularly when walking Kota Tua Jakarta.
Maybe it’s my Bugis blood or my Sulawesi heritage but I have always been fond of visiting ports, and markets for that matter. Ports are exciting places. They’re like the airport, the gateway to an area and where everything starts and ends; maybe even more dramatic.
The port of Sunda Kelapa is filled with Phinisis, or Bugis boats, and other traditional wooden vessels bringing goods in and out of the city. You’d see them line neatly next to each other with skinny men, walking back and forth lifting cargo that looks much heavier than themselves. There’s a lot of raw and hard life around the port, contradicting the say that Indonesians are lazy people.
Tip: Although the men seem like they’re harassing you by catcalling, it’s because they just don’t know better. Reply nicely and you’d see how nice they really are. They’d help you should you need any and always full of smiles.
When walking Kota Tua, I saw the Museum Wayang building and it reminded me of Bruges, where houses were aligned and looked like it was made from ginger bread. The two buildings, connected inside, are distinctively European and maintained well.
Inside, I enjoyed the puppet museum. It’s well designed and educative for me, a local with poor knowledge about the art. Some of my favorite puppets had to be the huge ‘wayang kulit’, made to extreme details and glow under the light, and the grass puppets showing how far your imagination can take you, ‘cause all you need is grass. That sounded wrong. More about it on our link here.
Entrance fee is IDR 5,000 / person.
This building used to be a workshop for boats. On one hot sunny day, I stumbled upon the complex and found a little green heaven within this complex. The green grass was a sight after the hassle outside of its walls. For some reason, the air was way cooler. I’m thinking the greens were the cause of it. Although the exterior stands tall, the inside could use some work. Aside from being missing a vision to what it should be, it’s also missing bits and piece, as they were falling off.
My favorite part of the building is definitely the VOC symbol outside of the building. It’s a reminder of how important Indonesia was, being colonialized by the first multinational company in the world.
Trivia: did you know that the item stolen in Ocean 11 movie was the first stock bill of VOC?
It’s awesome to see the view of the whole Sunda Kelapa area and imagine how things were, especially with the help of the local guide, which can be requested upon the front table.
I particularly liked the fact that I can visually understand the spatial plan during the colonial days, from where the boats used to sail, where they altered the channel directions, to understanding the location of the town from the port. I also loved the interior being red. All red.
Can you spot the fire extinguisher?
It’s also the location of the old 0 km, now moved to the national monument or Monas.
Tip: A guide is very recommended. Not only would he be guiding you up the tower, he will also continue to guide you to the Bahari Museum. Guides were IDR 75,000 for a session (2014).
I like this museum because much of the building is intact. Some of the artifacts were interesting, but having the building as nice as it is, did it for me. The museum also has one wall, which is the remaining old Batavia fort.
Another interesting part of the area is the market in front of the museum, which mostly sells boat logistics. Huge chains, anchors, and bits and pieces of boats fill each tiny space, making me wonder how on earth do they find what they need to find.
I debated myself whether I should put this point on the list. The main river of Batavia is a great place to picture how life would have been. The deteriorating old buildings, mostly still in its original form, still look majestic and I could imagine how grand they must have been back in the days. It’s probably as grand as I see Sudirman Street with tons of skyscrapers, compared to the rest of Indonesia now.
Unfortunately, the river is clearly muck. It’s black filthy and there are no words to save it. Often, it gives out that fowl sewer stench and it isn’t a pleasant sight. I’ve heard that there are future project to salvage the river. Here’s hoping. It would make walking Kota Tua a more pleasant experience.
I have to say, the best thing about the area is the surprises each corner presents. Because it’s such a rundown area, there are things that fall off from the radar and can be discovered if only we looked harder. The people around the area are also really nice underneath their raw and rough exterior. They helped me find my way when looking for a certain café in the area and warned me of big trucks passing by.
Café Batavia had always been raved as the best café in the area as long as I can remember. The gap between ‘decent restaurant’ and the surrounding eateries were so far off, it became an inevitable choice for a nice chum. However, there are now more interesting options around.
Café Djarkarte is located in between Bangi Kopitiam and Historia Food & Bar, on the west side of the Fatahillah Square. To date, it’s my favorite place to eat because the food is yummy and with a very affordable price. It might not have AC, but the simplicity of its interior is what makes it pretensions-less. It’s just old plain walls and remains of rails and doorknobs. The old soul of the building lingers. Me likey.
I heard that the café was established by artists that also display and sell their work inside the building. If this was true, I totally support the arts and the arts on my plate.
The most important thing I remembered about sleeping at Ibis Style was waking up. I wasn’t necessarily that tired going to bed, but waking up in their bed felt awesome. It was like walking up in clouds, with so many pillows, fluffy blanket, and soft mattress. The Ibis Style in Mangga Dua is a great value for a three star hotel, coming from a sleeping connoisseur, yours trully (yes, I made it up, thus exist).
Ibis Style lived up to its name, being stylish. Ibis Style Mangga Dua is themed ‘street’ and was supported with graffiti and paintings of street elements of Jakarta. It was a nice touch, especially contrasting with the artificial green areas behind the glass windows. The interior felt a little too forced to be street, having nothing rugged about it, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
Each room was also very colorful, with stylish pieces of furniture. I particularly loved this chair and the tiles in the bathroom was uber groovy and caught me by surprise. Showering had a fabulous discotheque feel to it.
Location wise, it’s convenient. Embedded within a mall, and used to be part of the mall itself, the hotel is right for those that want to do a lot of shopping in large numbers. Mangga Dua is famous for it, aside to being famous for a whole lot of knock-offs. It’s also in close range to Kota Tua, with about 15 minutes on a public transport without jams. Convenient when you have ‘walking Kota Tua’ in your itinerary.
Jl. Gunung Sahari Raya 1, Jakarta 14420
Phone: +62 21 29578900
My stay at the hotel was a complimentary stay, but the opinions were my own.