Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 25 January 2015 • Destination
In the end of 2013, I did a backpacking trip around Europe. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned during the trip and how much happiness it brought upon my psyche even though it was one of the coldest period of my life. Out of the many things I’ve learned, I was so impressed with the free walking tour that seems to be in a lot of European cities, especially within their old quarters. I participated a few of these tours and was blown away about the concept. Eventually, deep down I thought out of jelousy, with so much significance in history, shouldn’t there be a free walking tour in Jakarta too?
Jakarta is an expansion of one of the most important port cities in the 16th century. Batavia, or the area now known as Kota Tua, was a bustling city with Dutch, Chinese and local nationalities, trading in and out for spices, the commodity that put Indonesia on the world’s map. Many of that history are now ruins located around the Kota Tua, although some are still preserved. Unfortunately, the ruins are continuously falling from grace unless it’s restored as soon as possible. There’s little that can be understood about them with signage disappearing by time and little can fill within the Indonesian Lonely Planet. This also applies to the iconic gigantic marble phallus, Monas or Monumen Nasional.
Walking tours aren’t something new. There have been tours in Jakarta and I’ve participated in some of them. The thing is, there are no regular daily tours, unlike the free walking tours in Europe. It’s sketchy to say that there aren’t enough tourists to cater a daily walking tour, as I’ve seen tourists and expats wander Jakarta all the time. I’m just going to say, there isn’t any because there probably isn’t enough right effort for it. As for the government, we’ll spare them this time, like usual.
By irregular-scheduled, I mean they’re out there but not on a regular basis.
The very few walking tours I’ve experienced was with Love Our Heritage, a community that focus on tours to heritage site and building appreciation towards them. I did a few tours with them to the post offices and the presidential palace. Mind blowing was when we accidentally intercept the president, at the time SBY, and had a photo session with him on the footsteps of the palace just like the traditional president’s photo with his cabinet of ministers. I think Vira did a Sumpah Pemuda tour with them. Another walking tour we did was with Gelar Nusantara, a conceptual travel organiser, during the Chinese New Year. It was an awesome trip as we were really educated. Loved it!
You can read all about it here.
I think friends Windy and Hanny are currently holding irregular-schedule walking tours through something called Jakarta on Foot. You can check out Jakarta on Foot Twitter to get updated in their scheduled.
Of course, most people would just take the time to do a self-walking tour based on the Lonely Planet book or whatever guide they can get their hands on (there’s not many of them out there). The LP guide is undoubtedly the most popular guidebook around and it has great content, though very brief. There are other choices. My favorite has to be the great book ‘Jakarta, 25 Excursions in and around the Indonesian Capital’, written by Andrew Whitmarsh and Melanie Wood. I believed in the book to begin with because Melanie is one of my favorite bloggers, author of ‘Gangs of Indonesia’ and also featured in our link page.
This book has 20 walking tours within the greater Jakarta city, including the Kota Tua area, and 5 routes outside of Jakarta. I enjoyed the book’s insight of the Kota Tua and I had to complete the area within 2 days. Probably because my legs were too short and because I detoured to a few gems on my own. The book is just a guide, not necessarily a step-by-step manual. It also ventures into some of Jakarta’s most lively neighborhoods, giving many insights on what to see and do to enhance your experience. Vira and I have walked about 4-5 of the routes so far and have to raise thumbs to the thought-out routes, tips and advices the book provides. It has beautiful color-photos and is equipped with a map of Jakarta. How cool is that?
I totally recommend you to get one if you want to explore more of Jakarta. You can probably get one here.
Eventually, this post comes down to this. Does Jakarta have a free walking tour?
I am proud and happy to announce that it does now. Farid, a certified guide and owner of Jakarta Good Guide, is now officially holding free walking tours. For the time being his permanent schedule is limited to weekends around the Monas area extending all the way to Gambir, stopping at places which I would not spoil here besides by saying, they’re awesome stops. Farid gives historical bits and pieces of the buildings and events that happened around the area, which is oriented more to the modern Indonesia. He adds a few touches of his personal two-cents, which adds color to the tour. He’s very friendly and honest if he doesn’t know a particular fact of the tour. He speaks fluent English and bits and pieces of other languages.
The Jakarta Good Guide runs every weekend, from 8 a.m. The tour lasts about 2 hours depending on how much you annoy fun-loving Farid with questions of your own. Gathering point is at the bus stop in front of the Museum Nasional or National Museum. (Latest update, they have four routes around Jakarta including at the Old Town. Here’s more information.)
Because he’s a one-man show and doing this on his own time, the tour can be unavailable during certain times. I think extended tours can be arranged upon discussion. And because it’s a free walking tour, tips do apply. Please tip generously to support this for the long run. YAY!
For more information and schedules of the tour, check out his website here.
Text: +62 8567669954
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Attn: Candha)
Jakarta is heading into the right direction when it comes to tourism, thanks to the active people and community that are willing to do these trips, introducing and educating everyone on Jakarta’s history. I personally owe them, as they contribute to my love of the city and making it more than just bare-able. I heart you all!
And hopefully, the government will jump in and join them sooner in the future.