Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 9 March 2011 • Itinerary
Let me begin by saying that Jakarta is the city and the province is DKI Jakarta. Just in case you’re wondering if the title is a typo, especially since I’m the queen of typos 😛
I call this city, the city of everything. Usually comingback from Wetar, where there’s nothing, Jakarta seems to have it all. And by ‘all’, I mean ‘all’ from the best to the worst. Our first trip entry of the city both Vira and I live in, will not be about the obvious, but about the personals; personal curiosity to the Museum Wayang (puppet museum), personal tour on a bike, personal gastronomic interest to the Tak Kie coffee shop. Let’s jump in to chaos! Woohoo!
Museum Wayang (Puppet Museum)
I’m not sure what allured me to this particular museum. There’s practically a half dozen of museum in this area and I just wanted to show you this one first. Maybe because Indonesia is famous for its shadow puppets or maybe since I had a fascination of the craft. But do we really need a reason?
In Indonesia, there are about 3 kinds of puppets or wayang in general. Just to help you out on what wayang is, here’s the generic information. There’s the 2 dimensional puppet or the shadow puppet, the 3D puppet being wooden dolls, and wayang orang or people puppet. The last kind is actually not puppets but it’s a term for play telling the stories as the puppets do, which are the stories of Mahabarata or Ramayana; the epics of the Hindus, a big influence on the Indonesian culture. I won’t go too much in to that because it would take about 7 days and nights to just explain the whole story. Not to mention the complexity of the characters and story which is like an old fashion Melrose Place … but more twisted.
It costs almost nothing to enter the puppet museum. A mere IDR 2,000 / person can show you a whole range of puppets which is such an eye opener even for an Indonesian like me. I love wayang for the culture that it is, but not specifically for the stories. The stories are usually in the old and higher local language (Javanese, Sundanese, or Balinese) making in too hard for me to understand. I tried to watch it on TV once and it ended up with zzz… and the awakening to come back to MTV (sorry, I’m that generation).
I was quite surprised on how good the museum was. The entering hall was lit with yellow lights shining the puppets behind glass. It was so modern. Far from the fact that this is a very old culture. You’ll find big and small puppets showing scary, beautiful, and funny faces.
There was also the grave of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, one of the governors of Jakarta way back when. When I was there, I overheard the guide talking to a Japanese tourist, that J. P. Coen was beheaded and buried with his head separated. I think J. P. Coen was a fearless VOC leader, which was feared by the Indonesians that thought he did black magic. It is said that beheading is the only way to keep him dead, so … as the guided testified, the head was buried separately. Chills down my spine and mumble…spooky!
The puppets of Indonesia are well known for the details. Even though it would be played as a mere shadow, the crafting of these puppets is never far from extremely detailed. This museum shows you a glimpse of it. A wide range of puppets will show you that every area has their own distinct style, however still crazy in details. Even though we’re only watching the shadow of the puppet, the creators still colored it! Well, I can imagine why. Wayangs are very sacred and you can’t really be sloppy about it, especially the shadow puppets or wayang kulit.
Wayang used to be the medium to spread heavenly message of the traditional culture or to spread religion (which is a new concept compared to our animisms. Therefore, the making is taken very seriously which usually involves long fasting and meditation. Not to mention some say the puppet masters are sometimes in a trance when putting on a show because they can last for days without rest and can’t really tell you the same story twice. There are a lot of different stages of sacred and this determines how serious the puppets should be made, the person to tell the story, etc. A usual puppet show doesn’t really need these sacred types of puppets. Special shows are usually held within the kraton (palace) or for special occasions.
I was mostly amazed by the shadow puppet. You can see all the small cracks they made just to perfect the wayang, and you can see that it’s not just repetitive patterns, but a very through out creation. You can see pictures embedded in the wayang body that definitely symbolizes something. The colors are also very vibrant! And the size? It can be so big. It’s such a scary (in an awesome way) creation, figuring the amount of time and energy that is put in it. I wonder if many of the makers wear glasses because they have to look closely to the object when making them? Hmm…
The 3D puppets portraying the characters of the Mahabarata and Ramayana stories are local to the West Java land. Now, I just wanted to add that Bandung (link) people are known to be very good looking according to Indonesian taste, and whadya know… their puppets are the most good looking ones out of the bunch hehehehe… I really do like seeing the slight difference between puppet styles amongst areas. I was very much educated that we can’t really say that puppet is a single culture. It’s diverse even within itself.
Another interesting influence to the wayang is the religious impact to the characters. In one section, there was a wayang of the devil, Adam, and Eve. There are a few more, which I’m sure you recognize. Also exhibited was the gamelan set which is used to score the puppet show.
My favorite wayangs were the ones made from grass. You can see that these were made for children to play with or those that needed the practicality when telling the story. I think it’s pretty neat.
In this museum, there were also some modern shadow puppets. These puppets are made based on the modern image of people with modern clothes. And of course we didn’t leave foreigners out. It’s very entertaining to see these puppets, trying to keep up with time.. hehehehehe…
And not to forget some goodies you can buy. The ggift shop provides some serious handicrafts with an affordable price. I brought a bookmark for IDR 10,000 but it’s not in this picture. The one here is a mini size puppet and of course a more expensive. Can’t remember how much exactly but I do remember that it’s a friendly price.
Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No. 27 – North Jakarta
www.museumwayang.com – The website is in Indonesian, however there are some old pictures of the old structure which are really beautiful.
I’m not really a big fan of tours, except for history tours, which I love. History tours are like reading a book with pictures. There’s a story for my imagination to run wild with. This tour was actually accidental. I was going to the Gloria alley and already planned to head there using the Ojeg sepeda or bicyle ojegs.
Sunda Kelapa Port
Apparently the ojeg drivers are also tour guides of the area. At first I refused because I was really hungry and again, I’m no fan of tours. But after seeing that they can take me to Sunda Kelapa, the port, I had to go. People have been telling me that the Sunda Kelapa port is too dangerous for a girl like me, and since no one really wanted to go, the possibility is that I had to go alone. This was the perfect opportunity to finally see the place, with a man that is familiar to the place, and I get to go on the bike ojeg… Can this work any better??? So I negotiated a price and decided to see a few spots before grabbing a late lunch.
I can’t get in to much details of these places below since I did really quick stops but hopefully it can motivate you to go see them and appreciate them more.
The Sunda Kelapa port turned out not to be as scary as I thought. However, I’m very much sure that I went there the right way. Who knows what can happen when a cute (*cough) girl like me wonder around a harbor? The Ojeg driver (forgive me Lord for I have forgotten the name of this nice man), even took me on a ship just to see the boat up close. I really wanted to! Most of these boats were made by the Bugis people, my ancestors, without any modern engineering skills. These ships were grand and rugged, but looked very strong. The port at that time of the day was pretty slow. There were still some loading and unloading activities but not much. Just enough to make me happy.
The next place was the Museum Bahari or the Maritime Museum. The building of this museum actually is very beautiful. I peeked in a bit to see that the building is nicely intact and had beautiful old doors and windows. However I’ll have to do this tour again one day since I didn’t see much other than this Papua boat. You have to forgive me but I was really really hungry.
Old Intan Bridge
The last stop was the old Intan Bridge. This bridge was the connection of the west and east side of the canal. Turns out that this bridge was an important landmark since it was the bridge to cross the canal and it was ‘high tech’ since it could be raised if there were any boats to pass. Pretty neat, huh? Now… it’s merely a landmark, but a well preserved one if I say so myself, even though the water reeked with bad sewage smell and black color liquids. Oh how Jakarta…
After this stop I decided that we had to get to Gloria alley since I was so hungry to the limit where I wanted to strangle myself unconscious so I couldn’t feel the pain of my stomach. Back to the Glodok I gazed at all the old buildings. I can imagine slightly that this area used to be so grand and luxurious. Well if you see the remains of this area, I’m sure you’ll be in the same boat as I am. A bike ride is the way to go to explore the area. It’s slower and helps you appreciate these structures better.
And dear Lord, did the driver move his bike. I swear it was a mini adrenaline rush having to slip in tight spaces and going the opposite of the traffic. I will never stress enough on how I still highly recommend this type of transport around the area. Woohoo!
Gloria Alley – Glodok
The Gloria Alley is located in Glodok. Around this area, you can also find a unique alley for the gastronomic adventurers. Gloria Alley is located just across the Petak Sembilan Alley. It’s filled with so many kinds of food! Your smelling senses will be challenged once you step in to the alley, being greeted by a strong smell of pork broth and a hint of a weird odor. Walking through you can find fruits, moon cakes, savory dishes, deserts, and so many other culinary delights that tingles your curiosity.
The Tak Kie coffee shop is located in this alley and is highly recommended by Bondan Winarno, an Indonesian food critic, as one of his favorite places to visit. It serves the old style coffee which was very yummy… but more under ‘Eat’.
I was a bit curious when an old man came to a hanging picture close to me and started wiping in. I just had to ask. This is Pak Latief. He is one of the owners of this family business. He is the second-generation owner and is hoping that there is a third generation. This coffee shop is run by him and his siblings. There have been some changes, but as you can see, the ‘some’ is hardly significant compared to the modern look coffee shops that we have today. The chairs were even still from the time the 60s explained Pak Latief, if my memory doesn’t fail me, and they’re still heavy and strong.
Pak Latief is very nice. A typical Chinese business old soul that doesn’t want to expand much and believes that constant business is better than a growing one that can’t keep their quality. He’s so nice, and it was a joy just to talk about the before and nows with him. He’s so nice, he gave me an Aloe Vera drink on the house. In my book, anyone that gives me free food is always nice 😀 I promised him I’d come and visit again one day, and I plan to.
And there you go, a little bit of everything. We can promise there is more to come on this city since it has everything. Still don’t believe us? You’ll see.
Tak Kie Coffee Shop
Need I say more why I was here in the first place? Caffeine! I tried this place a few years back but failed to find it since apparently it closes at 2 pm. It does specialize in lunch.
The coffee? It was so good! On a hot sunny day with a great mood after seeing new things, I was ready for a glass of sweet and cold milk coffee. I know, I know, coffee should be bitter and black… but I’m a girl that likes sweetness, and the heat was getting to me. Like any other old coffee shops in Indonesia, the taste of this caffeine drink is different to the usual pressed coffee you get in café. It’s a lot stronger and thicker which is important in any good drink. Ok, I can’t really say anything for the black coffee, which you’re probably are more interested in, but I can say that for the milk coffee.
A cup of coffee is about IDR 15,000 / glass.
Since the food they serve here mostly is not kosher, I had to order from one of the venues up front, yet very recommended. I ordered the Lontong Cap Gomeh with chicken. The taste? Oh my God! It was so good. The chicken was so soft that it melted in my mouth. The tofu was the same. It was delicious and I couldn’t eat it slowly, also because I was very hungry. The curry was so tasty and had a smooth taste of salty, which blended well with everything.
A portion is about IDR 17,000 depending on what you have with your lontong. Quite pricey but very much worth it.
Tak Kie Coffe Shop is located in the Gloria Alley at the Glodok area, near Petak Sembilan. It’s located on the right side of the alley. The signs aren’t really clear and the door is not very obvious, so it’s not so easy to find it. I had to ask around to make sure, and luckily it’s famous, so less of a problem in finding it. So if you happen to get lost finding it, ask around, you can’t miss it.
Gloria alley also provides Pi-Oh, which is a soup made with Labi-labi or you probably know it as the soft-shell turtle or the Trionychidae. Weird looking creatures, which unfortunately allured people to eat it. By the smell of it… I smell a challenge… Just not today. I was so full because of the bulky chunks of food. I didn’t chew well since I was so hungry. But… one day, I’ll come back for the Pi-Oh.Oh Pi-Oh!
The easiest way to get to the Old City is by taking the Transjakarta (busway) bus with the Blok M – Stasiun Kota route or take the inner city train. But honestly, the Transjakarta is more convenient. If you happen to stay in Jl. Jaksa area, take the Transjakarta from the Sarinah station to Stasiun Kota.
The Museum Wayang is located in the Fatahillah square. So, from the Transjakarta terminal, it’s a walk away to the north. It’s hard to miss but you can ask around if you happen to get lost.
The Sunda Kelapa port is north to the Fatahillah square. It’s not far, and you can walk there. Just follow all the roads north and ask around, people would know. But the bicycle ojegs are the best!
If you plan to skip everything and choose to do Gloria Alley, then take the T T Transjakarta bus of the same route and hop off at the Glodok terminal, which is after the Olimo stop. Then walk north and take the first left, then take a right. The alley is amongst the chaotic Chinese stores of the area.
You remember what the Ojeg is right? Well this is the same but by bike. The north Jakarta is famous for this type of public transportation since the alleys are so small and sometimes motorcycles are just to fast and expensive. I have always wanted to try this media, and the time had finally c-me. So I asked the museum officers where I could get one, and they kindly look one for me.