Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Here’s another trip that began with a spur of an idea. A college friend of mine, Adi Panuntun, or Atun to his friends, was showing his creation, the video-mapping at Kota Tua, Jakarta. I found it amazing as it was my 1st video-mapping viewing and I thought it was executed very well. In a brief chat with him, he encouraged me to watch their (his and the production house’s) next “showcase” in Pekalongan a few weeks after. I thought, ‘hm, why not? I’ve never been to Pekalongan anyway.’ A little barter with a friend who works at a travel magazine and a purchase of train tickets later, I was set for my premiere Pekalongan trip. No fuss, no regrets 😀
PS: Here’s Mumun’s notes of her trip to Pekalongan some time ago
This is where the videomapping took place on Saturday April 2, 2011. Sembilan Matahari turned the heritage building into an amazingly lit up humongous screen portraying the history and development of batik mainly around Pekalongan. People gathered at the field in front of the museum, some tried to climb up the newly built BATIK letters in the field before getting told of by the security. And some musical bands performed before the video mapping happened as the peak of Pekalongan’s 105th birthday celebration, followed by a fireworks show.
It was a touching scene to see how amazed and excited the locals were seeing their own beloved treasure, that is the Batik Museum, to be such an important part of the festivity. And a nonstop applause followed. I’m glad I was a (teeny tiny) part of the whole bash!
Your tour around the museum will be guided by their staff, no charge other than the IDR 5,000 entrance fee. They’ll explain to you about batik making process, the symbolism, history, influences, etc. Honestly, out of all the interesting things that my guide, Eka, explained to me, I probably only managed to take notes 70% of it, due to the too much information at a time and too little memory space in my brain 😛
A brief details about the batiks: there were influences from the Arab, that was mostly in the form of Islamic calligraphy as the pattern, the Chinese influence, patterns originally from Pekalongan obviously, and Mandy Moore.. I mean..many more.
They also have a whole room dedicated for all the batiks from each province of Indonesia, including from my favorite design house Bin House (seriously, I’m not a fan of batik, but her, Obin’s, designs amaze me and I would not mind wearing them at all).
At the back of the museum there’s a workshop corner, where they can teach you how to batik. Too bad it was Sunday, so the workshop was closed. And what’s even more unfortunate to me was that they didn’t allow picture taking in the display areas 🙁
But I was glad that they let visitors take as many pictures as they want at the souvenir shop, near the museum entrance. At least I can show you guys a bit more on the local batik 😀
Note: wait for our blog post on the details that I jotted down from this museum tour. A’ight! 😉
A batik village (kampung batik) is a neighborhood where most of the people make and sell batik for living. Usually they have a display room and allow you to see the process at the back of the house. Some display rooms aren’t obvious when you look from the street, but you’re free to ask around or maybe knock on the doors and ask politely whether they sell batiks or not.
There were a few names of batik village, but I couldn’t go to all of them in just 2 days. The two villages I visited:
It’s located just at the outskirts of Pekalongan city, only about 15 minutes walk from Marlin Hotel or an IDR 5,000 becak ride away west from the hotel. Lucky me, I got a ride from the hotel’s car which was taking their marketing staff out for a business meeting, and dropped me off at one of the most popular shops in the neighborhood.
It was a super hot sunny day and there was almost no shade along the streets. I walked from one house to another, checking out their collections and ended up buying none.
This village is known for their silk batik. There were 2 or 3 designs that I liked, but I couldn’t afford it. The manually-drawn ones cost IDR 3,000,000 (that’s about USD 340 to you) or more! It’s worth the design and craftsmanship, I just wished I had much more dough with me. Whew!
– Kampung Batik Kauman
Kauman is derived from the word ‘kaum’ which means community or clan. You can find Kauman neighborhood in many Javanese towns as it actually refers to a Moslem community (do correct me if I’m wrong here) and usually is a batik village (kampung = village). This kampung is located in the centre of the city, not far from Alun-alun.
The neighborhood felt much nicer than Wiradesa, though it looked denser in population and had smaller streets. But the houses looked more modern and the people seemed friendlier. Maybe they’re more familiar with tourists (in other words: a more commercial area, perhaps).
While waiting for Atun & friends to pick me up to attend the video mapping show, I managed to shop for some batik pieces! Wow, sometimes I amaze myself with how fast I can spend money. I bought a subtle gray cotton batik cloth, a silk batik scarf, and a cotton batik blouse. All of them were printed batik, costing me IDR 300,000 in total.
I came along with the Sembilan Matahari gang to the Pasar Grosis (translates to Gross Market) where they bought batik shirts to be worn at the video mapping show. It was this hall of small shops with massively produced batik clothes and souvenirs, both for grown ups and children.
Before I went to Pekalongan, I browsed on places to see and things to do in and around Pekalongan. There were some beaches and highlands that were recommended by some websites. Some required longer distances, some didn’t look interesting at all. So I narrowed down my options and picked only one place, Pantai Pasir Kencana (Pasir Kencana Beach).
Entrance fee was IDR 1,750 as stated on the ticket. But the ticket guy probably thought I was too careless to notice, he told me it was IDR 2,000. I paid IDR 1,800 and surely couldn’t expect an IDR 50 change.
As the beach itself.. well.. hm.. how should I put it.. Entering a beach park and welcomed by shabby-caged animals, and finding a black sand beach full with trash swept from the sea.. It was a sad view to me L But some of the visitors, who were most probably locals, didn’t look less jolly than the ones you would see in Disneyland. I guess it’s a good enough entertainment for them. And I can’t decide if that’s good or bad..
Simple diners that sold coconut drinks and some mobile carousel (called “odong-odong”) were also available in the park as well as a playground and swan boats at the beach.
A little note on the local custom:
From what I noticed, Pekalongan is a religious small town. It would be best if you girls cover up more than you would in Bali 🙂
A field in the center of the city, with numerous food stalls exactly on the sidewalks, and surrounded by a shopping mall and many other buildings. It was Saturday night, naturally Alun-alun was packed with people from all age groups.
It was pretty hard to decide what to eat at which stall. Some recommendations were: Lontong opor and Soto Tauto. A girl from the Sembilan Matahari gang came with me, and we had the soto tauto at Pak Tjarlam stall.
Soto tauto is a dish with cow innards and meat mixed in tauco soup, usually eaten with lontong. Lontong is compressed rice that’s wrapped in banana leaf, while tauco is a paste made from preserved fermented soybeans, and that’s probably where the name ‘tauto’ derived. Wow, that’s 2 Indonesian words you’re learning 😀
In other places, you might find this dish with the name of “Soto Pekalongan”, for the obvious reason.
Rumah Makan H. Masduki or Hajj Masduki Diner was where I had lunch on Sunday. It’s located at the Alun-Alun area as well. You only need to cross the street a bit, I think it was on the opposite side of the Borobudur shopping mall.
I had nasi megono, garang asem, tomato veggie dish, and squids. I chose this diner randomly, just because the exterior looked nicer than the ones close by. The taste was just okay, nothing special. Nasi megono is a Pekalongan’s special dish, made of the usual steamed rice with shredded jackfruit mixed with grated coconut. I wonder if other places would have it better…
Tjukup is cukup in old Indonesian spelling, means ‘enough’ or ‘moderate’. I found the food tjukup enak, or delish enough, and tjukup murah, or cheap enough. They ran out of nasi megono, which turned out to be a favorite there, so instead I had garang asem (chicken with coconut milk sauce wrapped in banana leaf then roaste) + rice + srimping (fried small scallops) and sugared iced tea. All of those only for IDR 19,000. Now that is more than just Tjukup.
Rumah Makan Tjukup
Jl. Manggis 10
+62 285 424 293
The room rate is around IDR 300,000 – 400,000 /night, and it’s a 3 star hotel. Located on Jalan Wiradesa, it’s actually on the outskirt. But Pekalongan is a small town it takes less than 20 minutes to get to downtown by taxi.
It was pretty brand new when I stayed there in April 2011. It had 39 rooms, AC and TV (with local channels only) installed, all with western toilets, wifi connection, 30 (!!!) spa rooms, and 15 karaoke rooms… You can go crazy if it happens that you can’t sleep. And we know you like it when no one’s looking.
The restaurant was very simple, breakfast was just okay to my Indonesian taste standard (they should put more effort into it). You can buy batik at a shop in the lobby, and they provide pick up to and from downtown or other places around Pekalongan.
My room was facing the main street, with the big market hall across the street. I meant to check out the market because it’s said that you can learn about the people from their market (especially traditional market). But I woke up early, and there was no sign of market activities, everything was closed. Gee, and I thought the market people are the earliest risers. Aaaand later I found out from a hotel staff that I should’ve entered the building to find a busy crowd! Well, who would’ve known??
Other choices of hotel available in town as well:
– Hotel Nirwana Pekalongan
– Hotel Hayam Wuruk, Hotel Istana, and many more you can find here. The info is all in Indonesian, but I’m sure you can make out the basic info like prices, phone and address. They also have info on diners there.
I purchased the train tickets both ways from Jakarta 4 days prior my departure from Jakarta. And that was a close call. If I was to book a day later, I might not get a ticket, considering train tickets are on high demand on the weekends.
I took the Argosindoro train from Gambir Station (Jakarta) leaving a 4.45 PM arriving at Pekalongan at 10.30 PM, costing me IDR 240,000.
The ride home was with Argomuria leaving from Pekalongan at about 5 PM and arriving at Gambir 10 PM, with the same fare, IDR 240,000 / pax. All train names that start with Argo are of Eksekutif class. Reclining seats and cold AC that requires (provided) blankets. But it would be wise to prepare extra jacket/sweater and socks to keep you away from being a frozen meat.
go to the train station, purchase tickets at the counter.
Just call 121 (+62 21 121 if you’re calling the Jakarta ticket service), but I don’t know if other cities have the same number. Tell the operator which route and what date you’d like to book tickets for. They’ll inform you what trains are available and how much the fares are. Then you need to transfer money via ATM (hm, I wonder if credit cards are accepted). And you’ll be able to get the tickets at the station up to 1 hour prior departure by showing the receipt.
Not a lot of (Indonesian) people know that you could book train tickets by phone. I don’t think the train company has done a good job in informing the service to public. Hey, that means you can be one of the few cool people to use this convenient service, isn’t that convenient? 😀
The two main public transportations in Pekalongan are becak and angkot . Taxis are rarely willing to put the meter on. Fares are agreed upon before you get in the cab, just like how you’d do it with becak and ojek.
My becak ride to Marlin Hotel, which was located on Wiradesa street (which was in the Kabupaten Pekalongan, not in the city) took about 15-20 minutes. That’s a brief ride by motor vehicles, but for a vehicle powered by human, I started to feel guilty not choosing ojek instead. I hope my bag and I weren’t too heavy for the becak rider. Before deciding to take the ride, I tried to negotiate the fare, but agreed upon his initial rate, IDR 20,000. I ended up paying him IDR 25,000 cos I thought becak riders deserve more than they do.
I only rode an angkot once in this trip. That was from the gate of Pasir Kencana Beach to the Batik Museum. It only took 15 minutes and cost IDR 2,000.
Call for a taxi
Taxis aren’t around much. You’d have to phone them at +622857900507 (for Indotrans taxi) or +622858190123 (for Metro taxi) and order for a service. From Marlin Hotel you’d need to pay about IDR 20,000 -25,000 to whichever spot you go within the city, and the same thing goes if you’re from the city to the hotel. They don’t use the meter.