Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Things to do in Jakarta

trip to Jakarta
Bikes on Taman Fatahilla
Jakarta isn’t exactly an attractive or pretty city. It doesn’t boast a lot of historical sights, in fact some tour companies bypass it altogether and head straight to Bogor after loading their passengers onto their touring cars. However, two years ago, I went to have look when I was travelling through Indonesia. Although I had an ulterior motive. I had lived in this metropolis for two years as a child and I wanted to go back to see what it looked like now.

Things had changed in the last 30 years. Big skyscrapers and high rise hotels had completely altered the city’s skyline. In the forest of all these gleaming buildings I ventured out to try and find some relics of my youth. I went to see my old house, which I manage to find after a lot of asking around. It’s funny how your memory plays tricks on you when you’re 30 years older. But the fact that there was now an enormous residential complex in our back yard didn’t help either. I tried to see my school, but found out that the building had been demolished to make place for an American style shopping mall. The old shopping centre my mum used to take me to called Sarinah Jaya was still there in all its 70s glory. Albeit kitted out with a Starbucks and a Burger King.

Next on the list was a visit to Kota Tua, or old town in Bahasa Indonesia. As a child I was never interested in this stuff, so it was my first visit. This part of the city still holds some historic buildings that date back to Dutch colonial times, complete with a canal and drawbridge  It’s a part of my country’s history not to be proud of, yet not one to be forgotten either.

trip to Jakarta

On Taman Fatahillah I visited the old city hall or Stadhuis which is now the Jakarta History Museum, showcasing many artifacts dating back to the time of the VOC, (Dutch East Indies Company). I went into the Wayang puppet museum which stands on the spot where the old Dutch Church used to be. The exhibitions tell you everything you need to know about the different Wayang puppets, however the signs and descriptions are only in Indonesian.

trip to Jakarta
Stadhuis on Taman Fatahilla

In both museums I couldn’t help but notice how badly maintained they were. Peeling paint on the walls, missing letters from descriptions and rotten window sills. The same goes for the streets surrounding Taman Fatahillah. The old Dutch warehouses were falling apart and weeds have made them their home. Looking across the square through the windows of colonial style Cafe Batavia, I was imagining what it could look like, if only some money was put aside to do the historic area up. It would certainly have a large pulling power on tourists.

trip to Jakarta

I spent the rest of the day in Plaza Indonesia shopping mall, being amazed at the sharp contrast of its modernness with the derelict state of Taman Fatahillah. Nothing but gleaming Gucci and Galliano shops in this multi-storey shopping centre.

But I guess Indonesian authorities and investors prefer to build gleaming malls and ritzy high rise hotels. Out with the old and in with the new. That's just the way they roll in Indonesia, I suppose.

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