Indonesia, a Country of thousands of beautiful and exotic Islands, that spark off your imagination with thoughts of fine sandy beaches, huge temple complexes, great diving and the giant dragons of
Komodo. The islands of Indonesia are spread over a vast expanse of ocean and technically speaking is divided by two Continents.
Some parts of the Country can be as different from each other as black is from white. The hustle and bustle of the modern capital Jakarta is like another planet when compared to the traditional Papuan tribes of the Baliem Valley.
Jakarta – Not only is it the largest City in the Country, Jakarta is also the heartbeat. Indonesian’s from all over the archipelago come to the City to try and find their fortune or just to survive. The face of the City is constantly changing due to the construction of new skyscrapers, shopping malls and hotels.
Jakarta is mainly a business and political City and not really a tourist destination, but the older colonial parts of the City are very interesting and the museums have a lot of fascinating exhibits.
Jakarta, like you would expect, is the most expensive place in Indonesia, as well as the most polluted and most congested. It can be very hard to cope with all of the hustle, dirt, crime and cost, but if you can you will find an exciting City with plenty to offer.
Kota – This is the old Town of Batavia, which was the capital of the Dutch East Indies and the best example of the colonial era in Indonesia. Though much of the old town has been destroyed or demolished over the years, some of the old Colonial buildings are still in active use, and the area has a definite Dutch feel to it.
The centre of the old Town is the pebble stone square known as Taman Fatahillah and this is the key to being able to orientate yourself around the sights of the old Town. The canal of Kali Besar is one block to the west of the square and runs alongside the Ciliwung River. This was a very prosperous area and on the west bank are some of the high class homes that date from the eighteenth Century.
The Chicken market bridge is the last remaining drawbridge from the Dutch era, it is at the north end of the Kali Besar. Buses always come by on their routes and the city train also has a stop here.
Jakarta History Museum – This museum is housed in the old town hall of Batavia, which is on the south side of Taman Fatahillah. It is a well built building, which was originally constructed in 1627 and added to in the early 1700’s. It was from here that the Dutch administered their colony, and the cities law courts were also here as well as their main prison compound.
It contains plenty of heavy, carved furniture from the colonial, as well as other memorabilia from the Dutch period. Open, 9am till 3pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Admission: 1,000Rp
Wayang Museum – This museum is also on the Taman Fatahillah, and has a great assortment of
Wayang puppets. It also has examples of puppets from other Countries like Cambodia, China and India.
This building was formerly the museum of old Batavia and was built in 1912 on the site of the former Dutch church which was demolished in 1808 as the Dutchman ‘Daendel’s’ plan to rid the City of its unhealthy areas. In the downstairs courtyard, there are memorials to previous governors who were buried on site. Open, 9am till 3pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Admission: 1,000Rp
Fine Arts Museum – Built in the 1860’s, the palace of Justice building is now the Fine arts museum. It has a nice collection of contemporary paintings from prominent artists. They also have some ceramics on show from Chinese items to Majapahit offerings. Open, 9am till 3pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Admission: 1,000Rp
Gereja Sion – This church was built in 1695, and is the oldest Church in Jakarta. It is on Jl Pangeran Jayakarta near the Kota train station. The exterior of the Church is actually pretty plain but inside copper chandeliers, the original organ and the baroque pulpit makes it very appealing. Though thousands of people have been buried here there are very few tombs left remaining.
Sunda Kelapa – Just a 10 minute walk from the Taman Fatahillah, the old City port of Sunda Kelapa is full of wonderful Macassar schooners and the brightly coloured sails of these boats make for great viewing. The ships are still a vital means of transporting goods to outlying Islands.
Guides hang around the docks and for a few thousand rupiah will show you around and tell you some insightful stories. You can also take a ride out to the offshore fish market for around 5,000Rp.
Admission, 250Rp to the dock area.
Maritime Museum – This is an old VOC warehouse that was built in 1645 and is by the entrance
to the Sunda Kelapa. It has examples of Indonesian crafts from around the ages and has photos of the voyages from Europe to Jakarta. The building itself is well worth the visit and the lookout posts are part of the old City wall.
Just before the entrance to the museum proper, is the old watchtower that was built in 1839, it has brilliant views over the harbour. Opening hours are hit and miss, so try to find the caretaker.
National Museum – This museum, constructed in 1862, is considered the paramount museum in
Indonesia, and one of the finest in South East Asia. It has a huge ethnic and relief maps of Indonesia on which you can track your travels. The museum has a variety of different cultural displays that show a diverse collection of clothing, instruments, model houses and religious items. In addition the museum has a fine collection of Chinese ceramics that even date back to the Han dynasty of the third Century.
The museum is sometimes known as the Elephant house due to the giant bronze elephant that was a gift from the King of Thailand, and that now stands outside. Open, 8.30am till 2.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Admission: 750Rp. Guides are around who can conduct tours in various different languages.
National Monument – This 130 metres high monument stands over Merdeka square and is Jakarta’s chief landmark. The construction was started in 1961 but was not finished until 1975, when it was officially opened by President Soeharto. At the base is the National History Museum which tells the story of the Indonesian struggle for independence. On national holidays and at the weekends the queues can be long. Open, 9am till 5pm, daily. Admission: 600Rp or 3,100Rp which includes a ride to the top.
Lapangan Banteng – Just east of Merdeka square is this nineteenth century colonial square. It has some of the best examples of Dutch colonial architecture in the whole of Jakarta. The Catholic Cathedral was built at the turn of the twentieth Century, and is opposite the principal place of worship for Jakarta’s Muslim community, the Istiqlal Mosque. To the east of the square is the Supreme Court that was built, along with the Ministry of finance, in 1809 by that man ‘Daendel’ to replace those buildings torn down.