KOTA TUA JAKARTA

Last month when I was in Jakarta settling a family affair …
I had a last minute Friday afternoon off so I decided to visit Kota Tua (translation: Old Town), otherwise known as Old Batavia or Oud Batavia in Dutch.

Like a local, I was able to order a GrabTaxi service via the app easily. The cost of transportation in Indonesia is very affordable. Cheap! The journey through the downtown city was filled with interesting sights. The traffic congestion of an hour in the late morning was unexpected. But it was a norm in Jakarta. “Macet” as they said. That’s Bahasa Indonesian for “Traffic Jam”.
Thank goodness for the air-conditioned taxi.

On my way, I vividly recalled my visit several decades ago with my dad. I was probably around 10 years old. I remembered a big square with buildings unlike any I have seen before. It was crowded and the scene was buzzing like a fun fair. Was it a dream?

I was dropped off outside Kota Tua. The area is now a no-traffic zone unbeknownst to the driver. I made my walk slowly while trying to figure out my Google map. I was a little disgruntled having not prepared anything for this day out. I took it for granted just because I can speak the language.
I came upon a huge open plaza. I knew it right then and there, that I have been here before!

Once upon a time, here lies the original settlement of Batavia, founded by the Dutch in 1619. The centre of the Dutch East India Company’s colonial administration trading network in Asia. The Asian headquarters of VOC (Dutch: Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) during the heyday of the spice trade.

It was already noon. Kota Tua was swarmed with people on the Fatahillah Square (Indonesian: Taman Fatahillah). There were artists, actors and craftsmen all dressed up, lining the streets, putting on shows and selling their services and goods. I wandered every corner of the main square and all the streets adjacent to it. Structures in Dutch style dated from the 17th century. It was obvious, not all of the buildings have been protected as well as they should have been. Such a pity! A stark reminder of the painful colonial past. I was taken aback and rather surprised to see this side of Jakarta.

What to see or do:

  1. 324723630_954064688889816_5822021928421340227_nFatahillah Square – named after a commander of the Sultanate of Demak who is known for leading the conquest of Sunda Kelapa (old port of Jakarta) in 1527 and renamed it name to Jayakarta.
  2. Stone Man or Manusia Batu – artists mimicking statue-like postures, which attracts visitors who are interested to take pictures together for a voluntary fee.
  3. 324735999_561958735515550_1861087191898023308_nThe 18th-century water pump restored in the middle of the square. But neglected!
  4. 324870102_734334487814724_5831820052659669301_nOnthel colorful bicycle rental centered around the Fatahillah Square.
  5. 322187627_575277220633045_5262423581145693833_nCheck out the green Fietspad or Bicycle Path all around the square.
  6. Jakarta History Museum (Indonesian: Museum Sejarah Jakarta) – built in 1710 as the Stadhuis (City Hall) of Batavia. Opened in 1974, displaying objects from the prehistory period of the city region, the founding of Jayakarta in 1527, and the Dutch colonization period from the 16th century until Indonesia’s Independence in 1945.
  7. 324753443_911389476543434_2279445823238918113_nMuseum of Fine Arts and Ceramics (Indonesian: Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik) – building was completed on 12 January 1870, and was used as the Court of Justice (Dutch: de Raad van Justitie), known as Paleis van Justitie. Now features traditional fine art and ceramics of Indonesia.
  8. 322003163_917275199270506_4418339387243294330_nPuppet Museum (Indonesian: Museum Wayang) – a museum dedicated to wayang puppetry. The building site used to be a church, built in 1640, under the name of Old Dutch Church (Dutch: De Oude Hollandsche).
  9. 324622656_993920831566286_598810845954464590_nKota Post Office (Indonesian: Kantor Pos Kota) – designed by Ir. R. Baumgartner in 1929 as the designated “Post en telegraaf kantoor”. The old Dutch orange post box “brievenbus” still standing in front of the building. Presently, there are food stalls on the ground floor facing the square while the back of the building is a parking garage.
  10. 324841458_2949012802061779_1679894455815129888_nCafé Batavia – a two-storey building constructed around 1830s, overlooking the main square. The interior of the café is furnished with a 1930s theme decorated with vintage photographs of celebrities and royalty. Bitterballen is not the real deal. Naturally!
  11. 324843304_644035427475968_1251776260078056637_nFeast at Padang Merdeka for Nasi Padang – a miniature banquet of meats, fish, vegetables, and spicy sambals eaten with plain white rice. Such pre-cooked dishes originate from West Sumatra, Indonesia.
  12. 324874873_731917108085139_1113737034378204056_nTry local delicacies at Kedai Seni Djakarté like Soto Betawi, Pisang Bakar, Bakmie, Nasi Goreng, etc. The restaurant has no air-conditioned and don’t mind the spiders too. Authentic atmosphere!
  13. 324716868_626376805956334_3616542094668840958_nBank Indonesia Museum (Indonesian: Museum Bank Indonesia) – housed in a heritage building that had been the first headquarters of the Netherlands Indies Guldens, De Javasche Bank or Bank of Java, formed in 1828, the central bank of the Dutch East Indies. Building was designed by Eduard Cuypers, the famed Dutch architect. The bank was nationalized as  Bank Indonesia in 1953.
  14. 321994580_1123371858374140_3783516733313640151_nJakarta Kota Station (Indonesian: Stasiun Transjakarta Kota) – Jakarta Kota railway station, formerly known as Batavia Zuid Station. Designed by a Dutch architect in a combination of western Art Deco and local architecture styles. The new and current building was officially opened on 8 October 1929.

Since I was unprepared for my trip, I was not in time to explore the many museums here at Kota Tua. Plus, the opening hours listed on Google were different from the actual times. It was unfortunate.
In the end, I managed to visit one, Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics, had a fantastic lunch at Padang Merdeka, had bland bitterballen snack at Café Batavia and walked around the area twice. As I was leaving at 5 pm, there were street musicians setting up their gear at several locations. I can only guess the usual Friday night vibes must be bursting at the seams.

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If you are ever in Jakarta, this is something touristic and Dutch-related you can do for half a day trip!

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