Finding Candra Naya building was a bit funny experience when I had to be there for a gathering with Chinatown Walking Tour members of Jakarta Good Guide. At a glance, Candra Naya is like a hidden gem in a concrete forest, that only can be found after passing the alley of Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada Hotel, right before Green Central City superblock. Its unconventional location is in fact has an interesting story behind it.
It is estimated that Candra Naya was built in the rabbit year in Chinese Lunar Calendar, somewhere around 1807 or 1867. It is a former residence of Major Khouw Kim An, who inherited the house from his father, Khouw Tjeng Tjoan, who had 14 wives and 24 children. Khouw Kim An was the last Major of the Chinese (Majoor der Chinezen), a leader of Chinese society during the Dutch colony period from 1910 to 1918 and re-elected from 1927 to 1942. Therefore, the building was also known as the Major’s House.
Born on June 5, 1879, Khouw Kim An was not only the Major of the Chinese, but also an entrepreneur and a shareholder of Bataviaasche Bank. He received numerous awards from the Dutch for his merit to the local people. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 1942 during Japanese occupation and died in the concentration camp on February 13, 1945.
After the major’s passing and not long after the end of World War II, the house is inherited to his family and rented to Sin Ming Hui Association in 1960s. Initially founded to help victims of the riot in Tangerang in 1946, Sin Ming Hui Association held many social-oriented activities in Candra Naya building, from establishing a medical clinic, sports center, Candra Naya school to Sin Ming Hui Photographic Society, the oldest photography community in Jakarta founded in 1948.
After the prohibition of the three-syllable names (aka Chinese names) in Indonesia, Sin Ming Hui Association was renamed into Tjandra Naya Social Union, whose spelling has changed into Candra Naya. It was also a popular wedding venue in 1960s to 1970s.
Unfortunately, it is quite common that cultural heritage buildings in Indonesia are not always save from harm, even if they are protected by law, including Candra Naya building. After the property was sold to Modern Group, the 3 original buildings at the back side of Candra Naya were demolished in 1993 to be the site of Green Central City, a superblock of apartments and offices. The demolition lead to protests from heritage conservation groups.
Finally, the front building manages to survive, consisting of a living room for guest receptions and Khouw Kim An’s office, semi-private rooms for close guests, right and left wing side for maids, concubines and their children, and a gazebo behind the main building with a veranda and a pond. The demolished buildings have never been rebuilt ever since.
For older generations, like my dad for instance, visiting Candra Naya brings back his memory when my grandfather took him there to play badminton. On the other hand, millennials may not notice the role of Candra Naya for new generations and never heard of Sin Ming Hui Association.
Nonetheless, its legacy still remains nowadays. The medical clinic is the predecessor of notable hospitals in Jakarta, such as Sumber Waras Hospital and Husada Hospital. Candra Naya school has developed into Tarumanegara University, situated in Grogol area, West Jakarta.
Apart from historical visit, Candra Naya is also a popular place to chill out on lazy Sunday afternoon (or any day you prefer) with friends and family. There are seats available outside the rear entrance, facing the pond and fountain. Overall, the environment at Candra Naya is convenient, safe, well-maintained and clean.
The only thing that needs some improvements is the public toilet. The circle gates with their pink borders looks classy and quite eye-catching. Nonetheless, the facilities and cleanliness are poor. The toilet bowl looks shabby and dirty, no toilet paper and the room is a bit smelly. The wash room has neither soap nor toilet paper. I believe it won’t break the bank by providing those basic necessities. The only problem from this matter is negligance. Well, poor toilet facilities happens lots of times to main tourist attractions in Indonesia, unfortunately.
When hunger strikes, there’s no need to leave Candra Naya area. The are some restaurants in the neighborhood, whose building is a former guard house. Kopi Oey is the one you will instantly notice when you visit Candra Naya, situated on the right hand side of the building. Serving Chinese Peranakan dishes, Kopi Oey Candra Naya is the most beautiful branch of the chain. The food is pretty good in affordable price and the interior is very cozy to hang out.
Other restaurants are Token Resto, a Taiwanese restaurant, and Fubar, a Chinese restaurant. If you like spicy food and some Taiwanese snacks, Token Resto is the right place to try. The only restaurant I haven’t tried is Fubar and I’d like to have a visit someday.
Despite obstacles over the years, I’m so glad that it still stands gracefully nowadays, so all of us and the next generation are able to witness of the most beautiful Chinese style heritage houses in Jakarta. Overall, I enjoy visiting Candra Naya and make sure you don’t miss it when you visit Jakarta.