HOW WALKING TOURS CHANGE THE WAY I SEE JAKARTA
My hometown Jakarta is the capital and the biggest city in Indonesia situated in Java island. Over the years, the 491 year-old city has developed into the busiest, the most populated city in the country due to fast economic growth, and also known for having one of the worst traffic jams in the world. Moreover, overloaded shopping malls overshadow the city’s historical elements. I even had no idea where to take my friends from overseas when they visited Jakarta besides shopping malls. The only historical spot I know is Cafe Batavia in Kota Tua (literally means old town), nothing else. What a shame!
Thanks to the growing trend of walking tours in Jakarta, organized by Jakarta Good Guide and Wisata Kreatif Jakarta for instance, not only are foreign tourists able to explore each area of Jakarta without traffic jam. But also for Jakarta residence like me, walking tours introduce alternative ways to enjoy the city other than hanging out in shopping malls, from visiting survived historical buildings turned into museums, Dutch heritage railway station, culinary spots until places of worship from different religions.
After joining walking tours since 2017, it’s a wake up call for me that I have very little knowledge about the rich history and diverse culture in my own city regardless how many years I’ve been living. To be honest, it’s been an interesting experience related to my travel life. I have become somewhat addicted in participating in the tours and it’s been my 8th time already and still counting.
Indeed, Jakarta is not only about shopping malls and it doesn’t necessarily take a thousand miles or land somewhere far far away to call it travelling.
MUST VISIT SPOTS THAT ARE NOT SHOPPING MALLS
Of all the places I visited, mostly with the troops from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, these are my favourite places of interest in Jakarta you should not miss, that are definitely not shopping malls:
Tugu Kunstkring Paleis
Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, originally named Bataviasche Kunstkring, was created by a Dutch architect Pieter Adriaan Jacobus Moojen from NV. Bouwploeg, the first property and architecture firm in Jakarta during the Dutch colony period. It was opened in 1914 to hold fine and decorative art exhibitions. Van Gogh, Chagall, Picasso and Gauguin paintings were among other finest works exhibited between 1939 and 1943.
After 1942, the function changed into the Islamic Council of Indonesia main office, immigration office, until Buddha Bar that brought a controversy. Since 2013, Tugu Hotels and Restaurants Group renamed it into Tugu Kunstkring Paleis and transformed it into a fine dining restaurant serving Indonesian and peranakan cuisine. The Dutch rationalist architecture style building also provides cafe, bar, wine tasting, gift shop, ball room and a balcony.
Exhibiting antiquity inheritance from Oei Tiong Ham, a sugar trading tycoon, the old glory of Bataviasche Kunstkring has returned. A golden gate (for real) and other precious artifacts from 2 Surakarta Kingdoms and a 9-meter-painting of “The Fall of Java” by Anhar Setjadibrata (the restaurant owner), inspired by Raden Saleh painting, decorated Diponegoro Room. The original memorabilia of Soekarno, Indonesia’s first president, is well-kept in Soekarno room on the 2nd floor, a private dining room occupying up to 25 guests. Each room has its own unique name inspired by prominent people in Indonesian history, such as Diponegoro, Soekarno, Multatuli, the owner’s favorite movie, Darna, and a legendary Greek god, Hercules. The bar name, Suzie Wong, is inspired by a famous novel by Richard Mason in 1957.
The 3-storey building has an elevator to comfort those who are not willing to climb the stairs to the top. If you take the stairs, observe the walls along the way as it displays nostalgic pictures of Tugu Kunstkring Paleis dated 100 years ago.
The fine dining restaurant plus gallery has a free entrance. All you have to do is to try their refreshing mocktails, such as Meik Wei Meik Wei, the best-selling Grand Rijsttafel Betawi, etc, and take your time as much as you like to see all the invaluable antique collections in each side and corner of the room.
Museum Taman Prasasti
Museum Taman Prasasti (Inscription Museum) was built in 1795 and little known that it is also the first public cemetery in the world. The land was inherited by Van Riemsdijk, the 30th governor-general of Dutch East Indies, for the last resting place of Protestant prominent people and government officials, such as Marius Hulswit (the architect of Cathedral Church in Jakarta), Olivia Mariamne Raffles (the first wife of Thomas Stanford Raffles, a Lieutenant General of Dutch Indies during British occupation), Dr. HF. Roll (the founder of STOVIA, School of Medicine, now University of Indonesia (UI) and many more).
The cemetery was closed in 1975 and all the remaining bodies of the deceased were taken by their families. Since July 9, 1977, it has been transformed into a museum.
What makes the open air museum so particular and funny at the same time is that the former Protestant cemetery looks like the Catholic one, which is more lavish because of the abundant of angle statues situated almost everywhere in the neighborhood and a Jesus Christ statue on top of Kapitein Jas’ grave. This happens due to lack of understanding the differences between Catholic and Protestant although both religions are derived from the same root, Christian religion.
Despite the misconceptions, I think the statues enhance the beauty of the museum and has become one of favorite locations for photo hunting and pre-wedding photography.
Ereveld Menteng Pulo
While Père Lachaise in Paris and Okunoin in Koyasan are popular cemeteries for tourist attractions, many Indonesian people still think otherwise about cemeteries. Dirty, slummy and haunted are the first impressions when they heard about it. I can’t blame them, though, since it’s unfortunately the fact that there are still many cemeteries in the country are untreated because of bad management and ignorance. Nonetheless, visiting Ereveld Menteng Pulo may change stereotypes about cemeteries.
Ereveld Menteng Pulo is a war cemetery managed by The Netherlands War Graves Foundation (OGS), to provide a resting place of over 4000 World War II victims between 1942 and 1945, both Dutch and Indonesian nationalities, against Japan. To reduce the amount of Ereveld in Indonesia from 22 to 7 cemeteries, victims from outside Java island were reburied in Ereveld Menteng Pulo between 1960 and 1970. Unlike other war cemeteries, most victims are civilians, including children, who died from Japanese concentration camp. Only one-fourth of them were on military duty.
Compared to other 6 Ereveld in Indonesia, Ereveld Menteng Pulo is the most beautiful of all. A lotus pond outside Simultaan Church and Columbarium, a place to store ashes of 754 Dutch soldiers. Assorted flowers in several spots within the 29,000 square-meter land. Seats with a shelter to protect visitors from heat and rain. My first impression about Ereveld menteng Pulo is that it’s a very well-maintained and peaceful garden in the middle of a concrete jungle. There’s a moment that I forgot that I’m still in Jakarta. Also, I heard that it has a magnificent view to catch the sunset, too.
The challenge when the cemetery is open to public is to educate the locals to break negative perceptions about a cemetery and realize that it’s a potential tourist destination when they help maintaining its cleanliness and comfort by avoiding the bad habit of littering and vandalism.
Situated behind Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada Hotel, Candra Naya was built somewhere around 1807 or 1867. It is a former residence of Major Khouw Kim An, the last Major of the Chinese (Majoor der Chinezen), a leader of Chinese society during the Dutch colony period from 1910 to 1918 and from 1927 to 1942. Therefore, the building was also known as the Major’s House. After the major’s passing, the house was rented to Sin Ming Hui Association in 1960s, holding many social-oriented activities, including Sin Ming Hui Photographic Society, the oldest photography community in Jakarta.
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.
The demolition of the 3 original buildings at the back side of Candra Naya by Modern Group in 1993 to build Green Central City, a superblock of apartments and offices, raised protests from heritage conservation groups. Finally, the only survived part is the front side of the house, consisting of a living room, semi-private room, room for maids, concubines and their children and the gazebo.
Apart from historical visit, Candra Naya is also a popular place to chill out with friends and family. There are seats available outside the rear entrance, facing the pond and fountain. Around the neighborhood, there are several restaurants, such as Kopi Oey (Peranakan food), Token Resto (Taiwanese restaurant), and Fubar (Chinese restaurant).
Museum Maritim, or Maritime Museum is situated in the neighbourhood of the port of Tanjung Priok. Starting its soft opening since December 7, 2018, Maritime Museum exhibits the history of maritime in Indonesia over the centuries, from Majapahit, Sriwijaya, Mataram Kingdom until modern times. It includes the role of Indonesia in international spice trading until an interesting and less-known history of where the usual term of “celengan” (piggy bank) comes from, that eventually related to how Majapahit Kingdom introduced a habit of saving money in a piggy-shaped container (piggy bank).
To be honest, it is so much better than I expected and has reached the next level, just like those in developed countries. The layout is visually comfortable, spacious, including the reading room where visitors can take a rest and read provided books and magazines. Dioramas and historical artifacts have better quality compared to those in other museums I’ve visited in Jakarta. The simulator of a ship, where you can get a chance to be a helmsman, is one of the most interesting part of the museum. Don’t forget to visit the rooftop as well, where you can see the top view of Port Tanjung Priok and its surroundings.
THAT’S NOT IT
If I don’t mention other beautiful places in Jakarta, it’s probably either because I haven’t visited them or I don’t have proper images to show you. So, there will be the second part of this post. Remember, Jakarta is more than just shopping malls. So, stay tuned!