Ubud is famous for Monkey Forest, Ubud Market, The Royal Palace as well as shops, restaurants and cafes along the way that are often quite pricey and touristy. Well, suppose you step away a little bit from the crowds to Kedewatan Village in the outskirt of Ubud, that takes about 20 minutes, you’ll find a rather ordinary house façade saying “Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku”, translated as Mrs. Mangku’s Kedewatan Chiken Rice, on both neon box and engraved limestone.
Mrs. Mangku started selling her signature chicken rice back in 1960’s on a flea market around Kedewatan Village. Before she succeeds, she moved from one place to another until she has many regular customers and settles at the present location.
Once I arrived at the restaurant, I didn’t quickly take a seat in an ordinary dining room in front of me. Instead, I walked further to find the beautiful Balinese house hidden behind it. The 6-pavilion house is the residence of Mrs. Mangku family and one of them is the kitchen to produce the signature chicken mix rice. The atmosphere is very homey rather than a commercial place and peaceful with soft background of Balinese keroncong music. The scenery is fantastic and the combination of red brick, engraved wood, gold and red color make the house look earthy and elegant at the same time.
The seatings are situated on the side of each pavilion and some on stage, like the ones near the pond and the rice barn. Most of them are performed with lesehan style, meaning that you will dine using a very short table and seat on a carpet, that somehow similar to a traditional Japanese dining style. Since the house is spacious and the distance from 1 seating to another is a bit far, it is very suitable for those who love privacy and tranquility. Take some to walk around the house, the greenery and serenity are completely relaxing your mind and refreshing your eyesight.
Although the signature menu is called nasi ayam (chicken rice), probably it is more suitable to call it nasi campur ayam (chicken-based mix rice) because unlike the Chinese food Hainan Chicken Rice, it is a mixture of different kind of chicken-based dishes, from sate lilit ayam (minced chicken satay), boiled egg, crispy chicken skin, ayam betutu (Balinese style chicken), lawar (mixed vegetables) and peanuts.
Bear in mind that don’t do what I did by asking, “Is there any other menus other than chicken rice?”, because they only have 1 menu for many years and there haven’t been any new ones ever since. Therefore the waiter asked me if it was my first visit to the restaurant. Certainly, it was!
The only variety is how it’s served, either all contents in one plate including rice and poured chicken soup on the rice or in different plates, where rice and soup are served separately. Nonetheless, it’s the same food. The chicken-based mix rice in one plate costs Rp. 25.000 ($ 2) and the separate one costs Rp. 35.000n ($ 3) because it has a bigger portion of rice and soup. I was hungry, so I took the Rp. 35.000 dish.
All I can say is I got more than I paid. It was very delicious with all the rich spices penetrated into the chicken dishes and the soup tasted so heavenly. I struggled with the burning hot soup, to be honest, since I’m usually not a spicy food eater, but it was all worth it.
Fresh juices are sold starting from Rp. 7000 ($ .50) to Rp. 20.000 ($ 1.6). There are some varieties of chips, crackers as well starting from Rp. 1000 ($ .10) for a thumb size package of snack you can get in front of the cashier and the price range for the rest is about Rp. 5000 to Rp. 10.000 ($ .30 to $ .80).
No wonder why the business lasts for over 60 years, how cool is that! I was lucky that I could choose the seat very easily since I came around 2 pm on weekdays where lunch time was over.
My experience tells me (and you) that this is not a tourist trap and nothing scammy about it. You definitely don’t need to empty your wallet for dining in an authentic and instagrammable place and satisfy your appetite with great food.
Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku
Address: Jl. Raya Kedewatan No.18, Ubud, Bali Phone: 0361 974795 Opening hours: 6.30 am – 8 pm
Museum Taman Prasasti or Inscription Museum, formerly known as Kebon Jahe Kober, was the first modern public cemetery in the world built in 1795 in Tanah Abang district, Central Jakarta, Indonesia. The land belonged to Halventinus van Riemsdijk, a landlord and a businessman, before he inherited it to the Dutch colonial government.
It provided a new burial site to replace that in Hollandsche Nieuw Kerk (Dutch New Church), now Museum Wayang or Wayang Puppet Museum, since the cemetery was already full. The cemetery area was once 5.5 hectares, but now it’s only 1.5 hectares left due to the city expansion.
Known for the terrible traffic jam and the biggest textile market in Southeast Asia so-called Pasar Tanah Abang (Tanah Abang Market), Museum Taman Prasasti delivers the tranquil side of Tanah Abang district situated just 7 minutes drive from the hectic area, free from honks and overcrowded street vendors.
But nothing eerie and haunted about this place. The cemetery operated until 1974 and closed a year later. Before turning into a museum on July 9, 1977, the remaining bodies were brought back to their families and some others are cremated. In other words, no bodies under the tombstones ever since.
That’s why it’s no longer called a cemetery, but a museum instead. Nowadays, it’s one of the popular places for photography spots and video shooting.
THE BURIED ONES, MEMORIALS AND STATUES
Those days, it was a Protestant cemetery, the last resting place of Dutch government officials and prominent people.
Among others Marius Hulswit (the architect of Cathedral Church in Jakarta), Olivia Marianme Raffles (the first wife of Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant General of Dutch Indies during the British conquest), HF Roll (the founder of STOVIA, School of Medicine during Dutch colonization era), Van Riemsdijk Family (General Governor of Dutch Indies whose son, Halventinus, inherited one of his lands to build Kebon Jahe Kober cemetery) and many more.
The only Indonesian people buried here were Miss Riboet (famous theater actress in 1930’s) and Soe Hok Gie (student activist movement in 1960’s).
Various shapes of tombstone definitely define the beauty of the open air museum, that also have meaning and purpose behind them. The tombstone of Olivia Mariamne Raffles made of andesite stone was considered luxurious at that time. The broken menhir shaped tomb, like that of Dr. Jan Laurens Andries Brandes (and some others), is the symbol of unfulfilled wishes. The Hindu temple look is a remembrance of his merit as an ancient Javanese literature expert.
The most lavish tombstone is the green cathedral monument of Major General Johan Jacob Perrie, a highly respected war hero who earned the title of nobility from the Dutch Kingdom.
Of all tombs, I personally think that the story behind Kapitein Jas tomb is the most interesting and funny in particular way. Until today, local and international visitors believe that visiting his tomb can make their wishes come true although some say that Kapitein Jas doesn’t exist.
It is said that Kapitein Jas was a name of an extended land next to Jassen Kerk, a Portuguese church outside the Batavia old town, to accommodate the deceased from a malaria outbreak since there was no longer enough space in the cemetery behind Jassen Kerk.
So, I wonder if there was a body buried under the tombstone of Kapitein Jas those days.
Apart from tombstones, Museum Taman Prasasti also houses memorials and statues revealing the situation at the time they were built. The caskets used to bring bodies of Indonesia’s first president and vice president, Soekarno and Hatta, are sheltered by metal-roofed hut decorated with Indonesian flag.
The crying lady statue illustrates a very sad newly wed woman left by her husband who died from malaria when he was abroad. She finally hung herself.
The replica of R. Breveld monument with the skull stabbed by a spear is a memorial of R. Breveld, a Dutch, German and Thai descendant who was a traitor for Dutch Imperialism and sentenced to death because he planned to kill government officials.
A Japanese-inscripted stone in front of AJW. van Delden family funeral home, not far from the president’s caskets, is a memorial of Japanese troops against allied forces.
THE STORY BEHIND THE ANGELS
Somehow, the abundant of angels in the former cemetery triggers a question why the Protestant cemetery looks like the Catholic one.
In fact, the angels didn’t exist until the first public cemetery in the world stop operating and turned into a museum to beautify the environment inside the open air museum. Unintentionally, it shows a lack of understanding the differences between Protestant and Catholic, although they both are Christian and have the same bible.
Most probably, whoever has the idea of adding the angels is inspired by a lavishly decorated church with many statues and paintings, that are more obvious in Catholic churches than the Protestant ones, but he or she doesn’t notice that.
Additionally, even the broken hands were made on purpose to give the impression of old and vintage. They are not that old, though, at least not from the 18th or 19th century. Regardless the accidental mistake, the angel statues are my favorite as they are beautifully carved and accentuate plain graves and cemetery surroundings. I just don’t really care about the reason and the misunderstanding.
By accessing Museum Taman Prasasti for only Rp. 5000 ($ 0.5), it is a great place to relax, refreshing your mind and eyesight with artworks carved on tombstones and memorials, as well as to learn about the important people once buried there, who shape the history, influence the present life and future of the next generation.
Just a very short post this time. Happy 492th Anniversary, Jakarta!
Today, Jakarta citizens and visitors can enjoy all routes provided by Transjakarta buses for free. Tonight, the street party will start in Hotel Indonesia Roundabout or Bundaran HI. CNN Indonesia is having a special anniversary report in the historical Kota Tua area. Picnic and bazaar in Banteng Square, or Lapangan Banteng are held for 2 days starting from now until Sunday.
In short, the city is having a huge party everywhere this weekend!
As we all know, monkeys are intelligent animals in many ways, even considered the closest relatives to human beings. Nonetheless, when it comes to interacting with people, there are pros and cons. Some say they are cute and lovely, some say they are nasty and dangerous. Which one do you think is right?
For me, they are just unpredictable. So I stay safe when I face them. Don’t wear accessories, from earrings, a hat to sunglasses. Don’t feed them. Don’t touch them. When they climb on me, keep calm until they go down themselves. The only thing I dare to is to look at them and take pictures, but trying my best not too close to the subjects.
But a single shot experience in Buleleng may change my perception about monkeys. FYI, Buleleng is a regency situated in the north side of Bali, whose capital city is Singaraja. Suppose you’ve been to Kuta and Denpasar in south Bali, it takes about 2 hours drive from the south to the north. It is said that the monkeys in Buleleng are nice and don’t steal stuff.
ARE THESE MONKEYS THAT NICE?
When I was on my way up to Wanagiri Village, passing the hilly road in Buleleng, my dad asked the driver to pull over and stop the car on the side of the street full of long-tailed monkeys.
“Here?” I asked with disbelieve.
I’d always thought that the location would be either a park, a sanctuary or a zoo. Forget about a place like Monkey Forest in Ubud. It’s actually located on the side of the busy street, facing the beautiful lake Buyan and Tamblingan. No entrance fee needed to see these monkeys. They were just everywhere, especially in the forest where they reside across the street. I could even see them from the car window.
When I got off from the car, I saw a lady leaving the hut nearby, bringing a basket of peanuts and bananas, and started feeding a fat monkey with peanuts. However, he hissed, showing his small yet sharp teeth and eyes wide open. I was a bit shocked.
“That’s all right. He just wants bananas, not peanuts.” She tried to calm me down, convincing that feeding monkeys in the area is safe. I didn’t know monkeys could be so demanding.
Having changed the bait into a banana, the fat monkey, let’s call him Jack, quickly grabbed and enjoyed it for himself.
Next, she fed the smaller monkey, let’s call him Chad, on top of the roof. Later on, she gave me a turn to feed the perpetually hungry monkeys, passing me the basket. Since I know it wouldn’t be for free, I asked her how much it is.
Rp. 20.000 ($1.5) for a basket filled with 7 pieces of banana and a handful of peanuts is not too expensive compared to buying banana for Rp. 10.000 ($ 0.80) per piece in Monkey Forest. You can bring your own food, but I wasn’t ready. Anyways, she or anyone else in charge for the monkeys would be much happier if you get a basket of food from her or him.
I started giving a piece of banana to Chad, yet he unexpectedly move a few steps behind. The lady suggested me to move my hand further toward the monkey, therefore he could reach the food more easily. Well, I was just being cautious no matter how tame they are, that’s all.
However, in seconds, I noticed that real the reason why Chad couldn’t grab the peanuts from my hand was because he didn’t dare to step further. He could have done that, but Jack was standing in front of the hut while staring at the rooftop. It turned out that Chad was intimidated by Jack’s presence.
That also happened to other monkeys whose body size were just like Chad. I fed all of them equally, interchangeably between peanuts and bananas. However, when Jack was near them, they kept the distance from him, even ran away until the situation is “safe”.
Jack was indeed territorial as if he ran the world. He only wanted the food for himself, not really pleased when other smaller monkeys accepted it from men’s hands. He even chased those monkeys, including Chad, trying to scare them off. I did my best to give all the content in the basket for those poor monkeys, rather than Jack. Although I still spare some for Jack.
Despite Jack’s domination and the poor monkeys, it is true that they are more “polite” than those in other areas. They only approach you when there’s food in your hands meant for them. Nothing more. They don’t grab sunglasses, hats or accessories. They don’t climb on you. They don’t bite. In one condition: as long as you don’t touch them.
A few days later, we passed the same street, going down to the airport. I spotted some tourists holding a camera feeding the same monkeys I fed last time. Due to the development of tourism in north Bali, the cuteness of the monkeys is getting more popular. Feeding them is indeed a fun activity for many.
FUN, YET NOT WISE
Nonetheless, weeks after returning home, I accidentally stumbled upon on Mongabay, an environment news site, mentioning that actually it is unwise to feed them because nowadays the monkeys are 3 times fatter than how it should be. Overfeeding does not only have an impact on their health, but also changes their surviving behaviour in the wild and increase their aggressiveness on searching for food.
If I knew it from the start, I wouldn’t have done what I did.
In that case, local government should educate its people on side effects of offering monkey feeding activities for tourists to earn money, although it’s not a quick scheme to get the expected results to protect the future of long-tailed monkeys population.
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 site I know is 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!
A few months after dining at Waytuki Vegetarian, I revisited Pasar Baru (previously spelled as Passer Baroe, literally means New Market in Indonesian), known as Little India, since most Indian settlements in Indonesia have been establishing their life and business since the 19th century.
However, finding Gokul Resto, an Indian vegetarian restaurant, was purely accidental. At first, I purposely returned to Galeri Jurnalistik Antara because of my assumption that there’s a cafe restaurant on the other side of the exhibition room. Stupid me, there isn’t. It was just an office space for Antara News Agency employees.
Damn, I was starving! I entered Pasar Baru area, passing the eclectic Passer Baroe gate to find something to eat. A few minutes later, I noticed a music store on my right side and a neon box mentioning “Wijaya Musik” and the other one below mentioning “Gokul Resto”.
It reminds me of what Wisata Kreatif Jakarta tour leaders said about an Indian vegetarian restaurant we couldn’t visit because it’s closed on Sundays and finally we ended up dining at Waytuki Vegetarian on that day.
But today’s Wednesday. So, it must be open!
I came inside Wijaya Music Store building, asking for a confirmation from one of its employees if Gokul Resto is open for real. Having said “yes” to my question, he showed me an elevator on the left, separated with a tempered glass door, telling me that it’s located on the 4th floor.
After reaching the 4th floor, it was unexpectedly quiet and didn’t seem like a well-known restaurant everyone recommends. Minimalist was the key of the dining room, accentuated by Roman style pillars attached on the walls. To deliver more comfort for the guests, the blinds covered all the windows to avoid direct sunlight during the daytime.
“Good afternoon.” A short, lean woman in a yellow veil greeted me.
Despite my confusion, I was happy that I came at the right time. Since most guests are employees in the neighborhood, office break time and after hour are the peak hours. Simultaneously, Gokul serves many delivery orders from huge online delivery services like Go-jek and Grab. Gosh, I was glad that I missed those busy hours.
At 4 pm, lunch time is over and dinner time hasn’t arrived yet. It means that my food would be first come first serve since nobody but me was at the restaurant. She passed me the menu. Like Waytuki Vegetarian, Gokul also serves wide variety of vegetarian version of Indian food, from panner tikka masala, mutton curry, tandoori roti, masala dosa, chicken briyani to cheese uttappam. However, Gokul has more Indonesian dishes than Waytuki, such as nasi bumbu Bali (Balinese style mixed rice), mie godog Jawa (Javanese style noodle soup), siomay (steamed dumpling) and more. Average price for main courses is between Rp. 35.000 and Rp. 55.000 ($3 and $5) per pertion.
Focusing on trying its best-selling dishes, my preference went to a separate menu highlighting Claypot Briyani Rice Set Menu, served with Indian style rice crackers or papad, and mix vegetables with raita (yoghurt-based condiment). The options are vegetarian, chicken, panner (Indian cottage cheese), kofta (meatball or meatloaf dishes made of minced meat), and mutton, starting from Rp 55.000 ($4.5), serves for two. But in reality, a lot of customers can finish it themselves without sharing. For sure, all kinds of meat are 100% vegetarian made of soybean.
I would go to mutton briyani (Rp 75.000 or $6), as I couldn’t get enough with it after going to Waytuki . I had no idea whether I could finish it all by myself or half of the portion would be to go. It didn’t matter at all. Same story for the drinks. I chose the best seller, which is mango lassie (Rp. 25.000 / $1.5).
The beauty of dining in off-peak hours is that it didn’t take long to wait for my orders to arrive on the table. My mango lassie and the salad side dish, consisting of sliced onion, tomato, cucumber, lime, green chili, yogurt sauce, and papad came first.
The mango lassie truly deserves to be everyone’s favourite, as it was fresh and not too sweet. Next, I dipped the papad in the yogurt sauce. The sourness of creamy yogurt balanced with earthy and herbaceous spices made it tasted heavenly when paired with the lightly salted papad.
I wondered if I should do the same with the salad dish, especially the green chili and onion. She confirmed that my guess was right. Indian people are used to dipping all those veggies in the yogurt sauce. Well, I tried to be like them by squeezing the lime, sprinkling its water evenly on the veggies and dipping the cucumber and onion in the yogurt sauce (but not the tomato and chili because I don’t like them). The combination of cucumber and yogurt was fine, yet it surprised me somehow that raw onion actually matches very well with the sauce, although I couldn’t finish the onion in the end.
Not long after that, the mutton briyani arrived. I noticed the different appearance between briyani rice in Gokul and Waytuki. At Waytuki, the briyani rice is golden brown when served. On the other hand, the one at Gokul is white with hints of saffron yellow colour, sprinkled with parsley and spring onion. The main spices are buried under the basmati rice. To get the golden brown coloured rice as it should be, you have to mix it yourself or ask the waiter to do so. I chose to mix it myself.
Harmonious blends of nutty, earthy and herbacious notes on the rice was something I love the most from the dish. Honestly speaking, briyani rice at Gokul is more savoury than that at Waytuki. Although I like both of them, my preference goes to the one having more intense taste of the spices like Gokul.
Not sure whether I was too hungry or the rice was too delicious, I finally managed to finish the briyani set menu meant for two!
I don’t know know about you, but in my perspective, the combination of briyani rice and mango lassie feels too rich in my mouth that I really need water to gargle to remove their excess taste. May be I should have ordered unsweetened tea or just plain water next time when ordering any kind of rich taste food.
Regardless the latter personal opinion, it doesn’t change the fact that I was really satisfied with the quality of food and drinks at Gokul Resto and I definitely would like to come back someday to try other menus offered.
Address: Jl. Ps. Baru No.12, RT.15/RW.4, Ps. Baru, Sawah Besar, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10710
Mangga Besar is a densely populated, hustling and bustling area in West Jakarta, the melting pot of bars, night clubs, discotheques, hotels, restaurants and street food stalls. Not to mention the less–known Avalokitesvara Temple and abundant medical clinics situated in residential areas somewhere behind the street food areas.
Joining Wisata Kreatif Jakarta on walking tour to Mangga Besar, the last destination of the tour is what I had been waiting for: eating cobra skewers and its blood and bile. The snake meat itself was not the biggest challenge for me, but the blood and bile were!
Along the street of Mangga Besar Raya, a few hundred meters from the famous Durian Acin, there are several stalls selling cobra skewers, among others Cobra 34 Pais. Established by Pais since year 2000, the family-owned business is inspired by his grandfather who has been selling cobra before 1980s, whose stall name is “34”. In Chinese belief, number 34 means life and death.
Generally speaking, cobra food stalls in Mangga Besar only open in the evening, starting from 5 pm until midnight.
BEST-SELLING COBRA SET MENU
The most well-known dish from Cobra 34, perhaps as well as other cobra snake food stalls, is a set menu of cobra skewers, blood and bile sold for Rp. 90.000 (about $7). King cobra package is sold for Rp. 300.000 (about $25). There are also cobra floss, cobra soup and cobra oil. The non-cobra product is biawak (tropical giant lizard) skewers, soup, floss and oil.
My cousin and I ordered the Rp. 90.000 cobra package. The rest of the tour members hesitated to get one and some would only like to have a bite or two, only if they finally had guts in the last minute.
“Do you want the blood and bile as well?” The vendor asked.
“Well, not this time. But we would like to have it pictured, so don’t throw it away.” I replied.
To be honest, the day before the tour, I promised that I would challenge myself to consume the blood and bile for the sake of compelling story telling in my blog. Nonetheless, my stomach felt bloated in that afternoon for reasons only God knows. Since they would be mixed with alcohol (and honey) to reduce the fishy taste, I wasn’t sure if I could stand the alcohol in my condition. Therefore, I decided not to consume them.
ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
The “slaughter” show began. After taking the cobra out of the cage, he (the vendor) closed the snake’s mouth with a bamboo clip and chopped its head off. Then, he stretched the headless cobra’s body and squeezed it to pour the blood and bile into the prepared plastic mug. Skinning and separating the cobra’s meat and bone were faster than I thought, less than 30 seconds, by tying the front part of the body with a rope and peeled its black skin with bare hands. The last step was to remove the remaining organs attached in the inner side of the cobra’s meat using a bamboo skewer.
During the 3 minute process of slaughtering, both cobra’s head and its beheaded body kept writhing. Slow but sure, it was a very agonizing way of facing death. If I were the vendor, I would first smash or stab right to its brain before doing anything else to end its pain. Especially the head kept flipping and the mouth kept moving after being left for an hour. Its body stopped writhing after 5 minutes since it was instantly cut and pierced in bamboo skewers to grill.
One cobra equals to one portion of cobra skewers, that consists of 9 pieces. Although it was about 2 meters long, the whole body mostly contains of bone and the organs inside, which are definitely inedible. The only meaty part is located in the outer part attached to the bone, which is not as much as I thought.
Watching the whole process of turning the venomous predator to be on our dinner plate is either curiosity or something too hard to handle, depending on your personal perspectives.
One of the tour members mentioned about her friend, who had severe acne problem and her prescribed medicines didn’t work, was advised to drink snake blood and bile, but not necessarily the meat. After consuming them regularly, the acne turned dry and gradually peeled off from her skin. Doing so was the last option for her, so eerie and disgusted feeling were swept away by the sense of urgency to get cured.
The vendor justified her story. He added a notion that many of his customers are women having skin problems.
THE TASTE OF ADVENTURE
We were so carried away witnessing the slaughter show that we almost forgot asking about where the blood and bile drink were. It turned out that he only knew that we didn’t want to consume it, but he didn’t get the idea that we still wanted to take a picture of them in the mug . He gave it to the parking lot caretaker instead, who apparently often volunteers to drink them every time customers are not willing to.
One of us asked the parking lot guy how it tasted.
“Nothing really special, just like Vicks Formula 44.” He replied.
Vicks Formula 44 is a liquid cough medicine, that can be obtained easily in drug stores without prescription. Well, I’m not a fan of the taste of any cough medicine, but it gave me an impression that drinking snake blood and bile doesn’t taste terrible at all.
Grilling the skewers took about 20 minutes and added with sweet soy sauce when served to our table. It looked and tasted exactly the same as chicken skewers, and the plus point is that it was completely fresh. Nonetheless, it was more chewy than chicken, but not as chewy as crocodile meat in Cambodia. I remember trying fried snake with turmeric spices many years ago elsewhere and the meat was much more tender than the skewers.
Eventually, some tour members dare to get some bites from us. They said that it’s just like chicken, but the only problem is that they still can’t get rid of the memory of how the cobra is “processed” into food.
Apart from food, Cobra 34 Pais also offers medical products, among others Kapsul Cobra (Cobra Capsule), Minyak Bulus (Softshell Turtle Oil) and Salep Cobra (Cobra Balm). I tried the Cobra Balm, that merely costs Rp. 30.000 ($2) per bottle. Using cobra oil as the main ingredient, Cobra Balm solves skin problems, such as skin allergies, acne, itchy, chapped skin, wounds and so on. I use it to cure acne problems and it works pretty well for me.
In a nutshell, I can guarantee the freshness of the food from Cobra 34 Pais since I witnessed the whole process from the start. All you need to do is to prepare yourself to see how it’s made. Otherwise, you can turn your back away when it’s in progress or watch it blindfolded.
Have a great dining adventure!
Cobra 34 (Pais)
Address: Mangga Besar Raya, West Jakarta, Indonesia