jakarta dreaming

September 26, 2008

On our free day, we decided to go sightseeing. Sounds reasonable enough, but finding a little bit of old Jakarta (that doesn’t include malls) involved some perseverance on our part. But in the midst of all the traffic chaos, we managed to catch a glimpse of a Jakarta that is otherwise long gone.

We started in Kota and the old Dutch town square. The Jakarta History Museum, housed in the former Dutch town hall from 1707, does its best with the resources it has to pull together a slightly random assortment of artifacts and relics, ranging from prehistoricl to colonial eras. This 19th century Dutch filing cabinet impressed both Mr. Snow and me.

Deciding for a drink and a spot of lunch took us fortuitously to Cafe Batavia for colonial-style sipping and supping, before walking on to Jakarta’s old port of Sunda Kelapa. No pinisi in port unfortunately, but some smaller fishing boats were visible from a bridge at the Fish Market.

Then, a wander along the Kali Besar, or Main Canal, which used to be lined with grand houses. A few still remain from the early 18th century, and some rehabilitation work seemed to be going on, but for the most part the glory days of this street seem long gone. I caught a glimpse of them with these old balconied shophouses.

We finished by walking through Glodok, Jakarta’s Chinatown and by asking the way repeatedly, managed to find our way to two 17th century Chinese temples, smoky with incense at dusk.

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