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One Way to do Jakarta

In October 2017 my wife and I had the good fortune to be on a cruise transiting the Java Sea which called at Jakarta, Indonesia’s Capital city.

Jakarta is a city that has fascinated me for a long time and although our ship was running just the one excursion, their itinerary didn’t include a number of sites that were of interest to me.

Fortunately I had purchased an Indonesian guide book prior to leaving the UK…

… and had a good idea of what we wanted to see.

Cruise ships visiting Jakarta dock at Tanjung Priok Cruise Terminal, sited in the  heart of the commercial dock area…

 

The arrow above indicates the terminal position.

The terminal is some 12 Kilometres from Jakarta’s Central City area and, depending on traffic conditions, this could be  a 45 minute drive.

Incidentally, the cruise line we were sailing with, Star Clippers, made no provision for any shuttle transport for independent travellers. If you weren’t on their excursion you were on your own.

But we had a plan…

I had taken a screen shot of a google map and highlighted a number of places of interest while making a mental note that, if possible, we wanted to see the old port, known as Sunda Kelpa and the Proclamation Monument.

 

On leaving the terminal we bartered with a taxi driver and eventually agreed an acceptable price to be taken to Sunda Kelpa.

Sunda Kelapa is the historic port of Jakarta  from where  the famous fleet of traditional 2 masted wooden Pinishi Schooners still operate to this day. They serve the vast Indonesian archipeligos carrying all kinds of products from rice to cement and  are considered the world’s last wind-powered sailing fleet…

stretching as far as the eye can see…

As can be seen, Sunda Kelpa is very much a working dock environment and quite fascinating to wander around.

At the southern head of the Sunda Kelpa was the prime reason for heading here first, the famous Menara Syahbandar Tower…

The Syahbandar Tower is a colonial tower built in 1839 as part of the old  fortress now long gone…

*****

It is remarkably well preserved and it is still possible to climb inside to the top floor and view the line up of ships at Sunda Kelpa Harbour….

 

Inside the Tower of Syahbandar Jakarta there is a stone slab with Chinese characters which means Boundary Point, as point zero of Batavia City.

…as illustrated here…

The other major attraction at Sunda Kelpa, and just 50 yards from the Syahbandar Tower is the Maritime Museum…

The museum occupies a  former Dutch East India Company warehouse and focuses on the maritime history of Indonesia and the importance of the sea to the economy of present-day Indonesia.

 

The museum displays models of fishing boats and other maritime objects from different parts of Indonesia. It also exhibits the celebrated Pinisis schooners of the Bugis people of South Sulawwesi which at present make up one of the last sea-going sailing fleets mentioned earlier…

….how the old Batavia City once looked…

…and of course, traced the old spice trades…

It is with considerable regret that during my follow up research to write this review I learnt that in January 2018, much of the museum was destroyed by a fire. I sincerely hope the Indonesian government can expedite the reconstruction as this really was a memorable museum.

Our next destination was another historical old colonial landmark,  some 15 minutes walk from the Syahbandar Tower and in the direction of the ‘old town area’. It was the Kota Intan Bridge Engelse Brug…

 

 

The bridge is a well preserved landmark with an interesting history. During  Dutch rule the bridge was named ‘Engelse Brug‘ or ‘Britain Bridge‘ as it connected the Dutch and  British forts. There is clear identification of its historical significance…

 

Staying in the ‘old town area’ and just a short walk away from the bridge is Taman Fatahillah Square…

Fatahillah Square, which was the heart of the 18th Century Dutch Colonial Administration, is now the heart of a new and thriving tourist industry.

Formerly Batavia City Square,  it is indicated on my earlier map as the Jakarta History Museum: that’s it on the opposite side of the square…

It was originally built as the ‘City Hall’ and is one of  a number of interesting buildings around the square including the Old Post Office…

Museum Wayang (the Puppet Museum)…

the Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik (Fine Arts and Ceramics)…

a little closer….

And the Cafe Batavia…

The building of Café Batavia was constructed around the 1830s and is another colonial landmark facing the square. Former offices for Dutch Governors, its construction  differs from the more colonial style buildings in that it is of traditional design, typically with a wooden gallery on the second floor.

Apart from the buildings there were two things that we also found interesting in Taman Fatahillah Square. First was that, according to local mythology, the Portuguese ‘Si Jagur’ Cannon… 

… with a hand ornament showing a fico gesture…

…is believed by local people to be able to induce fertility on women.

Secondly, the friendliness of the Indonesian people that we had already experienced earlier in the day, was truly confirmed and we were inundated with  requests to pose for photographs with them…

*****

 

We departed Taman Fatahillah Square and headed, on foot,  for the district of Glodok, first passing the National Bank Museum building…

The Chinatown of Jakarta began long before Indonesia existed as a nation and was originally the Chinatown of Batavia. This was the area where the Dutch required the Chinese to live. Today, the whole area is called Glodok and includes traditional houses, markets, architecture and some very beautiful Chinese temples.

 

It also proved a wonderful maze of street markets selling, amongst other things, spices…

seafood…

all sorts of exotic vegetables…

…and a possible French influence?…

It was at this point that we decided to expedite our next visit having spent more time than planned at Taman Fatahillah Square.

On a hunch we opted for a Tuk-Tuk ride on the grounds that these boys can manoeuvre around traffic: it was a brilliant idea…

…and we had a fascinating ride all the way to the Masjid Istiqual Mosque…

 

…though better seen from above to really appreciate its size…

 

 

Masjid Istiqlal is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and the third largest Sunni Mosque worldwide in terms of capacity.

We were impressed with the arrangement for visitors and enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of the inside…

*****

..and once again obliged the friendly locals with a photo call…

Not too distant from the mosque, indeed, almost in its shadow was the next  feature on our list, the Jakarta Cathedral…

 

Its official name is Gereja Santa Perawan Maria Diangkat Ke Surga and translated from Dutch is The Church of Our Lady of Assumption. It was consecrated in 1901 and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jakarta. An internal view…

For an ‘on the hoof’ lunch we sampled some street food while moving on to  Merdeka Square to view the National Monument MONAS…

 

The National Monument is a 132 metre tower at the centre of Merdeka Square, Central Jakarta, and symbolizes the fight for Indonesian independence. It is the national monument of the Republic of Indonesia, built to commemorate the struggle for Indonesian independence. The Monument is open daily between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm except for Mondays. Guess what day we were there?…

Next on our list of sites to visit required a taxi ride. Indeed, as one of the two was not too far from the port, we negotiated a round trip that would eventually return us to the ship. Our first stop, and the most important one, was the Proclamation Monument…

Situated at Jalan Proklamasi, Central Jakarta, the monument was erected  on the site of Indonesian Declaration of Independence on 17 August 1945. The monument features the statue of Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, reading the Indonesian Proclamation of Independence with vice president Mohammad Hatta…

Our final place of interest was Kampung Tugu, an historic Christian neighbourhood, the oldest in Indonesia.  The neighborhood still exists and retains its own distinct Christian-Portuguese culture, e.g. the Portuguese-influenced musical style Kroncong Tugu spoken in the extinct Papia Tugu language.

*****

*****

 

Summary

 

Jakarta is a  multi faceted city that is home to an amazing melange of people from across South East Asia: an exciting metropolis with a huge diversity of traditions, beliefs and food.

There is plenty to see and do  and something of interest for every visitor. In the run up to our visit much was made of the traffic chaos but in all honesty, the routes we took saw no evidence of anything near gridlock and, as our vessel was not sailing till 11.00 pm we considered it an adequate safety net.

The one point we would make is that the one and only ship’s excursion did not cover anywhere  near as much as we did and, from conversations, spent far too long on ‘free’ time in Chinatown. It is all a matter of choice but we had a plan and a map even before leaving the UK and there was only one building on our ‘to do’ list that we eventually  opted not to see, Istana Merdeka, one of six presidential palaces in Indonesia…

…so maybe no a bad decision.

 

 

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Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

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