Traveling Back in Time to The Old Town Jakarta

When you visited Jakarta for the first time, you might not be a fan of its traffic and crowds. Jakarta, the busiest city in Indonesia, is moving so fast toward modernity with its magnificent buildings and splendid skyscrapers cramped in the city. But come to the Old Town, you would find a place where the time stops, and the view of hundred years ago still remains the same.

Jakarta Old Town was dubbed The “Queen of the East”, has been undergoing several nicknames from Sunda Kelapa, Jayakarta and then changed into Batavia under the Dutch colonialism. Starting from 1619, after Jan Pieterszoon Coen had invaded and destroyed Jayakarta, a new Batavia city was built, centered on the eastern edge of the Ciliwung river, which has become the area of the Fatahillah square now.

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Kerak Telor (Cuisine from Betawi: Jakarta’s Native Inhabitants)

The Old Town has a magic to draw you travel back to the past. Once you stepped out of Jakarta Kota station, you would be greeted by the Dutch colonial-style buildings and European nuances with their long-lost glory. Along the way to the square is filled with the street vendors promoting their authentic and mouth-watering local cuisine. A tempting of taste. The option varies from Kerak Telor (fried omelette with sticky rice, dried shrimp, and shredded coconut), Bandung siomay, satay, gado-gado (Indonesian salad with peanut sauce) and many more.

photo(2).JPGSpend some time sightseeing around the square by cycling. You could rent a colorful bike with a gorgeous hat to add the vintage sense on your look at a very affordable price, only Rp. 20.000/ hour (around $1.50). Either way, you can walk to explore the left side of the square, enjoying the sight of the tattoo artists, vintage style photo spots, antique photo spots, artistic cafe exteriors.

photo(5)You can’t miss the Wayang Museum. With only Rp.5000 (less than $50 Cents), you are able to enjoy the collection of puppets, dolls from various countries, and the most interesting one is Unyil, a famous puppet television series in the 1980s in Indonesia. Unfortunately, many of the displays don’t use English descriptions, so if you speak a little Indonesian, you better visit the sites with a local guide.

Another site shouldn’t be left-out is Jakarta History Museum. It was a town hall of Batavia in the past, providing various collections such as ceramics, paintings, antique furniture, as well as various collections of Betawi culture, used as the Dutch office and courtroom, where the underground rooms were prisons. You wouldn’t be surprised if the ambiance pulling you to the dark times of colonialism.

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Want to cool off from the heating sun of Jakarta? Or just want to relax and enjoy the moment, there are many choices of cafes and restaurants designed with beautiful retro ambiance around the square. Cafe Batavia with its 19th-century-style could be one of your options. The offered menu is varying from the authentic Indonesian cuisine to the recommended options of Western menus. Reserve a table upstairs and sit by the window, then you will get a direct view of the Jakarta History Museum (Fatahillah Museum) square. Do not forget to order Batavian Punch (sweet and sour fruity beverage). And then, you will be ready to explore the “past” with a revived spirit.

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Batavia Punch

If you want to explore more, you can ride the bicycle to visit the Sunda Kelapa Harbor, the historic harbor with a row of Phinisi ships, and Maritime Museum that provide the stories of the greatness of the archipelago maritime life in the past. You might find out and start to understand why Jakarta has become the center of international trade since a long time ago.

Even though it’s eroded by the speed of modernization and the roar of the breadwinners, but the glory of Jakarta will always be imprinted in our heart and hopefully someday we are able to preserve it.

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That Awesome Color TV

(This is an excerpt from Rainbow in My Childhood)

My childhood, perhaps, was the same as what other children in Indonesia experienced, especially those living in the period of 1980-1990ish. Facebook and onlines games had not yet existed. We enjoyed how fun it was playing jump-rope with friends in the yard, or playing hide-and-seek, congklak, engklek, and dozens of other traditional plays and games that we decided. Our favorite TV program was Si Unyil, which was aired every Sunday in TVRI, the only TV station in Indoneia at that time.

Our family economy was below sufficient in those years, but I didn’t think much of that. Maybe because we lived among a society with similar social-economic status. For us in the family, common meal was rice with warm water and salt. My mother could not provide more. I never felt sad, never complained, maybe because I always saw my father coming home with a smile on his face everyday. He worked fixing damaged tyres in a street-side not far from where we lived.

I was 7 years old, but I understood already that my father must have been exhausted and starving. I remember, when we have dinner together,  father managed to share a small amount of rice in the pan with me and my little sister Erni, while two of my younger brothers, Thamrin and Andrian were sleeping. His face looked calm, as if he wanted to show us that the food was enough for all of us and he was happy. We ate silently. Sometimes he asked us about our daily activities. Father was a quiet person, he never talked much, very rare we heard him sounding his words.

Usually, I didn’t eat. Erni felt hungry more often than me. She would directly jumped out of the bed when father arrived and followed him to the kitchen. She, then, would look at father when he was eating, until father asked: ”Ade, do you want to eat?” My sister would nod her head enthusiastically. Seeing them both eating rice and warm water and salt joyfully, I felt happy. That memory still lights in the corners of my mind: Erni’s bright eyes, father’s little talks, and a simple feeling of happines in my heart.

But things changed when Color TV existed in the beginning of 1990ish.

A Color TV! First, I was unaware of its existence. To make ends meet was difficult enough for our family, how could we think about having a Color TV? In fact, not having a Color TV at home was okay for me. No problem at all. But, one day, my classmate asked me cheerfully in front of the ohers: ”Ellen, did you watch Doraemon yesterday?”

Doraemon?I was silenced, confused, not knowing what to answer such question. Seriously, Doraemon! What was that? I just heard about it..

I forced myself to nod, because many of my classmates were around and seemed to wait for my answer. I felt I would be ashamed if I didn’t lie. Later, I found out that Doraemon was a Japanese cartoon, broadcasted by a new TV Station (RCTI). This station could only be accessed if your TV is Color TV!  My classmates often gathered and talked about this wonderful Doraemon. At home, I talked to my mother, ”Mom, we have to have a color TV, so that I can watch Doraemon!”

Of course, that was kind of absurd for my family. I asked too much. So, I kept the desire of watching Doraemon on Color TV for quite a long time. But, the stories shared by my classmates about what they saw on Color TV sounded so great, I began to dislike our black-and-white TV! That TV looked ugly to me. Our TV was only 14-inch, it had four legs and the screen was covered by a kind of folding door. The folding door must be opened first before you turned on the TV. It must be closed after the TV was turned off. It was very out-of-dated technology, it couldn’t catch the broadcast of RCTI.

The days following the incident with my classmates were getting harder for me to bear. I couldn’t stand to not watching Doraemon on a Sunday, prior to meeting with my classmates at school on Monday. Who was Doraemon? What did it look like? I was obsessed by him, but I didn’t have the courage to ask about it to my friends, because I would be ashamed of admitting that, in fact, I didn’t have Color TV. The situation was more unbearable when one by one our neighbor started to buy the Color TV. Our family remained the ones in the neighborhood that didn’t have Color TV. We must be satisfied with the black-and-white screen and boring programs. I became more sad realizing that my father didn’t have money to buy us a color TV.

For the first time in my childhood life, I realized that we were poor.

One late afternoon, my father arrived home bringing a big box. I and my sister approached it curiously. It was a Color TV! We jumped up and down, feeling hillarious. We would be able to see Doraemon! Finally. Some of our neighbors also came to see that we had a new Color TV. We lived in a rented house, very small, and there was hardly a gap between houses. The Color TV looked awesome to me. I admired it a lot. To express our joy, we turned on the TV till very late at night, and in a high volume (very loudly).

We were almost impatient to watch Doraemon for the first time. I and my younger sister and two other younger brothers sat obediently and nicely in front of the new TV, far beyond the airing time of Doraemon. And then, there it was … Doraemon. Wow, it turned out to be a robotic cat, fat and funny. Its voice was raspy. We watched Doraemon seriously, as if we listened to our teacher teaching and waiving a diciplinary stick.

The next day at school, of course, I became the loudest in sharing stories aout Doraemon. It felt good that finally I knew what I was talking about.

”Wow … your new TV … you turn it on nonstop until the end of broadcast late at night, and early morning you turn it on again. You must be so happy with your new TV,” said a neighbor one day. She talked and smiled, but I didn’t like her cynical commentary. I reported it to my mother. Since then, the euphoria of having a new Color TV disappeared from our home. We changed our habit, we turned down the volume.

Until today, I still like Doraemon. The chance of watching Doraemon was one of precious gifts my father gave me. Doraemon filled my childhood, a period of limitation. By watching Doraemon, I felt we were not poor at all.