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.
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.
Spend 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.
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.
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.
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.