My Own Private Batavia

June 01, 2014

It’s city that cannot be hated, no matter how many migraines it gives on a daily basis. Behind its building are a deep beautiful history and overflowing culture. For some, it’s the busy capital city of Indonesia. But for most, it is home. Despite the traffic jams, noisy car horns, crowded sidewalks, and sweat-inviting weather, it is actually possible to enjoy the majestic city of Jakarta.
I’ve lived in Jakarta for the majority of my life, and although a getaway is sometimes needed, I always yearn to come back home to the hectic city. As a Jakartan, I realized how I used to reject  the idea of roaming the city, for I believed that it is the sort of thing that only a tourist does. During the holidays, I decided that I wanted to tighten my relationship with my hometown. So far, that is the best decision I have made in 2014.
Sparing A Day For Jakarta
Along with a friend, we weighed the idea of driving a car around the city, because we thought it would be better if we ride the Trans Jakarta bus. But after much consideration, we decided to take the car instead because our houses are too far away from the bus shuttle.
We wrote a list of places we wanted to visit. Our first stop was the Old Town, spanning from Central to West Jakarta. Old Town was once a symbol of glory and supremacy. For hundreds of years, Javanese emperors and foreigners fought to take over the powerful city. What was once a place is now a small piece of history.
We parked beside the Fatahilah Museum, which was once the town hall and office of the Governor of VOC, and walked into the town square. I must’ve chosen the perfect day because the square was filled with all sorts of attractions. Right in the middle was a group of men dressed in traditional clothing playing traditional instruments, and to their music, another group of men danced and performed a little fire show. Living statues, and by that I mean people drenched in paint acting like stones, were also spotted here and there. One colored in pink, others in silver, some in gold.
At the square’s corners were antique bicycle rentals, complete with colorful sunhats. The buildings were magnificent. All leftovers from the colonial times, most buildings are rusty. One even had a tree growing out of it! We checked in into the Wayang Museum, which houses a collection of various Javanese puppetries.  Then, we walked the paths of the town, bobbing our heads to the street musician’s rendition of Sting’s Englishman in New York.
Pride Of The City
After a fascinating walk in the Old Town, we headed to the national Monument in Central Jakarta, more commonly referred to as Monas. I had been here before a few years ago and I must say not much has changed. It is still one beautiful monument. However, I am deeply saddened by the dirty surroundings. A little love and care would beautify this place a lot more. Even so, I am still proud to see the magnificent pride of my city, standing tall at 132 meters.
Inside the monument is the history of how we gained our freedom. It’s like a gigantic storybook. Starting from the beautiful dioramas in the National History Museum on the ground floor, to the Hall of Independence that holds authentic documents leading to Indonesia’s freedom, and finally the observation deck where we can see a panoramic view of the city.
A just minute away from Monas is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, the Istiqlal Mosque. We were just in time for Maghrib (evening) prayer. We looked around a bit before praying time and had a chat with the guard. He told me that Istiqlal  means independence in Arabic, and that the mosque has a capacity of more than 100,000 people! The praying area’s interior is outstanding. The dome is adorned with stainless-steel crescents and stars, which are the symbol of Islam. Another dome is bejeweled with a stainless-steel Arabic form of the word “Allah”, which means God.
Right across from the mosque is the Jakarta Cathedral. Built in 1900s, the style of the cathedral is neo-gothic, a common architectural style for churches at that time. All in grey with its towering pillars, looking at the towering cathedral was like traveling back in time. The interior is filled with detailed figures of catholic symbols in statues, paintings, and stained glass windows. The ambiance was very warm and the echoes of our voices gave a ghostly feeling to the building. Enchanting and magical, I think the cathedral is one of the city’s game.
Cultural Perfection
After a full day dedicated to Jakarta, my friend called me the next day for a spontaneous trip to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII). TMII is a culture-based recreational park located in East Jakarta. I had not been there for more than 15 years.
The park simulates the multi-cultural Indonesia, which offers 34 pavilions representing 34 provinces in the nation. TMII gave us the opportunity to “journey Indonesia” in just one day. Although it has the word “mini” in its name, the actual park is not “mini” at all. Houses, which are also museums, depict various cultures standing side by side in the huge complex. We rode on the cable car and had the magnificent bird’s eye view of the massive park.
From above, we saw a small lake depicting a miniature version of the archipelago. It literally felt like we were flying above Indonesia! Then we decided to rent a bicycle because apparently, the park was too big for walking. We rode to the Purna Bhakti Pertiwi Museum, which is a historical museum dedicated to Suharto, Indonesia’s second president. It took the shape of a tumpeng, traditional cone-shaped Javanese rice. We proceeded to the Zoological Museum, Insect Museum, Asmat Museum and then we arrived just in time for a show at the IMAX Theatre, Keong Mas Theatre.
As the night began to fall and the crowd began to disappear, we drove back to our homes. After two days of much needed exploration of the city, I slept well that night. Even with the sound of car horns honking and loud dangdut music  playing from the neighbor’s house behind mine. This is my own private Batavia.