Monday, May 05, 2008

Java Jive '08 Part 2: Jakarta Jaunt

It's the world's 11th largest city and is the capital of the largest Muslim nation on the planet. You could fit the entire population of Malaysia into its metropolitan area and by looking at its legendary traffic snarls, I am convinced that is true. Welcome to the capital city of Indonesia, JAKARTA!!!!

Flying into Jakarta, we were caught in an afternoon shower which did no favours for the traffic jam that we found ourselves in for the first two hours of our time there. KL traffic is like a walk in the park compared to this!

Jakartans have various ways to get around, from bikes and cars, to the 'tuk-tuk'esque bajaj and 'kereta angkut's - minivans the size of a Daihatsu Charade which they pack in at least ten people at any given time.

After checking into a decidedly pink 'family room' at the hotel, we decided to look for our very first meal in Indonesia. And Nan's really hungry for his daily dose of tempe, a savoury soybean cake that's synonymous with Java.

And what luck, we found a cosy little restaurant just opposite our hotel which served Nasi Padang, which basically is white rice with mini portions of a variety of dishes ranging from coconut chicken and beef curry to fried cow's lung and raw tapioca shoots. All in all we were served with 20 dishes but... NO TEMPE!!! Then we figured out why - Nasi Padang's from Sumatera, not Java. Doh!

We all got a kick out of this dish - Sup Buntut. Hehehe. Ok, translation time. In Malay, Sup Buntut would mean Ass Soup. Well, obviously Indonesians don't eat ass.... in a soup. ;) In local Bahasa, Sup Buntut means (Cow) Tail Soup which would make more sense... but only just a bit.

Afterwards, with our stomachs satiated, we hit the tourist trail and made for the National Monument (MONAS) in the heart of downtown Jakarta. This 450ft tall tower stands proudly as a symbol of the nation's struggle for independence from the Dutch and affords its visitors a bird's eye view of the Jakarta skyline, if it's not too smoggy, of course.

Dunno who this guy is, but me thinks the sculptor must have been a fan of Tolkien's elves. Hehehe

Beneath the monument, is an underground complex which houses the National History Musuem where one can view the enitre history of Indonesia in a series of dioramas, from the Java Man to the Declaration of Independance.

Unlike the Malaysians, Indonesians viewed the Japanese Occupation favourably as it gave them the opportunity to escape from the clutches of Dutch colonial rule.

After a half-hour wait for the exceedingly small and slow lift up to the observation deck, we were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city in all its smoggy glory. Oh well, at least it was cool and windy up there.

Later we ventured into the Old Town area, also known as Taman Fatahillah. My first impression of the place was that it was definitely a world of contrasts. Beautifully restored colonial buildings stood side by side with dilapidated shophouses complete with collapsed roofs.

The most impressive building was the Jakarta Historical Museum, once the Stadhuis of Batavia, the seat of Governor General of Dutch East India Company.

The buildings surrounding the central square appear to be the only ones that have been restored to their former glory.

There was also this swanky restaurant on the east side of the square that was apparently famous for its elaborate lunches and glamorous all-night parties. Way too posh for us.

Just a stone's throw from the restaurant are buildings that looks the same except they look like they've just been bombed out and their roofs have caved in.

Some were just walls left standing while trees and birds invade their insides giving them an eerily haunted fascade.

As we walked further along the roads, we found ourselves in a port filled with huge sailboats and swarthy dock workers filling them up with all sorts of goods like rice and coal. We had wandered into Sunda Kelapa, the old OLD part of Jakarta. Talk about going off the beaten track.

These ships remain a viable method of transportation of goods across the Indonesian archipelago and all the way to Singapore. Speaking of the archipelago, up next: a trip across the entire 'archipelago'... in one afternoon!

1 comment:

sbanboy said...

Nice pictures ... I should go there someday...thanks for sharing the pictures.