Sightseeing in Jakarta
Old Town - Kota Tua
The old colonial quarter of Jakarta, originally known as Batavia, attracts visitors because of its historical significance, its culture, and current vibrant life. Not to be missed are the examples of colonial architecture, such as the Jakarta History Museum that was once the City Hall, Jakarta Kota Station, Cafe Batavia, and Taman Fatahillah - the central square of this district.
Other attractions of the Old Town include the night market, street performances, and the Wayang Museum with its impressive collection of Shadow Puppets. For a cup of Javanese coffee and a good view over the Fatahillah square go to the upper floor of Café Batavia.
Of considerable interest in the Old Town are Jakarta’s Chinatown (Glodok), Sunda Kelapa (the Old Harbour), the Museum Bahari (the Maritime Museum), and Pasar Ikan (the Fish Market). Glodok is the largest Chinatown in Indonesia and the place where Chinese started to settle as early as the 17th century. Now, Glodok is a mecca for cheap electronics and to taste the local varieties of Chinese food.
Or simply walk through the Old Town to observe its temples and the old houses that represent the fusion of Chinese and European architecture.
Sunda Kelapa is the old port from which modern-day Jakarta grew into a city nearing 10 million inhabitants. Now, it is a part of the Old City and should be visited with a local guide as the area in and around the port is one of the poorest parts of Jakarta. Sunda Kelapa is famous for its traditional wooden schooners, the "Pinisi". These boats have been used for many centuries to connect the islands of the Indonesian archipelago and to facilitate local trading. The hustle and bustle of the port, in the way it has always been, is one of the chief attractions for foreign visitors.
Near the entrance to Sunda Kelapa is the Museum Bahari. This is the maritime museum focused on the history of the Indonesian archipelago. It occupies former warehouses of the Dutch East Indian Company. Throughout the colonial era, the warehouses were used to store spices, coffee, tea, cloths, tin, and copper before being shipped out to the other parts of the world. The major structures were built between 1652 and 1771. Now, they display various models of ships, their armour, and objects for navigation that inform the visitor about the maritime history and development of the archipelago.
Not far from the Bahari Museum is Pasar Ikan - a fish market that in the very early morning auctions the catch of the day. The market can be visited at any other time, as it sells all sorts of goods for the local people, and souvenirs for the tourists.
The Istiqlal Mosque is the largest mosque in the Southeast Asia with a capacity for 120,000 devotees (Yes! there is no typo!). It was built in 1978 to commemorate Indonesia’s independence. The mosque’s name means independence in Arabic. Its interior is of a simple design with a large 45m diameter dome and a 66,66m high single minaret that symbolizes one God, and the popularly accepted number of verses in the Quran: 6666.
Nearby is Jakarta’s neo-gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral (Gereja Katedral Jakarta), built in 1901. The Cathedral’s full name is the Church of Our Lady of Assumption and it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jakarta. The fact that this Catholic Cathedral is so close to the Istiqlal Mosque is not a coincidence. Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, chose this site to symbolize the nation’s philosophy of unity in diversity with religions co-existing in peace and harmony. Besides, the planners took into consideration its proximity to the Presidential Palace and Merdeka Square, the centre of modern-day Jakarta, with the National Monument (Monas) at its centre.
Monas is Jakarta’s principle landmark and another symbol of Indonesian independence. There is an observation deck on top of the monument that allows visitors to enjoy panoramic views of the city.
The National Museum is located not far from the Istiqlal Mosque, on the west side of Merdeka Square. Locally, it is known as Gedung Gajah, or Elephant Building, because of the statue of a bronze elephant on its doorsteps. The statue was a gift from the king of Thailand, in 1868, three years after the museum’s inauguration.
Currently, the Museum holds numerous collections totalling over 100,000 objects. There are prehistoric relics and archaeological artefacts, ethnographic objects that display utensils of daily activities, ritual clothing and décor for the feasts of the peoples of Indonesia, as well as jewellery and numismatic exhibitions. The displays include statues and stone inscriptions from as early as the first century AD. There is also an extensive collection of batik cloths and woven textiles produced over the years throughout the nearly 10,000 inhabited islands of the country.
The top floor houses a collection of jewellery, gold and silver ornaments once owned by the rajahs and sultans of the archipelago.
Mini Indonesia Indah, which means “Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park”, is located in East Jakarta, 18 kilometres from the city centre. The park’s recreational area includes museums, leisure facilities and full-scale traditional houses from all corners of the country, with a display of traditional handicrafts and clothing. There is even a mini-scale Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple.
There are plenty of cultural events and shows during the week with the most interesting performances taking place on Sundays. For an additional fee there are museums, theatres and 3-D IMAX cinema. Mini Indonesia covers an area of 100 hectares and offers a lot to see; therefore, joining a guided tour is highly recommended.