Capital of the Republic of Indonesia, Jakarta is a huge, sprawling metropolitan city with a population of more than 9 million people. Jakarta is the seat of national government as well as seat of the provincial government of Greater Jakarta. Here is also the national Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. This city is moreover the country’s center of finance and business. It is the center of the nation’s economics and politics as here converge people from all over Indonesia, attracting people from all walks of life. Jakarta is also the center of Indonesia’s modern music and sound, and center of Indonesia’s lively creative industry. It is no wonder, therefore, that whatever happens in Jakarta is national interest and it is for these reasons that Jakarta is the hub of Indonesia’s modern history and modern life.
Jakarta was where Indonesia proclaimed Independence on 17 August 1945 initiated by the National Awakening Movement in 1908 and the Youth Movement against colonialism since 1928. Jakarta was also where the ongoing Indonesian Reform movement started in 1997. Jakarta, formerly known as Batavia, was the seat of the Dutch East India company, VOC, and later of the colonial government over the then Dutch East Indies.
Located on the north coast on the western part of the island of Java, the Province of Greater Jakarta today comprises of 6 municipalities, namely Central Jakarta which includes the Merdeka Square and the elite residential area of Menteng; South Jakarta, which includes the districts of Kebayoran and Bintaro; West Jakarta, now being developed into a prime municipality where Jakarta’s tallest building and hotel will be constructed; East Jakarta, location of the Indonesia in Miniature Park as well as many industrial estates; North Jakarta, the city’s prime trading area and site of Jakarta’s beach recreation Ancol Dreamland; and the Thousand Islands, some 76 idyllic islands lying in the Bay of Jakarta.
Today construction around the city is booming. Super de-luxe hotels sprout next to supermalls carrying super brand names. Luxurious housing apartments are equipped with Olympic sized swimming pools, shopping centers and recreation grounds to pamper residents. And to reach one end of this sprawling city to the other, the government has built toll roads around, through and over Jakarta’s busiest centers, yet one can be sure that during peak hours, traffic on these roads will surely be jammed.
In fact, there are a lot of things to do and to see in Jakarta. But travel-wise, Jakarta is difficult to get around because of the dense car and motorbike population. The best advice for visitors is to stay in a hotel in an area where you will spend most of your time for conferences or business meetings, for shopping or exhibitions, while allowing time for exploring the city or for sightseeing to particular days only when one has more time to spare.
Because of its huge population, Jakarta is dense. Therefore one finds juxtaposed here luxurious houses next to road-side shacks, and state-of-the art cars fighting for space with dilapidated buses. But the city is very dynamic and full of life during the day and well into the night.
Here one finds restaurants serving international cuisine or regional dishes from the archipelago, ranging from exclusive restaurants to road-side stalls to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. There are also a number of beautiful golf courses around the city, where Indonesian and foreign businessmen spend entire weekends.
Jakarta’s nightlife is second to none. Discos, nightclubs, music rooms in top class hotels or stand-alone offer a wide variety of music and dance opportunities. The annual Java Jazz Festival is the international event for jazz buffs. Indonesia’s best bands and singing stars all live in this great city.
Jakarta is, moreover, a great place for shopping, and is able to compete in choice and price with many favourite shopping cities around the world like Singapore and Hong Kong. The Plaza Indonesia, Plaza Senayan, Pondok Indah Mall, Pacific Place, are just a few of the plethora of upscale shopping centers found across this huge city. While for bargain rates, Tanah Abang wholesale center, Mangga Dua and Kelapa Gading are favourite shopping haunts. Yearly the Jakarta Great Sale offers huge discounts attracting thousands of shoppers from the provinces and South East Asia.
The Sudirman-Thamrin Avenues lies at the heart of Jakarta. Here are headquartered Indonesia’s central bank, Bank Indonesia, and most major banks. Separating the Sudirman from the Thamrin is the central fountain that cools this round about, which is surrounded by the landmark buildings of Hotel Indonesia and Wisma Nusantara, the first high rise buildings in Jakarta. The Hotel Indonesia circle is today the preferred location for public demonstrations, exactly because of the continuous busy traffic circulating here. Along this main boulevard are also a number of Jakarta’s top hotels.
Along the Sudirman is located the Senayan Sports Center, the sports complex built by Indonesia’s first President, Soekarno, in 1962 to hold the Ganefo (Games of the New Emerging Forces) and the reason for the construction of the Sudirman-Thamrin roads. Here is also the Jakarta Convention Center, venue for prime international conventions and exhibitions.
The Sudirman-Thamrin avenue leads to the Merdeka Square, where in its center stands the National Monument which houses the first red-and-white flag flown at the Proclamation of Independence on 17 August 1945. This flag has now become threadbare, and so nowadays on Independence Day ceremonies, the original flag is taken out but only to accompany the replica flag to be flown in front of the Merdeka Palace. The 137 meter tall National Monument is obelisk shaped, and is topped with a 14.5 meter bronze flame coated with 32 kilograms gold leaf. Within the pedestal is a museum depicting in diorama Indonesia’s fight for Independence as well as the original text of the Proclamation of Independence. A lift takes visitors up to the look-out platform at the base of the flame for a grand view of Jakarta.
Surrounding the Monument is now a park with a musical fountain, enjoyed by the Jakarta public on Sundays for sports and recreation. Deer roam among the shady trees in the park.
Merdeka Square is the center of most important government buildings. During Dutch colonial days here was the center of government, known as Koningsplein or the King’s Square. The north side is dominated by the Merdeka Palace once the home of the Dutch Governor Generals, which now also houses the office of the President and the Cabinet. To the South is the office of Indonesia’s Vice President, Jakarta’s Governor and provincial parliament building, as also the American Embassy, while to the West is the National Museum, the Constitutional Court, the Ministry for Culture and Tourism and the Indosat building, Indonesia’s first international telecommunications company.
Beyond Merdeka Square lie principal Dutch colonial buildings constructed in neoclassical style during the 19th century, that include buildings surrounding Lapangan Banteng, or Banteng Square, namely the present day Department of Finance, the neo-gothic Catholic Cathedral and adjoining Sancta Ursula girls school, and further down the Foreign Office and the Immanuel protestant church, facing Jakarta’s main Gambir station.
Across the road to the Cathedral stands now Jakarta’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal mosque. Nearby is the Concert Hall and colonial style shopping street called Pasar Baru, once the preferred haunt of the wealthy Dutch elite. In the 18th century Dutch Batavia was famed as the “Queen of the East”.
Behind the President’s Palace is the canal which runs north pass the old Archive building to the Old Batavia, once the seat of the Dutch East Indies Company, VOC, built by Governor-General Jan Peterszoon Coen in the 17th century. Here renovations continue to preserve this historic area of the city which is dominated by the Stadhuis, or municipal building, which now houses the Jakarta History museum. In front of it is a central paved plaza, now named the Fatahillah Square, after Sultan Fatahillah, founder of this port, who before the arrival of the Dutch razed the old harbour to the ground on 22 June 1527 and renamed it Jayakarta, City of Victory. The square is surrounded by once important Dutch government buildings that have now become museums, among which the Fine Arts Museum and the Wayang Museum.
Further down is the old harbor called Sunda Kelapa, in its heyday it was the thriving entrepot for the Far East trade in cloves, nutmeg and pepper, sandalwood, silks and more. Here one can still admire majestic Bugis phinisi schooners at anchor where men still carry on their backs loads of merchandise for the archipelago. Nearby are the old warehouses where now stands the Maritime Museum.
Today, the former location of Batavia town proper is Jakarta’s predominantly Chinese business district, but a large part of this is now modernized with full air-conditioned shopping centers and hotels.
Other important areas in Central Jakarta are the Jalan Gatot Subroto, where stands Indonesia’s Parliament building, and Jalan Rasuna Said, location of most foreign Embassies.
But Jakarta has continued to spread out into all directions and this metropolis now consists of interconnected self-contained clusters of residential areas, recreation and shopping centers, so that it is most important to note in which area of the city one is located.
For a comprehensive glimpse of Indonesia visit the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, or the Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park, (link ke TMII) located in East Jakarta, accessible via the toll road. The Park displays original Indonesian houses from throughout the archipelago, all with their unique architectural style. Here is also an Imax theatre, showing spectacular 3D films. Orchid lovers should not miss the Orchid Garden here.
For complete seaside recreation, Jakarta’s residents and domestic tourists throng to the Ancol Dreamland located on the north coast of the city. This is a sprawling resort complete with a Seaworld, a Fantasy World known as Dunia Fantasi or Dufan for short that includes boat rides into It’s a Doll’s World. There is also a large swimming arena complete with artificial waves and waterslides, a heart-stopping roller coaster and many thrilling rides such as the torpedo. This resort also has hotels, restaurants and a convention hall.
Jakarta also has a complete Zoo filled with the rich fauna of the archipelago. Located at Ragunan, here one can admire the magnificent bird of paradise, the Komodo lizard, the Orang Utan and all types of snakes. The Zoo also has a special section for Gorillas. The Jakarta Zoo is a special family favourite on public holidays.
Jakarta is accessible via two international airports. The main airport is the commercial Soekarno-Hatta international airport, Indonesia’s principle arrival gate although located now in a different province; and the Halim Perdanakusumah airport, which was once an air force base but is now used for the arrival of visiting heads of states and dignitaries. Numerous domestic airlines serve the entire archipelago from the Soekarno-Hatta airport supplying direct connections from international flights to regional destinations. Buses may take passengers to the city and other towns on Java, primarily to Bandung.
Jakarta has plenty of taxis, that stand by at hotels and malls or can be called by phone. To avoid traffic jams, Jakartans use the Trans-Jakarta buses, popularly known as : Busway, for rapid transit, because it has its own exclusive lane. Unfortunately the Busway as yet serves only a few routes. Cruise ships often call at Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok harbor.
Travelling to destinations on the island of Java besides taking the plane, there are frequent overland train connections available from Gambir station, the city’s main railway station. Or one can travel by tourist bus or private car by wide toll roads.
Jakarta, the capital of the nation, has a fascinating history. Lots of different aspects have colored the city history and the life of people today. Since the fifth century, ships from China and Champa (Vietnam), and from all islands in the archipelago docked at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. Indian and Portuguese traders also visited this small town. Javanese sailors, carrying spices from Molucca, were also docked there. Nearly all people from the East and West left their trails to blend special flavor of Jakarta.
During centuries later, the city port grew into a bustling international trade center. At that time, between 17th and early 18 centuries, ships could sail further up to the river Ciliwung. Towards the south of this drawbridge, the once busy harbor town of Sunda Kelapa stretched along both sides of the river between the 12th century and 15th century.
Sunda Kalapa was the main port of the Hindu Kingdom of Sunda. The capital of the Pakuan Pajajaran kingdom was located two days journey upriver, now known as Bogor. Ships often visited this port from Palembang, Tanjungpura, Malacca, Maccasar and Madura, and even by merchants from India and South China. Sunda Kelapa exported, among other items, pepper, rice and gold.
In 1513 the first European fleet, four Portuguese ships under the command of Alvin, arrived in Sunda Kelapa from Malacca. Malacca had been conquered two years earlier by Alfonso d’ Albuquerque. They were looking for spices, especially pepper, to this busy and well-organized harbor. Some years later, the Portuguese Enrique Leme visited Kalapa with presents for the King of Sunda. He was well received and on August 21, 1522 signed a treaty of friendship between the kingdom of Sunda and Portugal. The Portuguese received the right to build a go down (warehouse) and to erect a fort in Kalapa. This was regarded by the Sundanese as a consolidation of their position against the encroaching Muslim troops from the rising power of the Sultanate of Demak in Central Java.
To commemorate this treaty, they put big stone, called a Padrao, which vanished for some years. This stone was uncovered later in 1918 during an excavation for a new house in Kota area on the corner of Cengkeh Street and Nelayan Timur Street. This Padrao can now be seen in the National Museum on Medan Merdeka Barat Street. The original location of the stone suggests that the coastline in the early 16th century formed a nearly straight line, which is marked by the present of Nelayan Street, some 400 meters south to the Lookout Tower. The King of Sunda had his own reasons for great danger from the expansive Muslim Kingdom of Demak, whose troops threatened his second harbor town, Banten (west of Jakarta). Sunda felt squeezed and was in need of strong friends. Thus, the king hoped the Portuguese would return quickly and help him protect his important harbor. But they came too late. For in 1527 the Muslim leader Fatahillah appeared before Kalapa with 1,452 soldiers from Cirebon and Demak.
According to some historians, this victory of 1527 provided the reason for Fatahillah to rename Sunda Kelapa, Jayakarta, which means “Great Deed” or “Complete Victory.” On the basis of this victory, Jakarta celebrates its birthday on June 22, 1527; the day Fatahillah gave the town a name of victory of over Sundanese Hindus and Portuguese sailor. Prince Jayawikarta, a follower of the Sultan of Banten, resided on the west banks of Ciliwung river, which in the early 17th century reached the roughly at our starting place, the Lookout at Pasar Ikan. He erected a military post there in order to control the mouth of the river and the Dutch who had been granted permission in 1610 to build a wooden go down and some houses just opposite there on the east bank. Dutch ships had already come to Jayakarta in 1596. The Prince tried to keep a close eye on these unruly guests.
To keep its strength equal to that of the Dutch, Prince Jayawikarta allowed the British to erect houses on the West Bank of Ciliwung River, across the Dutch go down, in 1615. The Prince granted permission to the British to erect a fort closed to his Customs Office post. Jayawikarta was in support of the British because his palace was under the threat of the Dutch cannons. In December 1618, the tense relationship between Prince Jayawikarta and the Dutch escalated. Jayawikarta soldiers besieged the Dutch fortress that covered two strong go down, namely Nassau and Mauritus. The British fleet made up of 15 ships arrived. The fleet was under the leadership of Sir Thomas Dale, former governor of the Colony of Virginia, now known as Virginia State in the United States.
The British admiral was already old and was indecisive. After the sea battle, the newly appointed Dutch governor Jan Pieter Soon Coon (1618) escaped to Molucca to seek support. Meanwhile, the commander of the Dutch army was arrested when the negotiation was underway because Jayawikarta felt that the Dutch deceived him. Then, the Prince Jayawikarta and the British entered into a friendship agreement.
The Dutch army was about to surrender to the British when in 1619, a sultan from Banten sent soldiers and summoned Prince Jayawikarta for establishing closed relationship with the British without first asking an approval from Banten authorities. The conflict between Banten and Prince Jayawikarta as well as the tensed relationship between Banten and the British had weakened the Dutch enemy. Prince Jayawikarta was moved to Tanara and died in Banten. The Dutch felt relieved and tried to establish a closer relationship with the Banten. The Dutch fortress garrison, along with hired soldiers from Japan, Germany, Scotia, Denmark, and Belgium held a party in commemoration of the change in situation. They name their fortress after Batavia to recollect the ethnic group Batavier, the Dutch ancestor. Since then Jayakarta was called Batavia for more than 300 years.
Under the relationship of J.P Coen, Dutch army attacked and destroyed the city and Jayakarta Palace on May 30, 1619. There were no remains of Jakarta except for the Padrao stone now stored at the National Museum in Jakarta. The Jayakarta grave was possibly located in Pulau Gadung. If we stand on top of Menara Syahbandar and look around, we can enjoy the beautiful panorama in the oldest area of Batavia. Certainly, we can’t enjoy the remains of the city Sunda Kelapa or Jayakarta. Kasteel or the Dutch fortress, too, has been destroyed. Here we can see several remains from the mid-17th century. Nearly all of the remains are related to trade and sailing.
Syahbandar Tower was built 1839 to replace the old flagpole in ship dock located right on the side across a river. From the pole and later the tower, officials observed ships about to anchor gave signals. The tower then is used a meteorology post. To the West of the Lookout Tower, we can see the view of the present Bahari Museum. The museum represents a very old and strong edifice with Dutch architecture. The museum also provides several maps of the city, with stages of the city development shown. The museum is part of something in Dutch called Westzijdsche Pakhuizen (Warehouse on the West bank). Here nutmegs, pepper, coffee, tea, and cloth in a large scale were used to be stored.
The area around Syahbandar Tower was once the center of Kota Batavia. It was the center of a trading network with wide spread agents reaching Deshima (Nagasaki) in Japan, Surate in Persia and Cape town in South Africa. Inter-trade among Asia was more profitable than inter-trade between Asia and Europe. And the Pasar Ikan (Market Fish) once was the pulse. Here, the site where the origin of the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, came from.
A melting pot of many nations and cultures, Jakarta is a perfect way to satiate your taste buds. The native people are called Betawi, and their simple yet tasty dishes have become the favorite of many Indonesians and foreigners. Try Soto Betawi (some kind of soup), it’s sold almost anywhere from the warung–cafe–to fancy restaurants. If you think Jakarta’s weather too hot, try es campur–mixed ice with certain fruits, syrup and milk, refreshing!
Other traditional cuisines can be found practically anywhere, also international food.
Since the 5th century the area around present-day Jakarta has been an important trading port. People from across Java, but also from Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan as well as traders from China, India and the Middle East came to settle here, some keeping to their own exclusive communities, others integrating into a new community, now known as the Betawi ethnic group, the original inhabitants of Jakarta.
The Betawi have now their own culture, suggesting the string of influences that reached these shores over the centuries. A long process of selectively borrowing and uniquely blending Chinese, Arab, Portuguese and Dutch elements with local ingenuity have together produced the colourful, composite Betawi culture. The word “Betawi” itself is derived from the word “Batavia” the name given to this city by Dutch administrators.
With the influx of more people from throughout Indonesia especially after Independence and the designation of Jakarta as the nation’s capital, the Betawi people have held their own although now predominant only in a number of pockets in this metropolis. Most Betawis are landowners or live from the land. By the Pasanggerahan river, Betawi residents staunchly protect their river and the environment from city pollution and encroachment of industrialization. The Betawi icon is the huge doll called “Ondel-ondel” that parade at weddings or circumcisions.
Most noticeable are their wedding celebrations which can go on for days. Everyone is invited where guests are entertained with Betawi music and dance and film shows that go well into the night, while being sustained with bananas, peanuts and hot tea.
The red costume of the bride is clearly inspired by the Chinese ceremonial wedding dress complete with tassels covering her face, while in contrast, the groom’s costume is inspired by Arab and Indian influences.
The Betawi people are known for their straightforward and democratic language. They are open and humourous in nature, although they can be tough when confronted. Because of this, the Betawi dialect and expressions are very popular with today’s Indonesian youth and are widely used on television shows, so that in daily life the dialect is now spoken throughout Indonesia.
Original Betawi traditional life can be experienced at Setu Babakan at Srengseng Sawah in South Jakarta. Here performances of the traditional Betawi lenong (comedy play), and the topeng (mask) dance are shown regularly. A traditional house built in the 1920’s which is often used as location for film shooting can be admired here. The best time to visit Setu Babakan is in June and July when annual festivals are held.
Outside these locations, Jakarta residents are predominantly modern and very fashion conscious. Since the majority embraces the Muslim faith, one sees women wearing the “jilbab” veil covering their hair. However, Indonesia’s jilbab is not the severe black used in the Middle East. Here women are elegantly covered in colourful dress, colour-coordinated from head to toe, complete with high heels, matching bag and decorated veils. However, wearing the jilbab is a personal choice coming from personal conviction. Others are free to wear “decent” dress.
The kain-kebaya national costume is a must to wear on official occasions, while men may wear either jacket and tie or long-sleeved batik shirts. With the recognition of Batik as World Heritage by Unesco, batik dresses have become popular for day or evening wear, and on special days as office wear.
As a melting pot of all the diverse ethnic groups that make up Indonesia, Jakarta is also where one finds the best in modern Indonesian artistic expressions. Here are painting and art galleries showing the works of Indonesia’s maestros, classical concerts held by Jakarta’s own Symphonic Orchestra, popular music gigs and regular fashion shows, while malls and exhibitions offer the rich artistic products from throughout the country.
Foreign embassies, including the Netherlands, Japan, and France have their own cultural centers, offering concerts, plays, speakers, and films from their different countries.
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