In 2014 I spent a considerable amount of my time in Indonesia, in Java and Bali to be more precise. Lately I got the question from a friend which things to visit if he would spend a week in Java. The most obviously answer would of course be “That’s wayyy too short”, but it made me think how I would spend a week now that I have had so many wonderful experiences. I will write down in 7 episodes how I would spend such a week.
Day 1: Jakarta
Jakarta is a ‘must see’ although probably not everyone’s piece of cake. Be prepared for a continuous flow of cars and motor cycles, day and night. When you have bad luck you end up in one of its terrible traffic jams (not exclusively something that might happen to you in Jakarta, as we will discover along the journey). The air can be heavy polluted, garbage seems to be everywhere. But nevertheless Jakarta contains a lot of interesting experiences that you simply can not experience anywhere else in Java.
Public transportion is never an expensive thing in Indonesia, but in Jakarta they made it extra attractive with a free Jakarta City Tour. This tour will take you in a double deck bus along the most remarkable sites and buildings of the Jakarta centre, like the Monas (the national monument built in the 1960’s) and the presidential residence. It will take you an hour to finish the full tour and you can drop out in between when you think you found something interesting along its route. The tour guides on the bus are very friendly and speak English excellent.
After the bus tour visit the Monas, the Monument Nasional. You can go with a small elevator to the golden top and from there you will have an overview of modern Jakarta with its countless sky scrapers. Be aware though that the Monument is a very popular attraction, so there might be a long waiting line before you can go to the top. The Monas also contains an underground informative information centre where the history of Indonesia is displayed in countless three-dimensional scenes behind glass. You get a fast update on how Indonesia became the Republic it is nowadays.
Then visit the National Museum. The Museum is a two-part building: one is a reminiscent of the Dutch colonial days, the other part is multi store modern building. The impressive thing of the Museum is that you get a real good overview on the complexity of all the different cultures of Indonesia. For me it was an eye-opener because here I learned that Indonesia is such a diverse multi-cultural and multi-racial country (which obviously brings a lot of challenges in keeping its unity). There is a lot to see about the different races, clothing, religions, music, house constructions from its habitants.
Now that it is afternoon visit the ‘Old City’ (Kota Tua in Bahasa Indonesia), the part of Jakarta that reminds most of its colonial past, when the Dutch were in charge for circa 500 years. In those days Jakarta was called Batavia (and Batavia refers to ‘Batavians’ one of the original tribes that lived in the Netherlands some 2000 years ago). Many of the interesting places are centred around the square where the so called Gourverneurskantoor (Office of the Governor) is situated. In front of the building you can even rent bikes and discover the surroundings on a bike. You will surely be noticed by the local people, but be careful: pedestrians and bikers are somewhere at the bottom of the Indonesian traffic hierarchy chain! You can visit the Gouverneurskantoor, it contains a nice museum that gives you an impression how the colonial Dutch decorated their office.
So when you have had enough for the day and you want to relax a little bit among the local Jakarta people, return to the Monas park, sit down in the grass and order a typical Betawi (name of the local Jakarta people) meal: Kerak Telor. In the park at night there is an abundant choice of souvenirs that are being sold by local Jakarta people.
This ends our first day in Java and Jakarta! On the second day we will explore more of Jakarta.
-Den Haag, November 16 2014-