Jakarta is surely one of the least known of the world’s great cities. This teeming metropolis, with a population approaching nine million, traces its beginning to small fishing village called Sunda Kelapa on the shore of the Java Sea. The city’s official birthday celebrated each year on 22 june is related to a skirmish won on that date in 1527 a conquering prince named Fatahillah. He renamed the settlement as “Jayakarta city of glorious victory”.
A dutch armada over whelmed the small outpost in 1619 and renamed it “Batavia”. The town they built was the capital of their dutch East Indies colony, then when Japanese drove out the dutch in the early years of World War II, the city was renamed “Jakarta” that name was retained when Indonesia won its independence. Jakarta is current residents come from every region of the nation and also from many foreign countries. Its architecture reflects these influence. A surprising number of historic buildings have been preserved and converted to new uses. For example, the old Dutch high court building in north Jakarta now houses Jakarta’s fine arts museum. Some of the old harbour area has also been restored.
One of the most magnificent restorations now houses Gedung kesenian Jakarta. The municipal arts centre, a venue for regular concerts, plays and exhibitions. Another extremely active cultural venue is TIM the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts centre in the neighbourhood which called is Cikini.
In the old Chinese quarter in northern Jakarta called Glodok, large shopping centres sell food, clothes, electronics, small appliances and household goods. Elsewhere are stalls specializing in traditional medicines and offering consultation services by a Shinshe, an expert on ancient remedies who will listen to your complaints, then prescribe a potion or two.
The city’s best-known landmark is its tallest: the National Monument (“MONAS”, for short) which stands in the centre Merdeka Square. This 137 metre (449 foot), obelisk is topped by a flame covered with several kilograms of pure gold. Inside the base are historical displays. It is also possible to take an elevator to the top of the monument for some commanding views of the city.
The national museum along the western side of Merdeka Square, contains enough statuary, jewellery, costumers, puppetry, religious relics, archeological finds, textiles, stamps, coins, mineral samples and fruniture to occupy visitors for several days.
The puppet museum adjacent to Fatahillah square is also well worth a visit, especially on Sunday mornings when abbreviated performances are given. To learn more about the textile museum in Tanah Abang, the military museum along Gatot Subroto or the historical exhibits at the restored Adam Malik House, consult one of the good local guidebooks available in hotel book shops.
The centre of Jakarta has moved steadily southward over the centuries. The old business district called Kota has now been supplanted as the hub by the newer, downtown along Jl. MH thamrin and Jl. Jend Sudirman, here you will find key governments offices, the Sarinah Department Store (well worth a visit), some very good restaurants, numerous, embassies and many five star hotels.
Although all parts of Jakarta are experiencing a great deal of new commercial and residential construction shopping malls, condominium towers and the like one area is particularly full of cranes these day, they called “Golden Triangle” district, bounded by Jalan Sudirman, Gatot Subroto and Rasuna Said. Single-storey homes are giving way to high-rise office buildings and broad new roadways are speeding the progress of commuters. Many foreign embassies are relocating to a designated quarter of the Triangle too.
The drive south along Thamrin and Sudirman leads eventually to Kebayoran Baru, once a town now an integral part of the city. Blok M neighbourhood here is one of Jakarta’s most popular shopping areas. Further south still are such elite suburban communities as Kemang, Cinere and Pondok Indah. Stretching in all directions from the city centre are hundreds of small neighbourhoods known as kampungs, in which th majority of Jakarta’s live. Many kampungs are home to groups of people who share common backgrounds in various other parts of the country. In this respects, Jakarta is less a melting pot than a mosaic of Indonesia as a whole.
There are two of jakarta’s many tourist-oriented attractions which can be particularly recommended. One is the Ancol recreation area along the Java Sea shore, only 20 minutes north of Monas. There is a Marina (departure point for travel to series of off shore resort islands), an 18-hole gold course open to the public, an elaborate water park, a oceanarium, the Dunia Fantasia amusement park and an outdoor art market called Pasar Seni.
Pasar Seni is an excellent place to watch painters, woodearvers, leather craftsmen and other artisans at work, a good place to enjoy fried squid salad or chicken soup at a shaded outdoor cafe and enjoy performances of music, dance or puppetry on the centrally located stage. Unlike the ever popular Jl. Surabaya market area, Pasar Seni has no high pressure touts and no “special-price-for-you-today” atmosphere. It is therefore a great place to escape the frenzied hustle and hustle of the central city.