Amongst the concrete, glass and steamy streets of Indonesia’s main gateway lies a treasure trove of culture and old world charm…
Visit Jakarta’s original harbour, where Hindu and Portuguese Kingdoms began buying and selling spices, for a glimpse of a bygone era that sparked the Spice Route. Developed later by the Dutch East India Company into a thriving trading post, Sunda Kelapa continues today to be a port of call for tall masted Bugis built wooden ships from the far reaching islands of the archipelago.
The best time to visit is around sunset when the sailors begin strumming their guitars and tea ladies, dressed in colourful batik sarongs, stroll about the docks.
Bargain Hunting at Jakarta’s flea market Jalan Surabaya
(Antique Street) is a must-see for collectors and historians. It offers everything from traditional Javanese masks, wooden statues and Ming Dynasty porcelain, to rare books and music.
Located in a shady residential area, Jalan Surabaya is a great way to sharpen your haggling skills but go early as the market closes at around 1830 each day.
Epics come alive
Wayang Kulit (shadow puppetry) remains widely popular in Indonesia. The themes are derived from the Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and are played out in many different variations.
Located directly opposite the Fatahillah Square, in an old Dutch colonial style house is the Wayang Kulit Museum. While soft notes of a gamelan orchestra lull you into another world, the puppeteer will captivate you with his flickering images of battling heroes and demons. Weekend shows available at selected times.– Jalan Pintu Besar Barat 27, Jakarta 11110. Tel: + 62 21 6929560.
Taste of Legends
Indonesian cuisine offers a great variety of dishes and one of Jakarta’s best-known restaurants is Lara Djonggrang, named after the mythical Javanese princess of the same name.
Valuable antiques, large mystic statues and ancient artifacts line the narrow hallways and small rooms, while the food is based on royal journeys in the Majapahit Kingdom.
Don’t miss the chance to sample the house specialty: soybean cakes marinated and fried in fresh turmeric.– Lara Djonggrang Restaurant, Ji. Teuku Cik Di Tiro 4 Menteng, Jakarta Pusat. Tel: +62 21 315 3252, www.tuguhotels.com/laradjonggrang
Revisit colonial times
Overlooking Tamillah Square, walk into Café Batavia and you’ll feel like you have stepped back in time.
Somehow it wouldn’t come as a surprise to find Somerset Maugham or Joseph Conrad sitting at the long bar under the swirl of high ceiling fans or relaxing in a bamboo chair drinking cold Bintang beer.– Café Batavia, Taman Fatihillah, Jakarta-Kota. Tel: +62 21 6915531, www.cafebatavia.com
Brush up on history
Once the City Hall as far back as the early 17th century, Fatahillah Square hosts the Jakarta Historical Museum or Museum Sejarah Jakarta.
Take a tour back in time as antiquities, cultural relics and remnants of daily life from Java, China, India and the Netherlands are displayed.– Jalan Taman Fatahillah 1. Tel: +62 21 692910.