Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Jaunt to Java Indonesia - Jakarta

Maybe my sweetheart was feeling bad that I missed going with him to Malaysia while I was in the states; or perhaps he felt I would need something exciting to do when I returned to Seoul; or could it be that he just wanted some company on a business trip he had scheduled to Jakarta?  Whatever the reason, he knew I would love to travel with him to the Indonesian Island of Java.  I returned to Seoul on Saturday September 10, 2016, and we flew to Jakarta the evening of Tuesday the 13th.  We had about 3 days to explore the city - which was plenty of time for us.  Jakarta is just another big city in a third world country, and there was not much I felt compelled to do there.  There are lots of malls and shopping - and probably bargains to be found, but that does not hold my interest for long. We stayed in the Hotel Kempinski which was a nice place to stay right in the middle of the city and close to most of the attractions  It connects to the enormous and modern Grand Indonesia Mall which is a draw for many people. The top couple of floors of the mall resemble those of Las Vegas malls - designed to look like like you are outside among restaurants and cafes.

While Bob was working, I decided to ride a hop on/off tourist bus around the city.  I met a young man from Germany who was thrilled to find another westerner and we had an enjoyable time seeing some of the sites together.  Our first stop was the largest Mosque in southeast Asia:  Masjid Istiqlal.  Shoes were removed at the entrance and robes provided for those dressed in shorts on inappropriate attire.  We received a nice tour of the mosque, where I learned a bit about Muslim teachings and practices. I found it interesting, having never been in a mosque before. Our guide raved about how President Obama had been in that mosque a few years ago and that he grew up in Jakarta.  I guess as an American, I was supposed to share in her enthusiasm for his presence there.  With a capacity of 120,000, it reflects the fact that Indonesia has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world.  (A fact I did not realize, because Bali was predominantly Hindi.) The mosque is designed in such a way that when Muslims kneel to pray six times daily, they are always facing "Kiblat", meaning "Mecca".  The fact that you can see the Catholic Cathedral from the courtyard affirms their belief (and mine) that all religions can live together in harmony.

The Catholic Cathedral was similar to most I have been in.  The design of the spires is slightly reminiscent of La Sagrada Familia in Spain.

 We wondered around some markets and saw what life was like on the streets.

Then I left the real world and returned to the hotel for a typical Javanese meal.

The following day, Bob ended up having a little time to explore Jakarta.  We visited the National Monument - a process that took way more time than we were prepared for!  They had just one tiny extremely slow elevator to transport visitors up and down the tower, and stairs were not an option.  From the top of the tower, we could see the mosque and cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and a general view of the city. 

On Saturday morning, we met up with someone conducting a free walking tour of Kotu Tua or Old Batavia - the historical Dutch area of the Jakarta.  During the 17th - 19th centuries, this was the capital of the Dutch West Indies and a very strategic location for the spice trade industry.  It was known as "The Jewel of Asia" by European sailors.  Unfortunately, much of that grand city has been demolished and only remnants can be seen today.  When Indonesia gained it's Independence in 1950, this area was deserted and it was not until 2005 that a revitalization plan began.

Our tour began an the Kota Train Station first built in 1887 and designed by a Dutch architect.  It was historically, and still is an important hub for transportation.  Next to the station is the Mandiri Museum which exhibits a collection of items related to banking activities from the colonial era.  Next to it is the Bank Museum which showcases beautiful Dutch architecture and stained glass windows (and some cute Indonesian children walking through the courtyard).

From there, our group of about 10 crammed into a small "bajaj" and drove to the Port of Sunda Kelapa.  This port was used extensively as a stopping point along the thriving East Indies spice route.  Today only "Pinisi", small wooden traditional two-masted sailing ships are allowed into the small harbor.  Many brides visit this picturesque site to take wedding photographs.


From the port we walked to a maritime museum located where the spice and trade merchandise warehouses once were.  I love the intricately carved Javanese Building and the gigantic ceramic pottery!  But first, I've included some photos of what we saw along our walk.  

From there we walked along the river to Fatahillah Square, where many of the Dutch buildings have been restored and now house various museums.

With our walking tour completed, Bob and I stepped into a little cafe and cooled down with an ice cream float.  I should mention that on our first day of exploring Jakarta, we went to Jalan Surabaya, an interesting antique market street.  I didn't think to take any photographs at the time.  We purchased a set of "antique" (really?) wooden puppets, and thereafter, I saw all kinds of puppets in  the malls and markets.  I've included a photo of our puppets below.  (Bob made the cute stands for them when we got home.)  So we decided to go into Museum Wayang to better understand the puppet culture of Java.  The most common are shadow puppets which are carved out of leather and intricately painted.  When held behind a white sheet with a light source behind them, the figures cast shadows on the screen.

The museum also displayed various puppets from around the world.

Before returning to our hotel, we stopped at a couple of malls so that I could look for my souvenir silver charm.  I actually found one that resembles a puppet!  But the strangest mall I've ever been in was the huge Thamrin City Mall, which was completely filled with Muslim apparel and a clientele to match.

That was enough of Jakarta for Bob and I, and we boarded a Saturday afternoon flight to Yogyakarta in central Java where we hoped for a little more adventure.


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