Kato Tua – “Old City”
Day 2 had a hard start. My mind was foggy from sleep disorder due to jet lag. The day was already hot and humid at 9 so we took a taxi to Kato Tua, the “Old City”. We started at Balai Seni Rupa (Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics). The museum was the Dutch old court house from 1800’s. There were really not much of ‘fine arts’. We saw paintings and items displayed seemingly at random. From the very rudimentary English description, I couldn’t really follow what was the theme. The collections were quite small, probably 50 paintings of different kinds. Some 100 – 200 pieces of other artifacts. All were in non air-conditioned display rooms. I was more disappointed at the ceramics. There was really not much to see. Other than a few old Chinese celadon pieces, which were some housewares poorly made probably by some small low-end makers, most pieces are recent and some looked a lot like the mass produced vases and buddha statues we see in a local Chinese grocery stores. Other than a couple groups of kids on their field trips, there were very few people visiting the museum.
After Balai Seni Rupa, we walked around the plaza Taman Fatahillah. The locals were starting to come and street vendors were setting up their stalls. We stopped at Museum Bank Mandiri and Museum Bank Indonesia, which were next to each other. Both were about the history of their banks. Bank Mandiri was fairly empty but Bank Indonesia was much better illustrated with detailed description of Indonesian finance history. But I guess the most enjoyable thing was actually the cool air-conditioned building which was a nice break from walking in the hot and humid street.
After the nice cool breaks in bank museums, we were back to the street. We wanted to check out the last drawbridge in the city, known locally as the Chicken Market Bridge. We decided to walk to it despite of the heat. As soon as we left the old town city plaza area, we entered into a warehouse-like district. Most warehouses were abandoned but a few were turned into cheap living spaces. The whole area felt desperate that not even the locals would visit. There were only the two of us plus a couple of other western tourists walking the street, probably following the same guidebook. Finally after half mile walking we reached Jembatan Kota Intan (Chicken Market Bridge). It was an ugly abandoned sad looking bridge. It was so unattractive that Wikipedia doesn’t even bother to give it an entry. We debated for a while whether or not to continue to walk to the port and finally decided to give it a try.
The rest attractions on our way to the port again were unattractive. The watchtower, which locals say resembles the tower of Pizza, was this 3 story white building which looked like built from a kindergarten kid’s drawing and by some cheap labor overnight. The maritime museum next door was only slightly better. Neither of us had the desire to pay to get into them, even it only cost like 25 cents. We tried to walk to the port but soon turned back realizing there was nothing to see other than the cranes and commercial docks. We took a shortcut near a canal back to the main road. There were some local kids swimming and enjoying the water in the canal. They looked happy despite the polluted water with trash floating all around. They were excited to see us and were laughing and waving at us. Along the path, we only saw makeshift buildings cheaply made from bricks, concrete and galvanized roofs. One could only see poverty in this area. But locals don’t seem bothered. The kids were happy playing. We passed a corner where young guys had gathered for some kind of pigeon contests. They were smoking, socializing and looked happy too. The modern life seemed so far away for a moment.
We got in a taxi once we reached main road and got back the the old town square. The guidebook and a few discuss boards highly recommended Cafe Batavia in the plaza so we decided to give it a try. The place was nice inside, and looked just about like any Irish pub back home. But we were sorta shocked when opened the menu and saw the price. It was more expensive than prices back home in US. A 12 oz Heineken cost $6. We were both still full from breakfast and looking for just some refreshment and rest from the heat. So we each ordered a small beer and some rice crackers with dipping sauce to share. That was a ridiculous $25, and not surprisingly most people eating here were foreign tourists.
After our light lunch we walk to the town of Glodok. By then the old town squares was packed with locals. People came here with their families and were having fun. The colorful bikes for rent were very popular. We saw lots of kids were riding them in the plaza. Nick was stopped multiple times and people literally queued to have selfies taken with him. I guess he enjoyed his 10 seconds fame for a bit.
The street vendors were fully on colorful display. We had to fight our way through the narrow streets crowded with people and all the goods for sale. Again almost all people were nice and greeting us. Nick’s white figure was sure popular here.
We reached Glodok after about 20-30 mins of walk. Glodok is where Chinese community lives. We did see lots of Chinese people around and houses decorated with red lanterns. But it wasn’t your stereotypical Chinatown one sees elsewhere. There were no streets of stores overwhelmly decorated with Chinese signs. Rather Chinese seemed much more integrated into the local society here. We walked Pentak Sembilan Street Market, which was the open market selling fruits, vegetable and Chinese groceries. There we saw lots of stands were run by women wearing hijab. The side streets were so narrow that we could barely walk through them. They were dirty and smelly with trash everywhere. We saw cockroaches crawling everywhere and there were so many of them that it was hard not to step on one. I guess the only one in heaven was those lizards living here. They hunt cockroaches and will never be short of food.
We stopped at a few Chinese temples, Vihara Dharma Bhakri, Vihara Dharma Jaya Toasebio and Jin De Yuan Temple. They were all houses turned into temple so they didn’t have the usual temple architecture we typically see. They were mostly visited by locals for prayers and offering. There was not much to see for a tourist in the area. In fact I think we were the only tourists the whole time we walked in Glodok.
After the our quick walk through Glodok we both felt done, exhausted from our half day walking in Jakarta’s tropical weather. We took a taxi ride back to the hotel. We were thinking of going to the pool to cool some but a thunderstorm was coming. I lay on bed to rest a bit but next thing I knew was waking up at midnight – AGAIN! This was my 2nd day in Jakarta 🙂