June 26, 2009 / 11:17 AM / in 8 years

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Jakarta for history buffs

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore the history of Jakarta? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors with a penchant for the past enjoy Indonesia’s bustling capital.

<p>A view of clear skies in central Jakarta, on the eastern Indonesian island of Java October 6, 2006. REUTERS/Supri</p>

FRIDAY

6 p.m. - Step back in time to 1800s Indonesia at Bunga Rampai Restaurant, Menteng. Let your tastebuds tingle with some spicy nasi buketan -- pandan-flavored rice, served with meat, shredded omelet and chilli -- as you dine in elegant, white surroundings reminiscent of the Dutch colonial period.

SATURDAY

5 a.m. - Start early to escape the morning rush hour, and head north to Kota or Old Jakarta, the original settlement from which the modern city grew. Ensure you have one-thousand rupiah (10 U.S. cent) notes as most of the museums charge a small fee.

5.30 a.m. - Head to the docks to watch the sunrise over the Javenese sea at Sunda Kelapa. The 500-year-old port, and the village around it, once served as a trading point between the Portuguese and Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran, it was later used by the Dutch. Tours are available from the tourist hut on the dock.

7 a.m.- For the very adventurous, try to eat at one of the local warungs or food stalls east of the dock.

8 a.m. - Take a bicycle taxi or ‘sepeda ontel’ to the nearby Pasar Ikan fish market. Even though the auction is long over (it takes place at 3 a.m.), it is still bustling with activity.

9 a.m.- Stroll to the old spice warehouse nearby that is now the Maritime Museum. Typical of many of Jakarta’s museums, the buildings are not always in the best of repair and there is little direction for tourists, but this adds to the adventure, as you climb creaky dusty wooden staircases. Climb the harbor watchman tower near the museum for a bird‘s-eye view, and see the large Dutch East Indies Company logo still visible on buildings.

10 a.m.- Head to Fatahillah square, and the many museums there. The fastest way to beat the traffic is by motorbike taxi (ojek) or a noisy three-wheeled “bajaj.”

11 a.m.- Watch a traditional performance at the Wayang Museum, on the site of an old Dutch building on the square. Wayang puppets are an integral part of Indonesian culture and the museum has an extensive collection from across the archipelago.

12 p.m. - Lunch is but a stroll away at the adjacent Batavia Cafe. The old teak wood furniture and sweeping 1920s decor give the cafe a relaxed, breezy atmosphere. The 19th century building was re-opened in 1993.

1 p.m.- Lock yourself in the cramped prison cells at the bottom of the Jakarta History Museum. The museum in the former city hall of Batavia, now Jakarta, is home to grand rooms filled with antique furniture, such as a ceiling-high glass fronted filing cabinet and dining tables once laden with colonial feasts.

2 p.m.- One of the better-kept museums is the Fine Art and Ceramics Museum across the street from Taman Fatahillah.

3.30 p.m.- Discover the hidden Candra Naya, a Chinese mansion enclosed in the shell of an apartment block under construction and which was saved from the developers.

4 p.m.- A short ride away is the National Archives Building. The attractive building houses an interesting array of bric-a-brac from the Dutch and Portuguese periods. The building closes at 4.30, but the garden remains open till 6 p.m.

5.30 p.m.- The oldest Buddhist temple in Jakarta is located in the back streets of Glodok, which is also Jakarta’s Chinatown. As you pass through the gates you are greeted by a haze of incense and pleading faces of beggars who sit in the courtyard.

6.30 p.m.- Go to Gajah Mada, that cuts through Glodok, for some authentic Indonesian Chinese cuisine for dinner.

SUNDAY

9 a.m. - Pack your lunch and then head to Monas, the national monument. The towering column, topped by a golden flame, was conceived by Indonesia’s first president Sukarno. Take an hour to walk the circumference of the complex before the weather heats up, looking out for statues of national heroes.

10 a.m.- Go to a concealed underground entrance below the base of Monas to visit the museum and also go to the top for views of Jakarta.

12.30 p.m. - Find a shady tree in the grounds of Monas to picnic among the locals.

1 p.m.- For everything Indonesian, go to the nearby National Museum. The building’s old and new sections offer a thorough history of Indonesia’s people, culture and islands.

2 p.m. - Stroll the manicured, shady lawns of the presidential palace and take in the neo-classical buildings. The palace, occupied first by the Dutch then the Japanese, now hosts state functions and official meetings for the president.

3 p.m.- Follow the call to prayer at the Istiqlal mosque, one of the biggest in Southeast Asia and which was designed by a Christian architect. Ask for a guide to explain the history of the mosque and the customs of Islam.

4 p.m.- For another religious experience, head to Jakarta’s 19th century Catholic cathedral across the road.

6 p.m.- Relax after a long day on a padded couch in Lara Djonggrang in Menteng. The atmospheric Indonesian restaurant is filled with antique furniture.

Editing by Miral Fahmy/Ed Davies

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