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A virtual tour of Jakarta, the big melting pot of cultures

Adityastha Rai Wratsangka

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, July 7, 2020  /  03:12 pm
A virtual tour of Jakarta, the big melting pot of cultures

Historically artistic: Raden Saleh’s mansion in Jakarta after living in Europe for 20 years. (JP/Adityastha Wratsangka)

A virtual tour takes tourists to Jakarta’s landmarks safely from the comfort of their own homes during the pandemic.

The tour, dubbed Wisata Keliling Jakarta (Jakarta Touring), took place from June 22 to 28 as a part of the capital’s anniversary celebrations and it was organized by tourism tech company Atourin, the Jakarta branch of the Indonesian Tour Guide Association (HPI) and tour operator Wisata Kreatif Jakarta.

On the last day, the tour took visitors to Jakarta landmarks influenced by foreign cultures.

Tour guide Ira Lathief dressed in traditional Betawi clothing and took the participants on tour with Google maps along with slides featuring pictures and videos she had taken herself.

She explained that Jakarta was a melting pot of many cultures, not only from different parts of Indonesia but also ones that came from abroad.

“People may know the popular Chinatown and Dutchtown [Kota Tua] but aside from those two, there are still more areas in Jakarta that are influenced by foreign culture,” Ira said during the virtual tour via Zoom conference call.

“There is the Portuguese village, Little India, Little Arabia, Little Tokyo and Little Korea,” she added.

The tour started in Kota Tua, a popular area in West Jakarta. The influence on the area dates back to 17th century Dutch colonial rule, leaving behind numerous historical gems.

Old Town: Fathahillah Square was once used by the Dutch for public events, including public executions. It is now a communal leisure area.Old Town: Fathahillah Square was once used by the Dutch for public events, including public executions. It is now a communal leisure area. (JP/Adityastha Wratsangka)

Kota Tua features Fathahillah Square, which was once used for events, including public executions, but is now a public leisure area where families go around and ride bicycles.

The tour of Kota Tua covered historical sites like dungeons that once held historical figures who opposed the Dutch, such as Javanese Prince Diponegoro and war leader Tjut Nyak Dien, and the Wayang Museum (Puppet Museum),  to culinary spots such as Café Batavia that serves Betawi and Dutch cuisine and beverages.

After Kota Tua, Ira took the tour to the Chinese influenced areas located in West Jakarta. She took participants to historical Chinese homes, as well as iconic coffee and tea houses.

Fusion culture: Ira Lathief, tour guide for Wisata Keliling Jakarta, took the tour to Pantjoran Tea House. A Chinese influenced tea house where communal free tea is served.Fusion culture: Ira Lathief, tour guide for Wisata Keliling Jakarta, took the tour to Pantjoran Tea House. A Chinese influenced tea house where communal free tea is served. (JP/Adityastha Wratsangka)

On Jl. Gajah Mada, Ira showed participants an old Chinese mansion called Gedung Candra Naya (Candra Naya Mansion). The mansion was once the home of Chinese mayor Khow Kim Man, who Ira said was the last person to hold the position in colonial Batavia.

Although the mansion is surrounded by tall, modern buildings, the large Chinese doors, curved roof, red lampions and Chinese calligraphy helps retain the mansion’s historical facade.

Ira then took the tour to the Chinatown of Glodok, West Jakarta, where Chinese cuisine and snacks to herbal medicine and cheap electronics goods can be found. She showed the tour a stall that serves freshly baked pia, vegetarian dishes and the legendary coffee house Kopi Es Tak Kie (Tak Kie Ice Coffee).

Colorful: The Liong (dragon) dance is performed during the Cap Go Meh Festival at Pancoran Chinatown Point, in Glodok, West Jakarta, on Feb. 8.Colorful: The Liong (dragon) dance is performed during the Cap Go Meh Festival at Pancoran Chinatown Point, in Glodok, West Jakarta, on Feb. 8. (JP/Galih Gumelar)

Kopi Es Tak Kie, founded in 1927, is run by a descendent of Chinese wanderer Liong Kwie Tjong .

The tour takes people to lesser-known areas of the city, like the Portuguese influenced Kampung Tugu (Tugu Village).

“People usually come here to visit Tugu Church but there is more than the church,” Ira said.

“We usually set up tours here, especially during celebrations, as the village has its own unique culture and celebrations.”

According to Ira, the village was built by former Portuguese prisoners who were taken by the Dutch to Batavia from Malacca. They were given freedom in exchange for converting to Christianity.

Built 359 years ago, the people of Tugu identify themselves as ethnic Betawi.

“Kampung Tugu is also where the kroncong style music originated from. It was born from the Portuguese’s love for music and celebrations,” Ira said.

After visiting Tugu, Ira took the tour to Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta, where a community of ethnic Indians and immigrants influenced the area, building what Ira called Little India.

While Pasar Baru is influenced by both the Indians and Chinese, the majority of the stalls there sell Indian textiles owned by ethnic Indians.

There also stands a Sikh temple for people worship. Sikhism originated from the Punjab region of India in the 15thcentury.

Ira then took the tour to Cikini, Central Jakarta where Little Arabia is located. The area was influenced by Arab travelers and tourists that would stay in Jakarta for long periods of time.

“Arab tourists and travelers would stay in Jakarta for at least one month,” Ira said. “Instead of hotels, they would rent apartments, that is why Little Arabia is located in the apartment-filled areas like Rasuna Said and Cikini.”

One of the notable landmarks of the area is the mansion of Raden Saleh. After living in Europe for 20 years, the painter returned to Jakarta and built a mansion in the area in 1852.

In South Jakarta, Ira introduced the tour to Little Korea and Little Tokyo.

Little Korea is located in Senopati, where there are several authentic Korean restaurants along with Korean grocery stores owned by expatriates.

Little Tokyo is located in Melawai. Not only is the area filled with authentic Japanese restaurants, the aesthetics of the buildings also resemble that found in Tokyo.

“The influence on the area started with Japanese grocery stores that were owned by expatriates,” she said.

“Every May, except for this year, they hold a Japanese-style festival in the area.”

The total duration of the tour was two hours, ending in Little Tokyo. Participants get to have a short discussion session after the tour.

Ira specifically told participants from Jakarta and its surrounding areas to never forget where they are from, even when they move or travel far away.

Nadya, a Jakarta native currently in Bali, participated in the event throughout the whole week.

“I’m very happy to have participated. I live in Jakarta but I am stuck in Bali and through this virtual tour I was able to relieve my longing for Jakarta,” she said at the end of tour.

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

 

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