After getting some rest, we decided to start our sight seeing trip in Jakarta proper. We took a taxi from the hotel to the Tugu Monumen Nasional (MONAS) for about 20,000 Rph. The weather wasn’t so cooperative as it was drizzling slightly as we made our way to the monument. Once we reached the monument grounds, the rains had let up a bit but the sky was still overcast which made for a gloomy afternoon. The MONAS grounds were definitely spread out with the usual weekend crowd of locals and school children around. Surprisingly absent though was the foreign tourists in the area, something that we would notice more as we went further into our trip. Not absent however were the persistent touts trying to convince you to buy their wares. Avoid them if possible since the items that they are trying to sell there were definitely over priced. Heartless it may seem but totally ignoring them seemed to be the only way to get rid of them as they can be really persistent once you start a conversation with them.
Entrance into the MONAS tower via the underground entrance cost us 25,000 Rph for 3 tickets. The first place that we visited was the museum located in the foundation of the tower. The museum offers dioramas depicting key moments in Indonesian history with special emphasis on the creation of the Indonesian cultural and state identities. A lot of them put emphasis on Indonesia’s struggle for independence and the bloody battles that they had to go through to get it. While the dioramas were interesting to look at, the problem I had with the museum was that it was too dimly lit for anyone to see any of the displays. None of the showcase displays had light controls and we were reduced to peering through the dim lighting to make sense of what we were looking at. The other item that I noticed glaringly omitted was any mention of the Konfrantasi period among the displays. Guess that’s more coming for the patriotic side of me wanting to see or read about their take on the Konfrantasi period.
(Statue of an Indonesian Independence figure - there was no sign to identify him but I think he was on one of the Rupiah bills)
After getting our fill of the dimly lit museum, we decided to go up to the viewing platform of the tower in hopes of getting a good view of surrounding Jakarta. Unlike the newer KL Tower, MONAS only had 1 lift to ferry visitors to the viewing tower and bank down. We had to queue for at least 45 minutes before we were able to get a lift to go up. Given that it was a rainy afternoon and the crowds were thin, I would expect that the queue would have been longer normally. Once we got to the top, we found ourselves in an open air viewing platform that allowed visitors 360 degrees view of Jakarta. Unfortunately for us, the rains limited what we were able to see up there although we did get to see the Masjid Istiqlal and surrounding buildings from there. After making a few rounds on the viewing platform, we queued up for another 30 minutes again to get the lift to return to ground level. We ended up spending more time queuing that actually enjoying what little views that we got on the viewing platform. If spending time in queues is not your thing then I would recommend giving MONAS a miss.
(Views from the viewing platform - Masjid Istiqlal, Gambir Train Station and Mahkamah Agung)
After MONAS, we took another cab for 20,000 Rph to Taman Fatahillah which according to the guidebook was one of the last remaining examples of Dutch colonial Jakarta architecture. Unfortunately, the guidebook did not detailed how small the square was. Ringed by the Jakarta Museum and Café Batavia, the collection of colonial architecture here pales in comparison to what I’ve seen in Manila the year before. Jakarta was definitely a newer city with many of it’s colonial architecture examples sadly neglected or ignored.
(Views of Taman Fatahillah)After Taman Fatahillah, we decided to walk to the Sunda Kelapa harbor which was recommended by the guidebook as being worth a visit and was 10 minutes a way from where we were. What we didn’t realize was that it was 10 minutes by taxi, walking there took us nearly 30 minutes through some dodgy looking neighborhoods on muddy if not already flooded streets. A trip wouldn’t be complete for me if I did not find myself lost in a strange town walking through definitely less than tourist friendly locations. Fortunate for us, we did not get harassed or anything like that but we were not also dallying for long on our trip. We just wanted to get out of the area as fast as we could.
Eventually we reached Sunda Kelapa harbor and my first thought was “This is it?”. The guide book said to expect seeing traditional sail powered schooners still being used to transport goods to surrounding islands. I didn’t expect to see a fairly run down pier full of inter-island trading barges being loaded with trade items. We walked down the muddy pier to take some pictures of the ships but the fast fading light didn’t really helped us in that regards. We were also approached by someone offering us berth to stay overnight on the boats to experience life on the boat. Given that we already had accommodations and was not really too sure about spending the night on a boat with dock workers we hardly knew, we politely decline the offer and made our way out of the harbor complex. Last thing we wanted was to be shanghaied to work on some inter-island trade boat as cabin boys.
(Ships at Sunda Kelapa)Having our fill of the disappointing guide book for the day, we decided to take a cab to Mangga 2 Mall for a return to something more familiar as well as for some dinner. The cab from Sunda Kelapa to M2M cost us about 15,000 Rph which was cheap considering our alternative was to spend another 30 minutes walking in the darkening streets. Dinner at the mall was a simple affair of food court style claypot rice which cost the 3 of us 75,000 Rph with drinks. Picked up some JCo donuts (60,000 Rph for ½ dozen) and some drinking water for tomorrow, we headed back to the hotel (taxi – 25,000 Rph) to get ready to meet up with some friends that we made on the net before coming to Jakarta who wanted to bring us to a night out on the town.
The first club that we went to had a private function that only allowed patrons in by invitation only. Since our friends was not too sure about the other club that they have heard of, we went instead to see if we could catch a movie at a cinema (locally known as a “bioskop”). Unfortunately for us, tickets were sold out for the midnight show which was fairly packed with Jakarta’s young and trendy people at the cinema we were at. We finally ended up spending time at a café called Café Oh La La which was located on the ground floor of the cinema for a spot of drinks and people watching. We would later find out that they had Café Oh La La in other cites that we visited and they all stay opened later than the surrounding shops. I guess the nearest vibe equivalent in KL for the Café Oh La La that we went to that evening would be the Starbucks at Bintang Walk where there was always something interesting to look at.
We said goodbye to our friends at around 1 am since we had an early morning the next day and took a cab back to the hotel (30,000 Rph). Other than the enjoyable night out people watching, the first day in Jakarta was a downer and I as I was falling asleep hoped that the next few days would be much better.