View across the water to the Old City Entertainment Centre, housed in an Art Deco building built in 1929.
Oud Batavia lingers today in a few isolated neighborhoods in Jakarta. The greatest concentration of historic buildings is to the North, in what is now known as Kota, or “City.” Here lies the old administrative and commercial heart of colonial Batavia, as well as its ancient port, Sunda Kelapa.
Here too runs the Grootegracht, or Grand Canal (today known as the Kali Besar), the remaining artery of a series of canals the Dutch built in the 1600s, many of which they later filled in because of malaria and other tropical diseases. Along the gracht are some of the most impressive buildings of the era; all of which have fallen in disrepair.
A malaria epidemic in the early 1800s forced the Dutch south to Weltreveden, which today forms the neigborhoods around Merdeka Square and Harmoni. Here, there still sits a few impressive colonial administrative buildings built in the mid to late 1800s. These include the National Museum of Indonesia, the Presidential Palace, and other Ministerial “kantors,” or “offices.” The Hotel Des Indes used to sit here too, in what was once described by travellers as a beautiful, leafy suburb, but is today, part of polluted and traffic-congested Central Jakarta.
Finally, south of Weltreveden sits Menteng, a leafy residential suburb the Dutch built in the early 1910s based on a utopian, Garden City concept where low-rise houses sit in amongst leafy boulevards and sidewalks. The buildings here were designed in the “Indies” style – with red-tiled pyramid-shaped roofs, large verandahs out front, and white-washed walls.
The most impressive of these houses stand along Jalan Teuku Umar, and are now primarily used as foreign embassies and missions. However, many of the houses here have been refurbished beyond recognition, and others are in danger of being demolished and replaced with newer confections. That said, this is still easily the most pleasant neighborhood in Jakarta, allowing for a quiet and reflective stroll that can be had nowhere else in the city.
Pnisis boats plying their ancient trade at the Sunda Kelapa Port.
The Uitkyk Watchtower Tower at the ancien VOC docks, today known as Menara Syahbandar.
Dilapidated VOC-era godowns.
The Museum Bahari (Maritime Museum), once a VOC fortified godown.
Jembatan Kota Intan, once known as the Hoenderpasarbrug (Chicken Market Bridge).
The Batavia Hotel – built in the style of the Old Town.
A dilapidated old building standing right next to the Batavia Hotel.
Refurbished old building along the Kali Besar, housing a budget hotel.
View across the water to an idyllic vision of Oud Batavia.
Assurances Kantor Building, with Art Deco mosaics on its façade.
Another imposing twin-turreted merchant building, dilapidated.
Toko Merah, the Red House. Built in 1730 as the Residence of the Governor-General, it is one of the oldest buildings in Jakarta. Today it houses a commercial gallery.
Two houses down sits another building of a similar design.
P.T. Skaha Building.
The imposing façade of the Bank of Indonesia Museum.
Stained glass windows in the Mandiri Bank Museum.
The fabled Portugeuse cannon in the Fatahillah Museum, brought to Batavia from Malacca in 1641 when the Dutch took over Malacca from the Portugeuse.
Channeling a wintry Amsterdam: the Stadhuis (1710), today’s Fatahillah Musuem.
Café Batavia, the best place in the city to channel Oud Batavia.
Dilapidated building just off Fatahillah Square.
The Wayang Museum, formerly the Old Batavia Museum (1912).
The Museum of Art and Ceramics, formerly the Court of Justice (1870).
The imposing, art deco Kota Station (1926).
Detail on the wall of a Chinese merchant’s villa, Glodok (Chinatown).
A dilapidated former school building in Glodok.
National Musuem (1868), at Merdeka Square.
The Museum’s Neolithic collection, featuring faces from a distant peoples.
Monstrous makara in the museum’s courtyard, from Java’s Hindu era.
Severed Buddha’s head from Borobudur in the museum’s excellent collection of Javanese Hindu and Buddhist artefacts.
Ministry of Defence, Merdeka Square.
Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Protection, Merdeka Square.
Bungarampai, an excellent Dutch-Peranakan restaurant in Menteng.
No. 16, Jalan Syamsu Rizal. One of the remaining bungalows in the Indies-style.
And finally, without any trace of irony: the Holland Bakery (across from my hotel), a chain of pastry shops selling excellent local and Dutch delights.