After 2 months of Large Scale of Social Distancing (PSBB) in Jakarta, as we don’t do lock down, the phase of New Normal (the governor prefers to call it PSBB transisi (Large Scale of Social Distancing in transition) finally begins this June. The number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia’s capital is far from of slowing down. Yet at the same time, financial recovery has to be done immediately.
Reopening activities with strict health protocols to lessen the virus spread seems to be the best option to balance health and economic concern. After places of worship, outdoor activities, stores and restaurants in shophouses re-operate from the first week of June, shopping malls finally get their turn starting from June 15.
The first shopping mall I visited after PSBB is Pondok Indah Mall in South Jakarta. Its reopening signifies that life will never be the same as that before the pandemic, at least until the vaccine is available for public.
The are 7 things I notice about new normal at the mall in Jakarta:
METAL DETECTOR VS THERMOGUN
Those days, checking visitors and their cars with a metal detector is a common practice for safety against terrorist attacks. Nowadays, thermogun is a new tool for decision making as anyone with a body temperature over 37.3 degrees celcius is not allowed to enter the mall.
If you are behind the wheels, security officials with even “shoot” you twice: before taking a parking ticket and entering the building. The practice occurs in Pondok Indah Mall, but it probably doesn’t happen in other shopping malls.
Metal detectors are still in their hands, but their role tends to be just a formality, not as strong as thermoguns. Mostly I get shot (with a thermogun) and scanned (with a metal detector), but sometimes I skip the scan part (simply because the security skips it, not that I get rid of it) and only get shot.
HAND SANITIZER AND WASH BASIN
Yep, hand sanitizer and wash basin are partners in crime with thermogun. Shopping malls are more hygienic in the midst of pandemic than hospitals prior to pandemic. Speaking of which, the basin has a new version that no one would ever think of unless COVID-19 strikes, where the main switch is on the foot pedal.
This probably reminds you of a sci-fi movie. Simply wave your hands in front of the light sensor to open the door. How cool is that? Nonetheless, the interior remains the same since you still need to press, aka touch, the button to the destined floor. I’m expecting to see foot pedals inside the elevator, but they’re not available at Pondok Indah Mall. This probably a silly obsession, but I hope I can find them somewhere in Jakarta.
SLOWING DOWN TRAFFIC
In fact, we are facing 2 types of terrorist: human and virus. Although (human) terrorists haven’t been a distant memory yet, it is proven that we fear virus much more than terrorists. After terrorist attacks, public places are usually more quiet for a day or 2, then it will be back to normal. Nonetheless, COVID-19 threads last much longer (only God knows when they will end) and people think twice before blending with the crowds.
NOBODY’S SMILING AT YOU
There’s a saying that eyes are the window of the soul. And from now on, you need to count on this even more, especially when everyone in the city must use a face mask in public places. You won’t see whether someone is smiling or grumpy by looking at his or her lips, but the eyes won’t lie.
KEEP THE DISTANCEAND 50% OCCUPANCY
It is compulsory to put cross signs on chairs, tables, escalators and arrow signs on the floor in all retail stores to remind visitors to keep the distance. The occupancy of each store is only 50% from its actual capacity to avoid more spread of the virus. In some way, this new normal habit is a blessing in disguise for introvert and anti-social people.
In line with avoiding more crowds, operational hours at the stores have changed a bit, as they are closed 1 to 2 hours earlier than normal. Some stores operate from 11 am to 8 pm, some from 10 am to 9 pm.
EMPLOYEES WEARING FACE SHIELD AND MASK
Once you pass the (mall) entrance door, enter any shops and restaurants, the staffs will greet you with new uniform standard, face mask and face shield, as it is part of the new SOP from Pondok Indah Mall. I believe that other shopping malls have more or less the same regulation.
I guess the only thing we can do is to get used with new normal life until there’s a cure for covid-19. Stay save and healthy!
What changes do you notice after new normal life in your city, especially at shopping malls?
It is quite a wonder that in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital surrounded by shopping malls and tall buildings, still has a few hidden green areas left delivering a piece of Indonesian history during Dutch colonization era. Situated in South Jakarta, Ereveld Menteng Pulo, the honorary cemetery, is one of it. Those days, Menteng Pulo was a suburban area of Menteng, somewhat isolated from the crowds. Once you walk in and pass the gate, the common perception about cemeteries in Indonesia, which is often filthy and frightening, will soon fade away.
Speaking of which, there’s an interesting story behind Menteng itself. Menteng is a luxurious residential area in South Jakarta where high rank government officials live, as well as the place where the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, spent his 4-year childhood in Indonesia. If there’s no traffic jam, from Menteng to Menteng Pulo takes about 10 minutes by car.
Now, let’s go back to our main topic.
HISTORY OF EREVELD MENTENG PULO
Ereveld Menteng Pulo is the resting place for over 4000 war victims of World War II (1939-1945), especially who died from a Japanese concentration camp, and the revolution after that (1945-1949). The honorary cemetery was inaugurated on December 8, 1947, managed by Netherlands War Graves Foundation or OGS (Oorlogsgravenstichting).
Between 1960 and 1970, war victims from Ereveld outside Java Island, such as Manado, Tarakan, Makassar and Palembang, were relocated and reburied in Ereveld Menteng Pulo. Therefore, from 22 Ereveld cemeteries nationwide, now only 7 left. All of them are in Java Island, including 2 in Jakarta. Besides in Menteng Pulo, which is the biggest and the most beautiful of all, there’s also Ereveld in Ancol, North Jakarta.
Those who are buried here are Dutch and Indonesian soldiers under KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger) or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. However, what makes Ereveld Menteng Pulo is particular is that only 25 percent of the victims are actually from military services and the rest are civilians, including children.
There are unwritten house rules applied at the honorary cemetery. While walking around it, you should start from the foot part of the grave in order not to step on the head part. Another important thing is that the names of the deceased should be blurred before publishing the pictures in any (social) media. Otherwise, take pictures from the rear side of the graves, so the names won’t appear.
MEANING OF GRAVE MARKERS
Take a closer look at the graves and you will immediately notice that there are 6 grave markers defining the victim’s religion. The round shape is Buddha, the 3 petal-shaped is Muslim, the David star is Jewish, the huge shield shape is a mass grave and the cross shape is Christian.
For Christians, there are 2 kinds of cross to distinguish the gender. The plain cross is male and the one with 3 petals on the edges is female. Suppose you see smaller and shorter cross graves, they belong to Christian children with no specified gender. It’s breaking my heart to see the war victims include babies aged 3 to 6 months old.
And more more thing. When the graves are written ontbekend, meaning unknown in Dutch, they stand for unidentified victims.
Although Simultaan Church is a “church” having an altar, a big Dutch language bible and a cross, it actually holds memorial services and other ceremonial events for various religions, not specifically for Christian Sunday services.
A huge cross monument made of wooden railroad in Burma on the right side of the altar was built to commemorate Dutch, Australians, American and British soldiers who died from forced labour by the Japanese during the construction of a railroad in Burma.
Apart from graves, Ereveld Menteng Pulo also houses 754 ashes of Dutch soldiers, who died in the Japanese concentration camp during World War II, in the columbarium situated outside Simultaan Church.
Thanks to Robbert CJM van de Rijdt, the director of Ereveld, who has a fond of plants and flowers, the largest honorary cemetery in the country has varieties of flower, including lotuses in the pond, that makes the environment within the complex more beautiful and serene.
Fresh flowers or garland placed on the grave or the columbarium prove that there are still families who visit their loved ones at the cemetery, not only tourists for a place of interest.
BRITISH CEMETERY COMPLEX
Inside Ereveld Menteng Pulo, there’s also a special cemetery complex managed by the British Kingdom. To distinguish its territory, the land position is slightly higher and a small fence as a border.
One of the prominent British military figures buried here is Brigadier General Mallaby, who died during the shootout in Surabaya, triggering the Battle of Surabaya, because Indonesian troops ignored the British ultimatum to surrender unconditionally. Nowadays, the battle’s commemoration is held annually on November 10 nationwide.
Besides, there are also war victims from other Commonwealth countries, such as Australians, Canada, American, Pakistani and Indian.
EMBRACE PEACE AND APPROPRIATE MANNER
As a silent witness of World War II and Dutch occupation in Indonesia, Ereveld Menteng Pulo reminds us that war is not the solution in any cases and has killed a lot of innocent people, especially there are more civilians that soldiers buried here. To pay the last respect of the victims, embrace peace and love in any situation.
The visit to Ereveld Menteng Pulo is free of charge, opening from 7 am to 5 pm. Anyways, I heard that the sunset view is magnificent. Ask for a permission if you want to stay longer to enjoy or immortalize the moment since sunset occurs after 5.30 pm.
Despite its historical value, I receive complaints from the security that there are certain visitors having bad habits, from littering, making noises, until dating in inappropriate way as if the place were their own backyard. Gosh, I hope they know what they’re doing to this wonderful place!
Tanjung Priok, Off-The-Beaten Path Tourist Destination?
Tanjung Priok is the district in North Jakarta, which is identical with Port of Tanjung Priok, the busiest seaport in Indonesia. Perhaps, thinking about Tanjung Priok as a tourist destination doesn’t always cross people’s mind.
But let me tell you what, suppose you are searching for somewhere off-the-beaten path places in Jakarta, Tanjung Priok and its surroundings could be a great choice. Not because it’s a quiet and less known, but the locals mostly have a very slight idea about things to do when foreigners land their feet in this district.
Here are things you can do in Tanjung Priok:
Visit Instagrammable Railway Station
The closest railway station is Tanjung Priok Station, one of the oldest stations in Jakarta. Initially built in 1885 next to the harbour, the station was moved 1 km away to its present location and opened on April 6, 1925. After being neglected for 10 years, the art deco style building re-operates in 2009. It has been one of the most favorite photography hunting and shooting scenes for video clips, movies, pre-wedding shots and more.
The best part is the station still maintains its original look, including the steel construction of the 6 gates like those in Europe. There are certain rooms not functioned properly and remains empty, but we hope that someday the government will have a funding to maximize its potential.
Shop in Pasar Ular
Pasar Ular, literally means snake market, doesn’t actually sell snakes. Some say it’s called that way because the market has a long and winding alley like a snake. Yet some others say that since it sells smuggled goods (in the past), thus merchants have to be as tricky as a snake. No matter which opinion you believe, for sure it’s not a pet shop at all.
There are 2 Pasar Ular markets in the area. Pasar Ular Plumpang sells both original (yes, you definitely need good eyes to notice them) and knock-off fashion goods.
On the other hand, Pasar Ular Permai offers ceramic goods, from tea sets, chandelier to giant vases imported from Europe and China, that cost you from Rp. 100.000 to Rp. 250.000.000 ($6.5 to $16,000). Surprisingly, you can find souvenirs from European countries, such as fridge magnet with the picture of Berlin landmarks, Dutch Delft Blue plates, can opener carved with pictures of Barcelona landmarks, and many more that cost much cheaper than those in Europe. Yes, you can get an €6 (Rp. 80.000) Euro fridge magnet for only €1.5 (Rp. 25.000) in Pasar Ular Permai. Believe it or not!
Dine in Kampung Warteg
Kampung Warteg is a 24-hour food stall village on Ende Street, housing over 20 stalls selling various traditional Indonesian food and beverages in a shoestring and I can guarantee its cleanliness. So, there’s nothing to worry about.
For instance, I went to Warung Nabila and got a beef rib soup with rice sold for only Rp. 23.000 ($1.5) per portion and chicken soup for only Rp 15.000 ($0.90). Usually, these stalls give you quite a lot of portion of rice since they are used to serve harbour and cargo ship workers.
Church and Mosque Sharing the Same Wall
What’s so unique between Masehi Injil Sangihe Talaud Mahanaim Church and Al-Muqarrabien Mosque? The 2 buildings are not only side by side, but also share the same wall as well. Yes, so this is not about 2 different walls attached to separate them. Both places of worship were built by sailors to serve those who need to pray. The church was built in 1957 by Christian sailors, then the mosque was built a year later by Moslem sailors.
The story of religious tolerance maintained for over 60 years in both places is well-known locally and internationally, starting from sharing parking lots to one of them while celebrating huge religious events until Al-Muqarrabien Mosque protected Masehi Injil Sangihe Talaud Mahanaim Church when rioters almost burn the church in 1984.
Visit Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum is located inside the Port of Tanjung Priok complex, introducing the history of maritime in Indonesia, from the kingdom of Majapahit until the era of the Dutch colony.
It’s the first modern and international standard museum in Jakarta, performed with high quality diorama, improved lay out (which is for sure, instagrammable), facilities from library, cinema, souvenir shop, rooftop view of the biggest harbour in the country and simulator of the ship’s behind the wheels area.
Visit Mbak Priok’s Tomb
Mbah Priok’s Tomb is one of the most visited place of Moslem pilgrimage in Indonesia. Mbah Priok himself was an Islamic missionary from Palembang, South Sumatra, who died on his way to Tanjung Priok, and buried on the seashore with the pot he always carried in his journey.
During the Dutch conquest, his tomb was moved to Koja, a subdistrict in North Jakarta. In 2010, the eviction of his tomb triggered a riot between thousands of municipal police and 80 tomb caretakers who against the plan. Suddenly, the municipal police lost the battle because they saw a mysterious spirit when the tomb demolition was about to began. Finally, they were scared and the eviction was cancelled. The incident confirms people’s belief that the tomb is sacred.
The visit to the tomb, which is now a cultural heritage inaugurated by the former governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, is free of charge. There is a drinkable spring water, which is believed to bring luck and blessing, that never stops flowing.
Oh well, do I manage to convince you that Tanjung Priok is pretty interesting and more than just a port?
At first, it is crucial to understand the meaning of the English word “temple” could be either “vihara” or “klenteng” in Indonesian. So, what are the differences?
Simply said, “vihara” is the place of worship for Buddhist. There are not many statues inside the “vihara”, except the statue of Buddha or Goddess Kwan Yin. On the other hand, “klenteng” is the place of worship for Konghucu. The amount of statues representing each god or goddess to worship are many, even can be over 100 pieces.
New Order Regime and the Sentiment of Chinese Elements
In 1967, The New Order regime forbid all Chinese elements exposure in public. That included the alteration of Chinese language-based temple names. Many of them ended up into Indonesian with Sanskrit influence. Also, all “klentengs” needed to be registered into “viharas” to continue their operation.
Chinese ethnics finally regained their freedom to perform rituals and expose all Chinese elements as it should be in year 2000 after Abdurrahman Wahid, the 4th president of Indonesia, abolished the President’s Instruction (Inpres) No. 14 / 1967.
Some temples either return into their original Chinese name, maintain the Indonesian one or combine both names.
Nonetheless, confusion between “vihara” and “klenteng” remains until today, as many people still consider that they both are just synonyms.
5 Oldest Temples You Need to Visit in Jakarta, that Originally are “Klenteng”
Vihara Dharma Jaya Toasebio
The 265-year temple is situated in Petak Sembilan area, Glodok, the biggest China Town in Jakarta. The word “toasebio” derives from 2 words, “toase” means message, “bio” means temple (klenteng). Before being inherited to Dharma Jaya Foundation, the “klenteng” was owned by the Tan clan until its 4th generation. There are 18 altars inside the temple to worship gods for different purposes.
The foundation name is finally used to alter the original Chinese name during New Order regime, which is Vihara Dharma Jaya.
When the genocide of Chinese ethnics in 1740, VOC (The Dutch East India Company) did the search and burned down residential areas, shops, including temples like Toasebio. After the riot, the temple was rebuilt in 1754.
There are original parts remain there, such as red ornaments outside the temple and the green dragon statue wrapping around the pillar.
Vihara Dharma Bhakti
Still situated in Petak Sembilan, not far from Vihara Dharma Jaya Toasebio, the oldest temple in Jakarta was initially called Guan Yin Ting, built in 1650 by Lieutenant Go Xun-Guan.
Just like Toasebio, Vihara Dharma Bhakti was burned down by The Dutch East India Company in 1740. Later, Captain Oey Tjie reconstructed the temple and changed its name into Kim Tek Ie. Due to the prohibition of “klenteng” during New Order regime, it was renamed into Vihara Dharma Bhakti and never experienced any changes ever since.
In 2015, the fire struck again because of electrical short circuit and burned down the main altar and houses nearby.
Every Chinese New Year celebration, beggars from Jakarta and other cities queue up in the outdoor area of the temple to get “angpau”, the red envelope with donation money inside.
Klenteng Sin Tek Bio (Vihara Dharma Jaya)
Passing the narrow alleys and sandwiched between tall buildings, Klenteng Sin Tek Bio is a hidden gem in Pasar Baru (literally mean New Market) area, yet pretty well-known overseas because of its historical value.
Sin Tek Bio was built in 1698, probably by Chinese farmers living on the riverbanks around Pasar Baru, on Jalan Belakang Kongsie no. 16. In 1812, it moved to its present site on Jalan Pasar Baru Dalam Pasar no. 146. In reaction to the sentiment of Chinese names at that time, it changed into Vihara Dharma Jaya on May 12, 1982.
The temple consists of 2 buildings. The main building’s god is Hok-Tek Cheng-Sin, the god of earth and fortune, whereas the other one is goddess Kuan Im, who is believed to help people in difficulties. Inside the temple, you will find hundreds of statues from different ages, from 17th century to 20th century.
Vihara Bahtera Bhakti
Vihara Bahtera Bhakti is situated in an exclusive residential area, Perumahan Pasir Putih in Ancol, North Jakarta.
Its long history began when Admiral Cheng Ho landed on a riverbank in Ancol called Kota Paris (though it literally means The City of Paris, we’re not talking about Paris in France, just to remind you). Sampo Soei Soe, the chef who worked for Admiral Cheng Ho, married Siti Wati, a traditional dancer and the daughter of a famous Moslem scholar, Embah Said Areli Dato Kembang and his wife Ibu Enneng, and finally resided in Ancol.
Since the news about Sampo Soei Soe was spread widely in Mainland China, people from the country sailed away to Jakarta to meet him in person. Unfortunately, he was found dead. Therefore, the temple was build to honour Sampo Soei Soe. Like many other “klentengs”, it underwent name changes for 3 times, from Klenteng Da Bo Gong, Klenteng Ancol until Vihara Bahtera Bhakti.
Inside the temple, there’s a secluded room to pray for Sampo Soei Soe and Siti Wati on the right side of the main altar and Siti Wati parents’ grave behind the altar.
What’s so special about Vihara Bahtera Bhakti is that the pilgrims are not limited to Buddhist and Kong Hu Cu, but also Christian and Moslem.
The gazebo with golden stupa, just like that in Borobudur Temple, and the only one pagoda (and the oldest, too) in Jakarta are distinctive characteristics of Vihara Lalitavistara, that other temples in the city don’t have.
The early name of the temple was Sam Kuan Tai Tie back in the 16th century, discovered by sailors on the beach close to Cilincing. The history began from the stranded black board on the coast of Cilincing, saying “Sam Kuan Tai Tie”, the name of an old temple in China. The black board was widely believed to grant wishes and prayers, urging seekers to search the magic board.
Nonetheless it was once lost for years, until someone found a dead body, that happened to be a burglar, not far from the famous Sam Kuan Tai Tie black board.
In 1957, Vihara Lalitavistara was built on the site where the board was discovered. It was restored and inaugurated on October 7, 1989 by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The chosen name “Lalitavistara” is referred to a Buddhist bible, telling the story of the birth and death of Siddharta Gautama.
Apart from the place of worship, there’s a dormitory for the monks, columbarium and Buddhist school.
Helpful and Friendly Staffs
Generally speaking, the staffs who take care of these old temples are friendly to serve curious visitors with bunch of questions, as long as there’re not too busy, from the temple history, gods until Buddhist teachings.
Make sure you don’t miss these temples on your visit to Jakarta!
Taman Ismail Marzuki (Ismail Marzuki Park) is a Jakarta art and cultural center situated in Cikini area, Central Jakarta, Indonesia. The locals call it TIM, pronounced as team.
The name “Ismail Marzuki” derives from a music composer and songwriter for films and numerous patriotic songs. Since November 10, 2004, he has been awarded as a national hero.
Originally, Ismail Marzuki Park was Taman Raden Saleh (Raden Saleh Park), the first public zoo and park in the city owned by Raden Saleh, a famous painter who lived in Europe for 20 years to pursue painting study and career. The establishment of zoo in the city center was probably inspired by those in Europe, where several of them are built in downtown areas instead of the suburban ones. The park also hosted a dog racing competition, a cinema, Garden Hall and Podium. Since 1966, the zoo has been relocated to Ragunan, South Jakarta, called Kebun Binatang Ragunan (Ragunan Zoo).
WHAT ISMAIL MARZUKI PARK OFFERS
TIM was officially inaugurated on November 10, 1968 by the then governor of Jakarta, Ali Sadikin. The 8 hectares park houses a planetarium, Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ), an exhibition hall, 6 performing art performances theaters, archive building and a gallery.
Cultural events are shown regularly, from performing arts, such as drama, dance, music performances, poetry reading, painting and sculpture exhibitions until film screenings.
The Planetarium and Observatorium is also a highly-visited destination within the park, especially for groups of students who are on study tour program. I remember, slightly, did this with schoolmates when I was on elementary school. It’s been ages and that’s when the last time I visited Ismail Marzuki Park.
There used to be XXI Cinema, which is demolished in mid-August 2019, and the extension of Graha Bhakti Budaya, a big performing art hall, will replace the cinema spot. This results in disappointment from the cinema’s regular customers, including students from Jakarta Arts Institute. Yet it happens anyways.
The revitalization of Ismail Marzuki Park is still an ongoing project and will be completed in 2021. I truly hope something great is coming out of it and the dream of becoming the park as one of the world’s cultural center will come true.
Finally, after more than 25 years, I returned to this park with a group of people from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, a walking tour service holding one of their routes, Cikini Food Tour. I couldn’t believe that this place has become more artsy than just being the location of an art school. Without watching art performances and attending exhibitions, the murals has already had their own spot to accentuate the art element at the complex. And yes, you can enjoy them for free.
It was not so crowded on Sunday afternoon and no school activities, except some people chill out, chit-chatting and practices skateboarding. Immortalizing these wonderful artworks with a camera couldn’t be more comfortable. The murals are created by several different painters, portraying faces of the nation’s most notable artists, including Ismail Marzuki himself, as shown above.
Raden Saleh didn’t only owned the zoo those days, but also had a mansion nearby. As Cikini is an Arabic settlement in Jakarta and he was an Arabic-Javanese painter, he is one of the most influential figures in Indonesian painting history.
The murals make an ordinary building looks extraordinary from this angle. The black mural is the poet Chairil Anwar, nicknamed binatang jalang or bitch taken from his “Aku” (“I”) poet, known for moving and controversy lyrics. One of his statements that the nation hard to forget is that he wanted to live for another thousand years, nonetheless the faith told otherwise. He passed away at only 26, probably from tuberculosis.
The colorful mural of a Colombian artist Diana Ordonez symbolizes a close relationship between the local government and Colombian embassy in Jakarta.
Look around slowly and you’ll find more murals on the façade of Jakarta Arts Institute. I heard that in certain period of time, these murals could be replaced with other images. So enjoy them while they last.
MORE MURALS OUTSIDE THE COMPLEX
When you leave Ismail Marzuki Park, don’t forget to spot other murals outside the the park. They are seriously instagrammable as well! I only captured a few of them, yet I guarantee you’ll see more of them along the way.
For sure, this is a kind of art exhibition you can visit for free and you can visit anytime before dark. Sunday could be the best day as the street is not too crowded.
Ubud is famous for Monkey Forest, Ubud Market, The Royal Palace as well as shops, restaurants and cafes along the way that are often quite pricey and touristy. Well, suppose you step away a little bit from the crowds to Kedewatan Village in the outskirt of Ubud, that takes about 20 minutes, you’ll find a rather ordinary house façade saying “Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku”, translated as Mrs. Mangku’s Kedewatan Chiken Rice, on both neon box and engraved limestone.
Mrs. Mangku started selling her signature chicken rice back in 1960’s on a flea market around Kedewatan Village. Before she succeeds, she moved from one place to another until she has many regular customers and settles at the present location.
Once I arrived at the restaurant, I didn’t quickly take a seat in an ordinary dining room in front of me. Instead, I walked further to find the beautiful Balinese house hidden behind it. The 6-pavilion house is the residence of Mrs. Mangku family and one of them is the kitchen to produce the signature chicken mix rice. The atmosphere is very homey rather than a commercial place and peaceful with soft background of Balinese keroncong music. The scenery is fantastic and the combination of red brick, engraved wood, gold and red color make the house look earthy and elegant at the same time.
The seatings are situated on the side of each pavilion and some on stage, like the ones near the pond and the rice barn. Most of them are performed with lesehan style, meaning that you will dine using a very short table and seat on a carpet, that somehow similar to a traditional Japanese dining style. Since the house is spacious and the distance from 1 seating to another is a bit far, it is very suitable for those who love privacy and tranquility. Take some to walk around the house, the greenery and serenity are completely relaxing your mind and refreshing your eyesight.
Although the signature menu is called nasi ayam (chicken rice), probably it is more suitable to call it nasi campur ayam (chicken-based mix rice) because unlike the Chinese food Hainan Chicken Rice, it is a mixture of different kind of chicken-based dishes, from sate lilit ayam (minced chicken satay), boiled egg, crispy chicken skin, ayam betutu (Balinese style chicken), lawar (mixed vegetables) and peanuts.
Bear in mind that don’t do what I did by asking, “Is there any other menus other than chicken rice?”, because they only have 1 menu for many years and there haven’t been any new ones ever since. Therefore the waiter asked me if it was my first visit to the restaurant. Certainly, it was!
The only variety is how it’s served, either all contents in one plate including rice and poured chicken soup on the rice or in different plates, where rice and soup are served separately. Nonetheless, it’s the same food. The chicken-based mix rice in one plate costs Rp. 25.000 ($ 2) and the separate one costs Rp. 35.000n ($ 3) because it has a bigger portion of rice and soup. I was hungry, so I took the Rp. 35.000 dish.
All I can say is I got more than I paid. It was very delicious with all the rich spices penetrated into the chicken dishes and the soup tasted so heavenly. I struggled with the burning hot soup, to be honest, since I’m usually not a spicy food eater, but it was all worth it.
Fresh juices are sold starting from Rp. 7000 ($ .50) to Rp. 20.000 ($ 1.6). There are some varieties of chips, crackers as well starting from Rp. 1000 ($ .10) for a thumb size package of snack you can get in front of the cashier and the price range for the rest is about Rp. 5000 to Rp. 10.000 ($ .30 to $ .80).
No wonder why the business lasts for over 60 years, how cool is that! I was lucky that I could choose the seat very easily since I came around 2 pm on weekdays where lunch time was over.
My experience tells me (and you) that this is not a tourist trap and nothing scammy about it. You definitely don’t need to empty your wallet for dining in an authentic and instagrammable place and satisfy your appetite with great food.
Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku
Address: Jl. Raya Kedewatan No.18, Ubud, Bali Phone: 0361 974795 Opening hours: 6.30 am – 8 pm
Museum Taman Prasasti or Inscription Museum, formerly known as Kebon Jahe Kober, was the first modern public cemetery in the world built in 1795 in Tanah Abang district, Central Jakarta, Indonesia. The land belonged to Halventinus van Riemsdijk, a landlord and a businessman, before he inherited it to the Dutch colonial government.
It provided a new burial site to replace that in Hollandsche Nieuw Kerk (Dutch New Church), now Museum Wayang or Wayang Puppet Museum, since the cemetery was already full. The cemetery area was once 5.5 hectares, but now it’s only 1.5 hectares left due to the city expansion.
Known for the terrible traffic jam and the biggest textile market in Southeast Asia so-called Pasar Tanah Abang (Tanah Abang Market), Museum Taman Prasasti delivers the tranquil side of Tanah Abang district situated just 7 minutes drive from the hectic area, free from honks and overcrowded street vendors.
But nothing eerie and haunted about this place. The cemetery operated until 1974 and closed a year later. Before turning into a museum on July 9, 1977, the remaining bodies were brought back to their families and some others are cremated. In other words, no bodies under the tombstones ever since.
That’s why it’s no longer called a cemetery, but a museum instead. Nowadays, it’s one of the popular places for photography spots and video shooting.
THE BURIED ONES, MEMORIALS AND STATUES
Those days, it was a Protestant cemetery, the last resting place of Dutch government officials and prominent people.
Among others Marius Hulswit (the architect of Cathedral Church in Jakarta), Olivia Marianme Raffles (the first wife of Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant General of Dutch Indies during the British conquest), HF Roll (the founder of STOVIA, School of Medicine during Dutch colonization era), Van Riemsdijk Family (General Governor of Dutch Indies whose son, Halventinus, inherited one of his lands to build Kebon Jahe Kober cemetery) and many more.
The only Indonesian people buried here were Miss Riboet (famous theater actress in 1930’s) and Soe Hok Gie (student activist movement in 1960’s).
Various shapes of tombstone definitely define the beauty of the open air museum, that also have meaning and purpose behind them. The tombstone of Olivia Mariamne Raffles made of andesite stone was considered luxurious at that time. The broken menhir shaped tomb, like that of Dr. Jan Laurens Andries Brandes (and some others), is the symbol of unfulfilled wishes. The Hindu temple look is a remembrance of his merit as an ancient Javanese literature expert.
The most lavish tombstone is the green cathedral monument of Major General Johan Jacob Perrie, a highly respected war hero who earned the title of nobility from the Dutch Kingdom.
Of all tombs, I personally think that the story behind Kapitein Jas tomb is the most interesting and funny in particular way. Until today, local and international visitors believe that visiting his tomb can make their wishes come true although some say that Kapitein Jas doesn’t exist.
It is said that Kapitein Jas was a name of an extended land next to Jassen Kerk, a Portuguese church outside the Batavia old town, to accommodate the deceased from a malaria outbreak since there was no longer enough space in the cemetery behind Jassen Kerk.
So, I wonder if there was a body buried under the tombstone of Kapitein Jas those days.
Apart from tombstones, Museum Taman Prasasti also houses memorials and statues revealing the situation at the time they were built. The caskets used to bring bodies of Indonesia’s first president and vice president, Soekarno and Hatta, are sheltered by metal-roofed hut decorated with Indonesian flag.
The crying lady statue illustrates a very sad newly wed woman left by her husband who died from malaria when he was abroad. She finally hung herself.
The replica of R. Breveld monument with the skull stabbed by a spear is a memorial of R. Breveld, a Dutch, German and Thai descendant who was a traitor for Dutch Imperialism and sentenced to death because he planned to kill government officials.
A Japanese-inscripted stone in front of AJW. van Delden family funeral home, not far from the president’s caskets, is a memorial of Japanese troops against allied forces.
THE STORY BEHIND THE ANGELS
Somehow, the abundant of angels in the former cemetery triggers a question why the Protestant cemetery looks like the Catholic one.
In fact, the angels didn’t exist until the first public cemetery in the world stop operating and turned into a museum to beautify the environment inside the open air museum. Unintentionally, it shows a lack of understanding the differences between Protestant and Catholic, although they both are Christian and have the same bible.
Most probably, whoever has the idea of adding the angels is inspired by a lavishly decorated church with many statues and paintings, that are more obvious in Catholic churches than the Protestant ones, but he or she doesn’t notice that.
Additionally, even the broken hands were made on purpose to give the impression of old and vintage. They are not that old, though, at least not from the 18th or 19th century. Regardless the accidental mistake, the angel statues are my favorite as they are beautifully carved and accentuate plain graves and cemetery surroundings. I just don’t really care about the reason and the misunderstanding.
By accessing Museum Taman Prasasti for only Rp. 5000 ($ 0.5), it is a great place to relax, refreshing your mind and eyesight with artworks carved on tombstones and memorials, as well as to learn about the important people once buried there, who shape the history, influence the present life and future of the next generation.
Just a very short post this time. Happy 492th Anniversary, Jakarta!
Today, Jakarta citizens and visitors can enjoy all routes provided by Transjakarta buses for free. Tonight, the street party will start in Hotel Indonesia Roundabout or Bundaran HI. CNN Indonesia is having a special anniversary report in the historical Kota Tua area. Picnic and bazaar in Banteng Square, or Lapangan Banteng are held for 2 days starting from now until Sunday.
In short, the city is having a huge party everywhere this weekend!
As we all know, monkeys are intelligent animals in many ways, even considered the closest relatives to human beings. Nonetheless, when it comes to interacting with people, there are pros and cons. Some say they are cute and lovely, some say they are nasty and dangerous. Which one do you think is right?
For me, they are just unpredictable. So I stay safe when I face them. Don’t wear accessories, from earrings, a hat to sunglasses. Don’t feed them. Don’t touch them. When they climb on me, keep calm until they go down themselves. The only thing I dare to is to look at them and take pictures, but trying my best not too close to the subjects.
But a single shot experience in Buleleng may change my perception about monkeys. FYI, Buleleng is a regency situated in the north side of Bali, whose capital city is Singaraja. Suppose you’ve been to Kuta and Denpasar in south Bali, it takes about 2 hours drive from the south to the north. It is said that the monkeys in Buleleng are nice and don’t steal stuff.
ARE THESE MONKEYS THAT NICE?
When I was on my way up to Wanagiri Village, passing the hilly road in Buleleng, my dad asked the driver to pull over and stop the car on the side of the street full of long-tailed monkeys.
“Here?” I asked with disbelieve.
I’d always thought that the location would be either a park, a sanctuary or a zoo. Forget about a place like Monkey Forest in Ubud. It’s actually located on the side of the busy street, facing the beautiful lake Buyan and Tamblingan. No entrance fee needed to see these monkeys. They were just everywhere, especially in the forest where they reside across the street. I could even see them from the car window.
When I got off from the car, I saw a lady leaving the hut nearby, bringing a basket of peanuts and bananas, and started feeding a fat monkey with peanuts. However, he hissed, showing his small yet sharp teeth and eyes wide open. I was a bit shocked.
“That’s all right. He just wants bananas, not peanuts.” She tried to calm me down, convincing that feeding monkeys in the area is safe. I didn’t know monkeys could be so demanding.
Having changed the bait into a banana, the fat monkey, let’s call him Jack, quickly grabbed and enjoyed it for himself.
Next, she fed the smaller monkey, let’s call him Chad, on top of the roof. Later on, she gave me a turn to feed the perpetually hungry monkeys, passing me the basket. Since I know it wouldn’t be for free, I asked her how much it is.
Rp. 20.000 ($1.5) for a basket filled with 7 pieces of banana and a handful of peanuts is not too expensive compared to buying banana for Rp. 10.000 ($ 0.80) per piece in Monkey Forest. You can bring your own food, but I wasn’t ready. Anyways, she or anyone else in charge for the monkeys would be much happier if you get a basket of food from her or him.
I started giving a piece of banana to Chad, yet he unexpectedly move a few steps behind. The lady suggested me to move my hand further toward the monkey, therefore he could reach the food more easily. Well, I was just being cautious no matter how tame they are, that’s all.
However, in seconds, I noticed that real the reason why Chad couldn’t grab the peanuts from my hand was because he didn’t dare to step further. He could have done that, but Jack was standing in front of the hut while staring at the rooftop. It turned out that Chad was intimidated by Jack’s presence.
That also happened to other monkeys whose body size were just like Chad. I fed all of them equally, interchangeably between peanuts and bananas. However, when Jack was near them, they kept the distance from him, even ran away until the situation is “safe”.
Jack was indeed territorial as if he ran the world. He only wanted the food for himself, not really pleased when other smaller monkeys accepted it from men’s hands. He even chased those monkeys, including Chad, trying to scare them off. I did my best to give all the content in the basket for those poor monkeys, rather than Jack. Although I still spare some for Jack.
Despite Jack’s domination and the poor monkeys, it is true that they are more “polite” than those in other areas. They only approach you when there’s food in your hands meant for them. Nothing more. They don’t grab sunglasses, hats or accessories. They don’t climb on you. They don’t bite. In one condition: as long as you don’t touch them.
A few days later, we passed the same street, going down to the airport. I spotted some tourists holding a camera feeding the same monkeys I fed last time. Due to the development of tourism in north Bali, the cuteness of the monkeys is getting more popular. Feeding them is indeed a fun activity for many.
FUN, YET NOT WISE
Nonetheless, weeks after returning home, I accidentally stumbled upon on Mongabay, an environment news site, mentioning that actually it is unwise to feed them because nowadays the monkeys are 3 times fatter than how it should be. Overfeeding does not only have an impact on their health, but also changes their surviving behaviour in the wild and increase their aggressiveness on searching for food.
If I knew it from the start, I wouldn’t have done what I did.
In that case, local government should educate its people on side effects of offering monkey feeding activities for tourists to earn money, although it’s not a quick scheme to get the expected results to protect the future of long-tailed monkeys population.
My hometown Jakarta is the capital and the biggest city in Indonesia situated in Java island. Over the years, the 491 year-old city has developed into the busiest, the most populated city in the country due to fast economic growth, and also known for having one of the worst traffic jams in the world. Moreover, overloaded shopping malls overshadow the city’s historical elements. I even had no idea where to take my friends from overseas when they visited Jakarta besides shopping malls. The only historical site I know is Kota Tua (literally means old town), nothing else. What a shame!
Thanks to the growing trend of walking tours in Jakarta, organized by Jakarta Good Guide and Wisata Kreatif Jakarta for instance, not only are foreign tourists able to explore each area of Jakarta without traffic jam. But also for Jakarta residence like me, walking tours introduce alternative ways to enjoy the city other than hanging out in shopping malls, from visiting survived historical buildings turned into museums, Dutch heritage railway station, culinary spots until places of worship from different religions.
After joining walking tours since 2017, it’s a wake up call for me that I have very little knowledge about the rich history and diverse culture in my own city regardless how many years I’ve been living. To be honest, it’s been an interesting experience related to my travel life. I have become somewhat addicted in participating in the tours and it’s been my 8th time already and still counting.
Indeed, Jakarta is not only about shopping malls and it doesn’t necessarily take a thousand miles or land somewhere far far away to call it travelling.
MUST VISIT SPOTS THAT ARE NOT SHOPPING MALLS
Of all the places I visited, mostly with the troops from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, these are my favourite places of interest in Jakarta you should not miss, that are definitely not shopping malls:
Tugu Kunstkring Paleis
Tugu Kunstkring Paleis, originally named Bataviasche Kunstkring, was created by a Dutch architect Pieter Adriaan Jacobus Moojen from NV. Bouwploeg, the first property and architecture firm in Jakarta during the Dutch colony period. It was opened in 1914 to hold fine and decorative art exhibitions. Van Gogh, Chagall, Picasso and Gauguin paintings were among other finest works exhibited between 1939 and 1943.
After 1942, the function changed into the Islamic Council of Indonesia main office, immigration office, until Buddha Bar that brought a controversy. Since 2013, Tugu Hotels and Restaurants Group renamed it into Tugu Kunstkring Paleis and transformed it into a fine dining restaurant serving Indonesian and peranakan cuisine. The Dutch rationalist architecture style building also provides cafe, bar, wine tasting, gift shop, ball room and a balcony.
Exhibiting antiquity inheritance from Oei Tiong Ham, a sugar trading tycoon, the old glory of Bataviasche Kunstkring has returned. A golden gate (for real) and other precious artifacts from 2 Surakarta Kingdoms and a 9-meter-painting of “The Fall of Java” by Anhar Setjadibrata (the restaurant owner), inspired by Raden Saleh painting, decorated Diponegoro Room. The original memorabilia of Soekarno, Indonesia’s first president, is well-kept in Soekarno room on the 2nd floor, a private dining room occupying up to 25 guests. Each room has its own unique name inspired by prominent people in Indonesian history, such as Diponegoro, Soekarno, Multatuli, the owner’s favorite movie, Darna, and a legendary Greek god, Hercules. The bar name, Suzie Wong, is inspired by a famous novel by Richard Mason in 1957.
The 3-storey building has an elevator to comfort those who are not willing to climb the stairs to the top. If you take the stairs, observe the walls along the way as it displays nostalgic pictures of Tugu Kunstkring Paleis dated 100 years ago.
The fine dining restaurant plus gallery has a free entrance. All you have to do is to try their refreshing mocktails, such as Meik Wei Meik Wei, the best-selling Grand Rijsttafel Betawi, etc, and take your time as much as you like to see all the invaluable antique collections in each side and corner of the room.
Museum Taman Prasasti
Museum Taman Prasasti (Inscription Museum) was built in 1795 and little known that it is also the first public cemetery in the world. The land was inherited by Van Riemsdijk, the 30th governor-general of Dutch East Indies, for the last resting place of Protestant prominent people and government officials, such as Marius Hulswit (the architect of Cathedral Church in Jakarta), Olivia Mariamne Raffles (the first wife of Thomas Stanford Raffles, a Lieutenant General of Dutch Indies during British occupation), Dr. HF. Roll (the founder of STOVIA, School of Medicine, now University of Indonesia (UI) and many more).
The cemetery was closed in 1975 and all the remaining bodies of the deceased were taken by their families. Since July 9, 1977, it has been transformed into a museum.
What makes the open air museum so particular and funny at the same time is that the former Protestant cemetery looks like the Catholic one, which is more lavish because of the abundant of angle statues situated almost everywhere in the neighborhood and a Jesus Christ statue on top of Kapitein Jas’ grave. This happens due to lack of understanding the differences between Catholic and Protestant although both religions are derived from the same root, Christian religion.
Despite the misconceptions, I think the statues enhance the beauty of the museum and has become one of favorite locations for photo hunting and pre-wedding photography.
Ereveld Menteng Pulo
While Père Lachaise in Paris and Okunoin in Koyasan are popular cemeteries for tourist attractions, many Indonesian people still think otherwise about cemeteries. Dirty, slummy and haunted are the first impressions when they heard about it. I can’t blame them, though, since it’s unfortunately the fact that there are still many cemeteries in the country are untreated because of bad management and ignorance. Nonetheless, visiting Ereveld Menteng Pulo may change stereotypes about cemeteries.
Ereveld Menteng Pulo is a war cemetery managed by The Netherlands War Graves Foundation (OGS), to provide a resting place of over 4000 World War II victims between 1942 and 1945, both Dutch and Indonesian nationalities, against Japan. To reduce the amount of Ereveld in Indonesia from 22 to 7 cemeteries, victims from outside Java island were reburied in Ereveld Menteng Pulo between 1960 and 1970. Unlike other war cemeteries, most victims are civilians, including children, who died from Japanese concentration camp. Only one-fourth of them were on military duty.
Compared to other 6 Ereveld in Indonesia, Ereveld Menteng Pulo is the most beautiful of all. A lotus pond outside Simultaan Church and Columbarium, a place to store ashes of 754 Dutch soldiers. Assorted flowers in several spots within the 29,000 square-meter land. Seats with a shelter to protect visitors from heat and rain. My first impression about Ereveld menteng Pulo is that it’s a very well-maintained and peaceful garden in the middle of a concrete jungle. There’s a moment that I forgot that I’m still in Jakarta. Also, I heard that it has a magnificent view to catch the sunset, too.
The challenge when the cemetery is open to public is to educate the locals to break negative perceptions about a cemetery and realize that it’s a potential tourist destination when they help maintaining its cleanliness and comfort by avoiding the bad habit of littering and vandalism.
Situated behind Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada Hotel, Candra Naya was built somewhere around 1807 or 1867. It is a former residence of Major Khouw Kim An, the last Major of the Chinese (Majoor der Chinezen), a leader of Chinese society during the Dutch colony period from 1910 to 1918 and from 1927 to 1942. Therefore, the building was also known as the Major’s House. After the major’s passing, the house was rented to Sin Ming Hui Association in 1960s, holding many social-oriented activities, including Sin Ming Hui Photographic Society, the oldest photography community in Jakarta.
After the prohibition of the three-syllable names (aka Chinese names) in Indonesia, Sin Ming Hui Association was renamed into Tjandra Naya Social Union, whose spelling has changed into Candra Naya.
The demolition of the 3 original buildings at the back side of Candra Naya by Modern Group in 1993 to build Green Central City, a superblock of apartments and offices, raised protests from heritage conservation groups. Finally, the only survived part is the front side of the house, consisting of a living room, semi-private room, room for maids, concubines and their children and the gazebo.
Apart from historical visit, Candra Naya is also a popular place to chill out with friends and family. There are seats available outside the rear entrance, facing the pond and fountain. Around the neighborhood, there are several restaurants, such as Kopi Oey (Peranakan food), Token Resto (Taiwanese restaurant), and Fubar (Chinese restaurant).
Museum Maritim, or Maritime Museum is situated in the neighbourhood of the port of Tanjung Priok. Starting its soft opening since December 7, 2018, Maritime Museum exhibits the history of maritime in Indonesia over the centuries, from Majapahit, Sriwijaya, Mataram Kingdom until modern times. It includes the role of Indonesia in international spice trading until an interesting and less-known history of where the usual term of “celengan” (piggy bank) comes from, that eventually related to how Majapahit Kingdom introduced a habit of saving money in a piggy-shaped container (piggy bank).
To be honest, it is so much better than I expected and has reached the next level, just like those in developed countries. The layout is visually comfortable, spacious, including the reading room where visitors can take a rest and read provided books and magazines. Dioramas and historical artifacts have better quality compared to those in other museums I’ve visited in Jakarta. The simulator of a ship, where you can get a chance to be a helmsman, is one of the most interesting part of the museum. Don’t forget to visit the rooftop as well, where you can see the top view of Port Tanjung Priok and its surroundings.
THAT’S NOT IT
If I don’t mention other beautiful places in Jakarta, it’s probably either because I haven’t visited them or I don’t have proper images to show you. So, there will be the second part of this post. Remember, Jakarta is more than just shopping malls. So, stay tuned!
A few months after dining at Waytuki Vegetarian, I revisited Pasar Baru (previously spelled as Passer Baroe, literally means New Market in Indonesian), known as Little India, since most Indian settlements in Indonesia have been establishing their life and business since the 19th century.
However, finding Gokul Resto, an Indian vegetarian restaurant, was purely accidental. At first, I purposely returned to Galeri Jurnalistik Antara because of my assumption that there’s a cafe restaurant on the other side of the exhibition room. Stupid me, there isn’t. It was just an office space for Antara News Agency employees.
Damn, I was starving! I entered Pasar Baru area, passing the eclectic Passer Baroe gate to find something to eat. A few minutes later, I noticed a music store on my right side and a neon box mentioning “Wijaya Musik” and the other one below mentioning “Gokul Resto”.
It reminds me of what Wisata Kreatif Jakarta tour leaders said about an Indian vegetarian restaurant we couldn’t visit because it’s closed on Sundays and finally we ended up dining at Waytuki Vegetarian on that day.
But today’s Wednesday. So, it must be open!
I came inside Wijaya Music Store building, asking for a confirmation from one of its employees if Gokul Resto is open for real. Having said “yes” to my question, he showed me an elevator on the left, separated with a tempered glass door, telling me that it’s located on the 4th floor.
After reaching the 4th floor, it was unexpectedly quiet and didn’t seem like a well-known restaurant everyone recommends. Minimalist was the key of the dining room, accentuated by Roman style pillars attached on the walls. To deliver more comfort for the guests, the blinds covered all the windows to avoid direct sunlight during the daytime.
“Good afternoon.” A short, lean woman in a yellow veil greeted me.
Despite my confusion, I was happy that I came at the right time. Since most guests are employees in the neighborhood, office break time and after hour are the peak hours. Simultaneously, Gokul serves many delivery orders from huge online delivery services like Go-jek and Grab. Gosh, I was glad that I missed those busy hours.
At 4 pm, lunch time is over and dinner time hasn’t arrived yet. It means that my food would be first come first serve since nobody but me was at the restaurant. She passed me the menu. Like Waytuki Vegetarian, Gokul also serves wide variety of vegetarian version of Indian food, from panner tikka masala, mutton curry, tandoori roti, masala dosa, chicken briyani to cheese uttappam. However, Gokul has more Indonesian dishes than Waytuki, such as nasi bumbu Bali (Balinese style mixed rice), mie godog Jawa (Javanese style noodle soup), siomay (steamed dumpling) and more. Average price for main courses is between Rp. 35.000 and Rp. 55.000 ($3 and $5) per pertion.
Focusing on trying its best-selling dishes, my preference went to a separate menu highlighting Claypot Briyani Rice Set Menu, served with Indian style rice crackers or papad, and mix vegetables with raita (yoghurt-based condiment). The options are vegetarian, chicken, panner (Indian cottage cheese), kofta (meatball or meatloaf dishes made of minced meat), and mutton, starting from Rp 55.000 ($4.5), serves for two. But in reality, a lot of customers can finish it themselves without sharing. For sure, all kinds of meat are 100% vegetarian made of soybean.
I would go to mutton briyani (Rp 75.000 or $6), as I couldn’t get enough with it after going to Waytuki . I had no idea whether I could finish it all by myself or half of the portion would be to go. It didn’t matter at all. Same story for the drinks. I chose the best seller, which is mango lassie (Rp. 25.000 / $1.5).
The beauty of dining in off-peak hours is that it didn’t take long to wait for my orders to arrive on the table. My mango lassie and the salad side dish, consisting of sliced onion, tomato, cucumber, lime, green chili, yogurt sauce, and papad came first.
The mango lassie truly deserves to be everyone’s favourite, as it was fresh and not too sweet. Next, I dipped the papad in the yogurt sauce. The sourness of creamy yogurt balanced with earthy and herbaceous spices made it tasted heavenly when paired with the lightly salted papad.
I wondered if I should do the same with the salad dish, especially the green chili and onion. She confirmed that my guess was right. Indian people are used to dipping all those veggies in the yogurt sauce. Well, I tried to be like them by squeezing the lime, sprinkling its water evenly on the veggies and dipping the cucumber and onion in the yogurt sauce (but not the tomato and chili because I don’t like them). The combination of cucumber and yogurt was fine, yet it surprised me somehow that raw onion actually matches very well with the sauce, although I couldn’t finish the onion in the end.
Not long after that, the mutton briyani arrived. I noticed the different appearance between briyani rice in Gokul and Waytuki. At Waytuki, the briyani rice is golden brown when served. On the other hand, the one at Gokul is white with hints of saffron yellow colour, sprinkled with parsley and spring onion. The main spices are buried under the basmati rice. To get the golden brown coloured rice as it should be, you have to mix it yourself or ask the waiter to do so. I chose to mix it myself.
Harmonious blends of nutty, earthy and herbacious notes on the rice was something I love the most from the dish. Honestly speaking, briyani rice at Gokul is more savoury than that at Waytuki. Although I like both of them, my preference goes to the one having more intense taste of the spices like Gokul.
Not sure whether I was too hungry or the rice was too delicious, I finally managed to finish the briyani set menu meant for two!
I don’t know know about you, but in my perspective, the combination of briyani rice and mango lassie feels too rich in my mouth that I really need water to gargle to remove their excess taste. May be I should have ordered unsweetened tea or just plain water next time when ordering any kind of rich taste food.
Regardless the latter personal opinion, it doesn’t change the fact that I was really satisfied with the quality of food and drinks at Gokul Resto and I definitely would like to come back someday to try other menus offered.
Address: Jl. Ps. Baru No.12, RT.15/RW.4, Ps. Baru, Sawah Besar, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10710
Mangga Besar is a densely populated, hustling and bustling area in West Jakarta, the melting pot of bars, night clubs, discotheques, hotels, restaurants and street food stalls. Not to mention the less–known Avalokitesvara Temple and abundant medical clinics situated in residential areas somewhere behind the street food areas.
Joining Wisata Kreatif Jakarta on walking tour to Mangga Besar, the last destination of the tour is what I had been waiting for: eating cobra skewers and its blood and bile. The snake meat itself was not the biggest challenge for me, but the blood and bile were!
Along the street of Mangga Besar Raya, a few hundred meters from the famous Durian Acin, there are several stalls selling cobra skewers, among others Cobra 34 Pais. Established by Pais since year 2000, the family-owned business is inspired by his grandfather who has been selling cobra before 1980s, whose stall name is “34”. In Chinese belief, number 34 means life and death.
Generally speaking, cobra food stalls in Mangga Besar only open in the evening, starting from 5 pm until midnight.
BEST-SELLING COBRA SET MENU
The most well-known dish from Cobra 34, perhaps as well as other cobra snake food stalls, is a set menu of cobra skewers, blood and bile sold for Rp. 90.000 (about $7). King cobra package is sold for Rp. 300.000 (about $25). There are also cobra floss, cobra soup and cobra oil. The non-cobra product is biawak (tropical giant lizard) skewers, soup, floss and oil.
My cousin and I ordered the Rp. 90.000 cobra package. The rest of the tour members hesitated to get one and some would only like to have a bite or two, only if they finally had guts in the last minute.
“Do you want the blood and bile as well?” The vendor asked.
“Well, not this time. But we would like to have it pictured, so don’t throw it away.” I replied.
To be honest, the day before the tour, I promised that I would challenge myself to consume the blood and bile for the sake of compelling story telling in my blog. Nonetheless, my stomach felt bloated in that afternoon for reasons only God knows. Since they would be mixed with alcohol (and honey) to reduce the fishy taste, I wasn’t sure if I could stand the alcohol in my condition. Therefore, I decided not to consume them.
ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
The “slaughter” show began. After taking the cobra out of the cage, he (the vendor) closed the snake’s mouth with a bamboo clip and chopped its head off. Then, he stretched the headless cobra’s body and squeezed it to pour the blood and bile into the prepared plastic mug. Skinning and separating the cobra’s meat and bone were faster than I thought, less than 30 seconds, by tying the front part of the body with a rope and peeled its black skin with bare hands. The last step was to remove the remaining organs attached in the inner side of the cobra’s meat using a bamboo skewer.
During the 3 minute process of slaughtering, both cobra’s head and its beheaded body kept writhing. Slow but sure, it was a very agonizing way of facing death. If I were the vendor, I would first smash or stab right to its brain before doing anything else to end its pain. Especially the head kept flipping and the mouth kept moving after being left for an hour. Its body stopped writhing after 5 minutes since it was instantly cut and pierced in bamboo skewers to grill.
One cobra equals to one portion of cobra skewers, that consists of 9 pieces. Although it was about 2 meters long, the whole body mostly contains of bone and the organs inside, which are definitely inedible. The only meaty part is located in the outer part attached to the bone, which is not as much as I thought.
Watching the whole process of turning the venomous predator to be on our dinner plate is either curiosity or something too hard to handle, depending on your personal perspectives.
One of the tour members mentioned about her friend, who had severe acne problem and her prescribed medicines didn’t work, was advised to drink snake blood and bile, but not necessarily the meat. After consuming them regularly, the acne turned dry and gradually peeled off from her skin. Doing so was the last option for her, so eerie and disgusted feeling were swept away by the sense of urgency to get cured.
The vendor justified her story. He added a notion that many of his customers are women having skin problems.
THE TASTE OF ADVENTURE
We were so carried away witnessing the slaughter show that we almost forgot asking about where the blood and bile drink were. It turned out that he only knew that we didn’t want to consume it, but he didn’t get the idea that we still wanted to take a picture of them in the mug . He gave it to the parking lot caretaker instead, who apparently often volunteers to drink them every time customers are not willing to.
One of us asked the parking lot guy how it tasted.
“Nothing really special, just like Vicks Formula 44.” He replied.
Vicks Formula 44 is a liquid cough medicine, that can be obtained easily in drug stores without prescription. Well, I’m not a fan of the taste of any cough medicine, but it gave me an impression that drinking snake blood and bile doesn’t taste terrible at all.
Grilling the skewers took about 20 minutes and added with sweet soy sauce when served to our table. It looked and tasted exactly the same as chicken skewers, and the plus point is that it was completely fresh. Nonetheless, it was more chewy than chicken, but not as chewy as crocodile meat in Cambodia. I remember trying fried snake with turmeric spices many years ago elsewhere and the meat was much more tender than the skewers.
Eventually, some tour members dare to get some bites from us. They said that it’s just like chicken, but the only problem is that they still can’t get rid of the memory of how the cobra is “processed” into food.
Apart from food, Cobra 34 Pais also offers medical products, among others Kapsul Cobra (Cobra Capsule), Minyak Bulus (Softshell Turtle Oil) and Salep Cobra (Cobra Balm). I tried the Cobra Balm, that merely costs Rp. 30.000 ($2) per bottle. Using cobra oil as the main ingredient, Cobra Balm solves skin problems, such as skin allergies, acne, itchy, chapped skin, wounds and so on. I use it to cure acne problems and it works pretty well for me.
In a nutshell, I can guarantee the freshness of the food from Cobra 34 Pais since I witnessed the whole process from the start. All you need to do is to prepare yourself to see how it’s made. Otherwise, you can turn your back away when it’s in progress or watch it blindfolded.
Have a great dining adventure!
Cobra 34 (Pais)
Address: Mangga Besar Raya, West Jakarta, Indonesia