ereveld menteng pulo

5 Must-Visit Places in Jakarta beyond Shopping Malls – Part I

HOW WALKING TOURS CHANGE THE WAY I SEE JAKARTA

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.

kunstkring
Diponegoro Room at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis

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.

museum taman prasasti

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.

ereveld menteng pulo
Ereveld Menteng Pulo with Simultaan Church and Columbarium as background

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.

Candra Naya

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.

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

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.

maritime museum

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!

 

 

 

briyani rice

Indian Vegetarian Restaurant in Pasar Baru II: Gokul Vegetarian Resto

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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”.

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.

gokul resto

“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.

gokul resto

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.

gokul resto

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.

mango lassie
mango lassie

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.

gokul resto
the chips and salad condiment

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.

briyani rice
before

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!

briyani rice
after

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.

Gokul Resto

Address: Jl. Ps. Baru No.12, RT.15/RW.4, Ps. Baru, Sawah Besar, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10710

Opening Hours: 10.30 am to 7.30 pm

Phone: +62 21 3521949 / +62 21 3810492

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Adventure Dining in Mangga Besar: Cobra Skewers, Blood and Bile in West Jakarta

A GLIMPSE OF MANGGA BESAR AND COBRA 34 PAIS

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.

mangga besar

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.

sate cobra
pouring the blood and bile

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.

sate cobra
this one is about to be our dinner

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.

DSCF2296 copy
head, bone and meat

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.

sate cobra
at a glance, no difference between cobra and chicken skewers

MEDICAL PRODUCTS

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.

salep cobra
cobra balm

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

Tel: +62 812 8777 5387

Opening Hours: 5 pm – midnight

candra naya

Candra Naya: From Major’s House to Nation’s Heritage

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Finding Candra Naya building was a bit funny experience when I had to be there for a gathering with Chinatown Walking Tour members of Jakarta Good Guide. At a glance, Candra Naya is like a hidden gem in a concrete forest, that only can be found after passing the alley of Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada Hotel, right before Green Central City superblock. Its unconventional location is in fact has an interesting story behind it.

candra naya
front entrance
candra naya
front door

It is estimated that Candra Naya was built in the rabbit year in Chinese Lunar Calendar, somewhere around 1807 or 1867. It is a former residence of Major Khouw Kim An, who inherited the house from his father, Khouw Tjeng Tjoan, who had 14 wives and 24 children. Khouw Kim An was the last Major of the Chinese (Majoor der Chinezen), a leader of Chinese society during the Dutch colony period from 1910 to 1918 and re-elected from 1927 to 1942. Therefore, the building was also known as the Major’s House.

candra naya
Major Khouw Kim An

candra naya

 

Born on June 5, 1879, Khouw Kim An was not only the Major of the Chinese, but also an entrepreneur and a shareholder of Bataviaasche Bank. He received numerous awards from the Dutch for his merit to the local people. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 1942 during Japanese occupation and died in the concentration camp on February 13, 1945.

candra naya

candra naya

 

After the major’s passing and not long after the end of World War II, the house is inherited to his family and rented to Sin Ming Hui Association in 1960s. Initially founded to help victims of the riot in Tangerang in 1946, Sin Ming Hui Association held many social-oriented activities in Candra Naya building, from establishing a medical clinic, sports center, Candra Naya school to Sin Ming Hui Photographic Society, the oldest photography community in Jakarta founded in 1948.

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. It was also a popular wedding venue from 1960s to 1970s.

candra naya
one of the wing rooms

candra naya

Unfortunately, it is quite common that cultural heritage buildings in Indonesia are not always save from harm, even if they are protected by law, including Candra Naya building. After the property was sold to Modern Group, the 3 original buildings at the back side of Candra Naya were demolished in 1993 to be the site of Green Central City, a superblock of apartments and offices. The demolition lead to protests from heritage conservation groups.

Finally, the front building manages to survive, consisting of a living room for guest receptions and Khouw Kim An’s office, semi-private rooms for close guests, right and left wing side for maids, concubines and their children, and a gazebo behind the main building with a veranda and a pond. The demolished buildings have never been rebuilt ever since.

candra naya
pool and fountain

For older generations, like my dad for instance, visiting Candra Naya brings back his memory when my grandfather took him there to play badminton. On the other hand, millennials may not notice the role of Candra Naya for new generations and never heard of Sin Ming Hui Association.

Nonetheless, its legacy still remains nowadays. The medical clinic is the predecessor of notable hospitals in Jakarta, such as Sumber Waras Hospital and Husada Hospital. Candra Naya school has developed into Tarumanegara University, situated in Grogol area, West Jakarta.

Apart from historical visit, Candra Naya is also a popular place to chill out on lazy Sunday afternoon (or any day you prefer) with friends and family. There are seats available outside the rear entrance, facing the pond and fountain. Overall, the environment at Candra Naya is convenient, safe, well-maintained and clean.

The only thing that needs some improvements is the public toilet. The circle gates with their pink borders looks classy and quite eye-catching. Nonetheless, the facilities and cleanliness are poor. The toilet bowl looks shabby and dirty, no toilet paper and the room is a bit smelly. The wash room has neither soap nor toilet paper. I believe it won’t break the bank by providing those basic necessities. The only problem from this matter is negligance. Well, poor toilet facilities happens lots of times to main tourist attractions in Indonesia, unfortunately.

candra naya

 

candra naya
Kopi Oey

When hunger strikes, there’s no need to leave Candra Naya area. The are some restaurants in the neighborhood, whose building is a former guard house. Kopi Oey is the one you will instantly notice when you visit Candra Naya, situated on the right hand side of the building. Serving Chinese Peranakan dishes, Kopi Oey Candra Naya is the most beautiful branch of the chain. The food is pretty good in affordable price and the interior is very cozy to hang out.

kopi oey candra naya

Other restaurants are Token Resto, a Taiwanese restaurant, and Fubar, a Chinese restaurant. If you like spicy food and some Taiwanese snacks, Token Resto is the right place to try. The only restaurant I haven’t tried is Fubar and I’d like to have a visit someday.

candra naya

 

candra naya

 

Despite obstacles over the years, I’m so glad that it still stands gracefully nowadays, so all of us and the next generation are able to witness of the most beautiful Chinese style heritage houses in Jakarta. Overall, I enjoy visiting Candra Naya and make sure you don’t miss it when you visit Jakarta.

candra naya
Candra Naya and Novotel at night

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pantjoran tea house

Pantjoran Tea House: The Taste of Heritage in Jakarta Old Town

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Pantjoran Tea House is situated in Glodok area, Jakarta, the biggest Pecinan or Chinatown in Indonesia that has been existing since 380 years ago. Jalan Pancoran is part of Glodok area coverage, apart from Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley) and Petak Sembilan. The two-storey building is also the main gate to Jakarta Old Town, formerly called Batavia, from the south.

The name “Glodok” is inspired by “grojok grojok”, the sound of running water from the douche in the yard of the City Hall. Nonetheless, Chinese people pronounced it as “glodok”, that finally becomes an official name of the area. On the other hand, the translation of “douche”, which is pancuran in Indonesian, inspires Pancoran (local’s unofficial pronunciation of pancuran) as a street name.

Operating since nearly 3 years ago, Pantjoran Tea House is definitely not the oldest tea house and restaurant in Jakarta. Nonetheless, the age of the building is much older than the tea house itself because it used to be Apotheek Chung Hwa (Chung Hwa Pharmacy), the second oldest pharmacy in Jakarta opened in 1928.

pantjoran tea house jakarta

After it runs out of business, the building was neglected and untreated for years, occupied by illegal tenants and shop houses on the 2nd floor. After the government initiated a revitalization program in the Old Town area, The Head of Indonesia Architect Association, Ahmad Djuhara, lead the former Apotheek Chung Hwa renovation project started in September 2014. 16 months later, in December 2015, Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corp (JOTRC) CEO, Lin Che Wei, reopened the privately-owned building,  transforming it into Pantjoran Tea House. It also has been nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Commemorating the tradition of drinking tea is one of the major reasons why the building is functioned as a tea house. The birth of tea culture can be traced back in the 17th century, when a Dutch botanist named Andreas Cleyer brought the tea seedling from Japan by a VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or Dutch East India Company) ship that regularly harboured around the Old Town.

At around 9.30 am, our tour guide from Jakarta Good Guide, Cindy, I and the rest of tour members arrived at Pantjoran Tea House that took 7 minutes walk from Candra Naya building. What makes it distinctive is the presence of 8 teapots on the long table situated on the right side of the entrance door.

The teapot display is in fact not only for the sake of eye-catching view, but also a symbol of solidarity in diversity that has been told from generations to generations.

pantjoran tea house

The tradition began when Gan Djie came to Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1659 for his trading business and lived in Kota Tua (Old Town) area. In 1663, he was appointed by the Dutch to be the third Kapitein der Chineezen (Chinese Captain), a prominent leader in the semi-autonomous Chinese community, until his death in 1666. His wife replaced his position until her retirement in 1678.

Captain Gan Djie and his wife were famous for their kindness and solidarity during their lives. They always put eight teapots in front of the captain’s office for peddlers and those  who were tired to shelter while zipping some tea with for of charge. Those days, cafes, restaurants as well as other food and drink vendors were rare.

Since then, the area where they lived is known as “Patekoan”, whose name is originated from pat (eight in Chinese) and teko (teapot in Indonesian). Although the name of the area has changed into Jalan Peniagaan (Peniagaan Street), a lot of people still call it as Patekoan.

pantjoran tea house

To revitalize the spirit of solidarity, those tea in the teapots are served for free for everyone, forever, even without dining at the restaurant itself. The inscription in front of the teapots says it out loud, “Tradisi ‘Patekoan’ (8 Teko); SILAKAN MINUM! TEH UNTUK KEBERSAMAAN; TEH UNTUK MASYARAKAT” (‘Patekoan’ (8 Teapots) Tradition; PLEASE HAVE A DRINK!; TEA FOR TOGETHERNESS; TEA FOR THE PEOPLE)

Cindy gave us some time to drink the tea before heading to Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley). The tea house waiter also encouraged us to do the same and convinced that it’s free.

A month later, I returned to the same place with my family. In my case, it’s my second time to taste the free black tea from one of the old-fashioned white-green teapots next to the entrance door. We planned to taste the dim sum, but it was too late. Opening at 7 am, most of the dim sum menus were already finished by 10 am. The peak hour is usually between 7.30 am to 9 am, where nearly all the guests who just finish walking and jogging around the Old Town area.

Therefore, we finally ordered some main courses to share, such as fried noodle, fuyung hai (egg omelette with minced prawn), the signature nasi goreng Pantjoran (beetroot fried rice with seafood), stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce, and 2 other remaining dim sum menus still available, ha kau (prawn crystal dumpling), chicken siomay and jasmine tea.

pantjoran tea house
first floor

The tea house interior is dominated Chinese style wooden shutters that allow sunlight coming into the dining room. The first floor where we sat is a non air-conditioned room with a fan placed on the high ceiling. Fortunately, it wasn’t so hot inside because the entrance door remained open facing our seat.

pantjoran tea house

I love what I saw on the second floor. Long and vertical windows, Chinese style wooden shutters and antiquities deliver nostalgic moments of Chinese occupation during the Dutch colonization era, although the whole parts of the interior is brand new and nothing like the original because its condition was so bad that it was hard to see the traces of the original look at that time. Moreover, it’s air conditioned and has roomy spaces among the seats.

pantjoran tea house

 

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

There are several paintings depicting the old glory of Apotheek Chung Hwa on the walls. The original building was bigger in the past, yet it was cut off from 400 meters to 300 meters left due to the expansion of the street. Also, there are other paintings showing the same building with distinctive elements of colonization from 2 countries, the Japanese red torii gate and Dutch style trams passing by.

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

Apart from paintings, there are some frames of cheatsheet and chart showing the history of drinking tea, types of tea and how tea culture enters Indonesia. Suppose you have a patience in reading them all, visiting this floor feels like entering a museum.

Well, I think it’s my time to return to reality and I believe our food should be ready to serve.

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

private seating for meetings
private room for meetings

The ha kau and chicken siomay was pretty good. We also liked the jasmine tea. Nonetheless, the fried noodle, nasi goreng Pantjoran, fuyung hai were just okay and not very special. I didn’t consume the last 3 meals since I have severe allergy in fried food, so I only conclude from what my family said about it.

There was an issue with my stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce. The chicken was deep fried with flour instead of stir-fry. Apparently the chef improvised the menu without informing the waiter. It’s a common sense that every dish should be in line with the image and description in the menu book. I asked for a replacement since it would trigger my allergy later on. She agreed to change it with the stir-fry chicken as it should be and the taste was quite good.

pantjoran tea house
Yes, I was too late to take the pics of the food 😉

In a nutshell, Pantjoran Tea House is an interesting tourist spot and a lovely ambiance for gathering, especially in terms of history and unique heritage of Patekoan tradition that remind us to embrace cultural differences as part of a nation’s pride.

The price range is middle to high segment with an approximate total spending of Rp. 70.000 to Rp. 100.000 ($5 to $8) per person, depending on what you order. Although there are many more recommended Chinese restaurants in Jakarta, it still has a decent food quality and not a tourist trap at all.

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/jakarta-404.html

Pantjoran Tea House

Opening hours: 07:00 am – 09.00 pm

Address: Jl. Pancoran Raya No. 4-6, Glodok

Phone: +6221 6 905904

vihara toasebio

Chinese New Year’s Post Highlights

New Year celebration is over according to Gregorian solar calendar, but it’s just about to start according to Chinese lunar calendar. Usually, Chinese New Year celebration ranges from January 21 until February 20. The 12 animals in Chinese Zodiac, such as rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, have a cycle that runs every 12 years. In 2018, it’s the year of dog that will fall on February 16.

Apart from celebrating Chinese New Year with my family, I’d like to celebrate it online as well through my blog. Therefore, during the month of February, I will dedicate my posts to historical destinations in Chinatown Jakarta I visited with Jakarta Good Guide, such as:

  • Candra Naya, the former residence of Khouw Kim An, the last Major of Chinese during the Dutch occupation, once housed 14 wives and 24 children.
chinatown jakarta
Candra Naya
  • Pantjoran Tea House, a Chinese restaurant whose building used to be a pharmacy called Apotheek Chung Hua before its revitalization project in 2015.
pantjoran tea house
Pantjoran Tea House
  • The oldest temples in Jakarta called Dharma Bhakti Temple, known as Kim Tek Ie Temple, and Dharma Jaya Toasebio Temple.
vihara toasebio
Dharma Jaya Toasebio Temple

And some more Chinese related destinations I still need to think about, probably in the following month? Oh well, let it be a surprise for you. So, stay tuned!

jakarta

New Year’s Eve: Morning Walk on Car Free Day in Jakarta

NEW YEAR’S EVE IN THE MORNING

New Year’s Eve celebration is identical with fireworks, booze, fancy dinner, traveling and gathering in public places at night. Which is great, actually. But I just don’t do that anymore.

Being a Jakarta resident, staying at home on New Year’s Eve has been my choice for the past few years because of the terrible traffic jam in the evening (of New Year’s Eve) every year, which is killing me. Not to mention road blocks on main roads for stage installations for night performances and street food vendors, that worsen the existing bad traffic.

Instead, I joined my uncle for photo hunting on December 31, 2017, the last day of Car Free Day in Jakarta at 6 am. It was a great effort for me to be on site at 6 am since I’m not a morning person, but I think it would be a great alternative way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

A GLIMPSE ABOUT CAR FREE DAY JAKARTA

Car Free Day in Jakarta has been initiated since 2002, held every Sunday morning, to reduce dependency on using vehicles to commute. At the same time, it encourages healthier activities, such as walking, jogging, cycling and hopefully, the level of air pollution decreases. From time to time, the week period and duration of Car Free Day have experienced some changes. Finally, since 2012 until now, Car Free Day starts every Sunday morning from 6 am to 11 am.

PRIOR TO PHOTO HUNTING

Arriving at around 6.10 am, we passed the vendors, who were in the final stage of setting up their tents and merchandise along the street, to reach the roundabout of Hotel Indonesia known as Bundaran Hotel Indonesia or Bundaran HI with the signature Selamat Datang (literally means “welcome”) Monument situated on MH. Thamrin Street.  Although it wasn’t crowded yet, I still couldn’t avoid the presence of “unwanted” figure on the left side in my photo.

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drink

I zipped a glass of hot Milo drink while sitting on the pavement of Bundaran HI facing the front side of Grand Hyatt Hotel. It felt like hanging out at an outdoor hotel cafe in a shoestring because it cost me only Rp. 5000 ($ 0.30) per cup.

jakarta

ACTIVITIES ON CAR FREE DAY

Mingling with people from various background and activities on street when no cars passing by, except Transjakarta public buses, is an amazing experience. It opens my eyes that I’m looking at 2 sides of a coin simultaneously. One side shows a number of people who depend on Car Free Day as a(n) (additional) source of income, while on the other side shows a number of people who enjoy a day off from work and tend to spend some amount of money when necessary.

THOSE WHO MAKE A LIVING

Occupations on the street may vary, and each of them is unique in its own way.

Street Food Vendors

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When hunger and thirst strike, there’s nothing to worry about. Vendors on the bike sell coffee, coffee milk, ginger drink, oatmeal, hot chocolate and cup noodles. I got my hot Milo drink from one of these fellas on the bike, anyways.

Besides, the carts parking along the street offer more food variety. Gorengan or deep fried food is what most vendors sell, such as tahu bulat (round shaped tofu), fried fermented soybean, fried tofu, chicken nugget and many more. For healthier options, there are half-ripe mango, fresh cut bell fruit with spicy sugar, papaya, palm juke water and fresh juices. Heavier meals from vermicelli or egg noodle with meatballs, chicken porridge, fried rice until fried noodle are also available. If you are a sweet tooth, traditional lolly pop and cotton candy could be a perfect choice.

porridge
chicken porridge with crackers

Souvenir Vendors

Ondel-ondel is originally a giant puppet having 2.5 meters high used for welcoming important guests. The tradition belongs to Betawi folk, the indigenous people of Jakarta, and ondel-ondel the icon of Jakarta. Nowadays, these puppets are also produced in smaller sizes to take home. They also appear in the form of illustrations on t-shirts, mugs, bags and more, but mostly sold in outlets at shopping malls.

Other vendors sell masks, bubble solutions, non-branded and counterfeited branded bags, shoes, shirts, jeans, belts, as well as bras and underwear. Besides, there are trumpets, confetti and other new year related goods.

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Ondel-ondel
jakarta
bubble solution
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the masks

Additionally, vintage bike spare part stall is also quite popular because the members of Vintage Bike Community or Komunitas Sepeda Onthel have a gathering every Sunday morning on Car Free Day. And these items don’t come that cheap since their availability is rare nowadays.

vintage bike spare parts

Odong-odong Rider

jakarta
odong-odong rider and a couple

In this picture, Odong-odong is kid’s rides assembled on a modified rickshaw or motorcycle. It usually comes with fast-paced music like dangdut or kid’s songs the attract future customers, who are obviously children. The rate per ride may vary, between Rp. 2000 ($0.10) and Rp. 5000 ($ 0.40).

Street Artists

Street artists usually wear costumes of famous cartoon characters or imaginary creatures they create themselves.

jakarta
Posing with street artists is a fun activity, too

However, you will find more than one street artists dressing up like pocong. Pocong is an appearance of a dead body whose soul is trapped in its shroud and one of the most popular ghost characters showing repeatedly in Indonesian horror movies. What they need to do is to stand still until somebody wants to pose with them.

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get ready to work
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pocong off duty
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Kid: “Mom, can I take a picture with her?” Mom: “No, honey, she’s too scary. Leave her alone.” Ghost Lady: “You should try harder, kid. I need some money to eat.”

Librarian

The main cause of Library on the Go or Perpustakaan Keliling is to encourage local citizens to have more interest in reading. Librarians are assigned to serve walk-in customers who wants to borrow some books for certain period of time or read them on the spot.

THOSE WHO ENJOY A DAY OFF

If earning some money is not the purpose, what do the rest of people do on Car Free Day?

Walking the Dog

Human beings are not the only ones who need some exercise, after all.

jakarta

Cycling

Cycling is a sport that you can either do it individually, with a group of friends and families or gather in a cyclist community.

jakarta

We specifically drew our attention to the members of Komunitas Sepeda Onthel or Vintage Bike Community, who labelled themselves as onthelist. The community incorporates people with common interest in cycling and old bicycle called onthel bikes, the type of bikes used in Jakarta during the Dutch colonization period until the year of 1970’s.

Unlike other cyclists with their sportswear, onthelists outfits are replicas from the old generation era, such as KNIL soldier, traditional Betawi and Javanese clothing, World War II pilot and many more. Many of the outfits are custom made since it’s hard to get the right style and fitting from the stores.

Moreover, onthelists are born to be cool  models.

jakarta

jakarta

smoking

Posing with some of the onthelists, why not? They are nice people and proud to be captured with someone else’s camera. Simply ask for their permission and there’s no need to sneak and chase them just for a picture. Before we left, one of the onthelists reminded us to watch our bags since he has witnessed several daredevil pickpockets regardless the gender.

Last but not least, I’m not sure in which community this kid belongs to, but I think he looks cute in that outfit.

DSCF1941 copy

NOT AS CROWDED AS USUAL

During Christmas and New Year holiday, a lot of Jakarta residents are either traveling to other cities within the country or overseas, affecting the decreasing amount of participants on Car Free Day.

car free day jakarta
not as crowded as usual

Unexpectedly, we heard a woman’s voice at around 8 am, probably one of the Ministry of Transportation officials, saying that there was no car free day on that day and she warned everybody on the street to leave the spot. Get real! A lot of people, including us, were confused and disappointed since there was no official announcement beforehand.

Fortunately, we were about to leave the spot and continued our journey to the Port of Sunda Kelapa. Although sometimes things just don’t happen like the way we want to, we still cherished the day to conclude the year of 2017.

Happy new year and may all of you be blessed in 2018!

jakarta

 

gili lawa

Chasing Sunset on Gili Lawa

Gili Lawa is located in the north side of Komodo Island and considered as the gate to the natural habitat of the largest prehistoric lizard in the world, Komodo dragon (until now, I still don’t understand why it’s called “dragon”, since we all Indonesians see it as a giant lizard), at Komodo National Park. It takes 3 to 4 hours from Labuan Bajo, but only 30 minutes from the famous Pink Beach by boat.

There are 2 parts of Gili Lawa, which are Gili Lawa Darat (literally meaning Land Gili Lawa) and Gili Lawa Laut (Sea Gili Lawa), situated across one another. To hunt for sunset, we visited Land Gili Lawa, located between Sea Gili Lawa and Komodo Island. It was our second time to do the same activity as that on Padar Island the day before with Indonesia Photo Tour.

gili lawa

Like Padar Island, the only way to get the best viewpoints is by trekking. Land Gili Lawa is an uninhabited island, so make sure to bring own food and drinks, wear trekking shoes or mountain sandals, sunglasses, a hat, a flashlight (the one from your smartphone should be okay, too) to get down from the hill after dark and last but not least, a good quality camera (and all the tools necessary if you want) to capture the moments to the fullest! Bring a plastic or paper bag as well to collect your trashes (and bring it to the boat for littering). Remember that there are no local people there, including the cleaning service, so please be responsible to keep clean and preserve the nature.

gili lawa

Last April, the hilly terrain was dominated by savanna covered with grass and I was delighted to see that because it was like a hilly golf course that doesn’t happen all year long. Usually, the land turns green during rainy season and a transition to dry season. In dry season, it turns to be a barren land. Some say that it delivers a different kind of beauty, but I personally like it green.

The signature characteristic of Gili Lawa is that the 2 islands, situated across each other, have a sort of “tentacle” shape on one side, whose edges are not attached. It creates a gap that looks like a straits, where all ships and boats can pass by freely.

gili lawa

gili lawa

It took between 30 minutes to an hour to reach the top of the hill, depending on speed and stamina. For débutant trekkers, like me, the trails were pretty strenuous. Steep paths with gravels and slippery soil were a daily dose along the way. Having anticipated beforehand, our local guides were ready to give a hand when necessary. It was something I desperately needed on certain paths, but I tried my best to hang on and not to depend on them entirely. I had no shame using my own ass to slide on uneven and slippery surfaces, while grabbing steady rocks or twigs as handrails for balancing.

While trekking, make sure to keep looking down, place your feet sideways, either to the left or right instead of straight, to prevent getting easily slipped. If you have knee problems or tired, take a break. Listen to your body and don’t push the limit too much. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need to. Last but not least is to believe in yourself you’re gonna make it no matter what.

gili lawa

The good news is there are 2 options for viewing the sunset, the easy way or hard way. I remember the day before on Padar Island that going down to the shore was so much more challenging than going up. Therefore, I know my limit and decided to choose the easy way, meaning that I “only” needed to walk half of the whole trail and that was a relief. Although it was impossible to avoid the nature, which are steep and slippery paths no matter what.

I wasn’t alone with my choice. Actually, 6 of 8 members in our group were with me. Especially, our tour leader told us that the sunset looks prettier from the lower view point than the higher one. So, I didn’t see the point of having feet and knee sores for the sake of the reaching the peak.

How about the hard way? Easy. Just walk all the way to the top, as shown on the following pictures:

gili lawa
trekking to the highest view point
gili lawa
yes, it’s human beings, not fleas!

The lower level view point, aka the easy way, was actually stunning! Gili Lawa had never been better from this spot with savanna as a photo framing. By the way, the water should be blue, but I forgot switching the dynamic range setting back to normal.

gili lawa
waiting

On the right side of the island, that was where the sun went down. It was the right moment to place our tripod and adjust the camera setting. This spot was perfect because it is off the beaten path. Most people try hard to the peak, thinking that the highest point should have the best view. But it doesn’t always work that way.

gili lawa
Chasing sunset. Image credit: Indonesia Photo Tour.

Using Fuji XA-1, the first generation of XA type from Fuji X Series, I managed to capture the sunset with low light manual setting without any filter (cause I don’t have one).

gili lawa

After the sun was below the horizon, no one should leave the spot immediately, since the magical moment of spectacular lighting had yet to come. This was the moment I long for while chasing sunset and I hope it would not be disappointing. Sometimes nature doesn’t answer your prayers, so I prepared for the worst and if it happens, let it be.

Approximately 15 to 20 minutes later, the sky showed off its radiant and dramatic yellow-orange colour gradation. After changing the setting into advanced filter and choosing dynamic range feature, it resembled Mordor on Lord of the Rings, a place where Frodo should throw away the cursed ring.

gili lawa
second sunset

Furthermore, the island we had seen since 3 pm from all angles suddenly transformed itself to bluish-pinkish appearance both in the sky and the water surface. I love how the cloud in the middle looked like a pile of popcorn. I truly admired and appreciated the non-polluted environment that delivered such a miracle. It was the most beautiful blue hour I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t ask for more.

It was originally beautiful on its own, although the picture shown below used a dynamic range feature and dramatized the overall look. Does it remind you of a children’s book cover?

gili lawa
blue hour

After the magical moments was over and before it was getting too dark, we left our spot with a flashlight in our hand for clearer view of the paths on the way back to our ship. Darkness may turn into danger if we get slipped or lost without assistance (and don’t know how to find the right track).

As a farewell to Gili Lawa, we captured the sunrise from the boat the next morning on the way to Papagarang Island.

I was glad that we visited this island, since not all tour operators put Gili Lawa on their itinerary. Sampai jumpa lagi, or see you again!

sunrise
sunrise from the boat

Further enquiry about the trip, please check: http://www.indonesia-photography.com/. Instagram: @indonesiaphototour

DISCLAIMER

Please note that I’m not affiliated with this company and not paid for this article. I’m nothing but a participant of this trip.

padar island

Trekking on Padar Island: Challenging Path for Breathtaking Views

PADAR ISLAND AND KOMODO DRAGON

Padar Island is one of the islands that belongs to Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Flores Island, Indonesia. It’s the third largest island after Komodo and Rinca Island, about 14.09 square kilometers.

The uninhabited island is a home for savanna and palmyra palm trees flourishing on the hilly terrain, along with mangrove, gecko, snakes, eagles and crows. On the other hand, the sea is a home for manta rays, sea turtles, corals, and sharks.

But, how about Komodo dragons?

The locals said that not long ago, there were 5 Komodo dragons exiled on Padar Island after attacking humans on Rinca Island, where the more aggressive dragons (than those in Komodo National Park on Komodo Island) live. However, recently there are only 3 left due to lack of food and eventually dead.

Fortunately, our tour leaders mentioned this information the day after in order not to scare us! Anyways, suppose they happen to be on the island, they would be somewhere off-the-beaten path on the other side of the hill.

Regardless the 3 remaining hungry dragons, those days, Padar Island was once the habitat of Komodo dragons. Nonetheless, illegal hunting and food deficiency finally lead to their extinction. FYI, feeding Komodo dragons is not allowed on Komodo Island and the rest of the islands to preserve their survival instinct.

padar island
approaching Padar Island. The boat we stayed is on the far right side

Padar Island is one of the popular destinations for island hopping, besides Kelor, Kanawa, Gili Lawa, Pink Beach and Rinca Island. The only transportation is a local boat, and spending overnight at sea is the most efficient way to explore the beauty of each island.

So there I was, in the boat with other group members of Indonesia Photo Tour, a photography-oriented tour, to capture sunset and sunrise views. Departing from Labuan Bajo, the capital city of East Nusa Tenggara province, I tried my best to take a nap during the 3 hour trip. But in the end, I only laid down on the bench with my eyes closed instead of having a proper sleep.

CHASING SUNSET: NO PAIN, NO GAIN

Three hours later, our boat approached Padar Island, docking few meters from the shore. Then, we immediately took another 10 minute ride with a lifeboat to actually get our feet to the ground (read: sand).

padat island

We had been previously warned that reaching the top to hunt for sunset would be a challenging job, but “slightly less” strenuous than trekking on Kelor Island.

In the beginning of the trail, I was glad that the wooden stairs welcomed us, becoming the saviour to save our energy, although they only covered a very small percentage of the whole trail.

Actually, the stairs were created to ensure the safety of The Minister of Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN), Rini Soemarno, and the officials who visited Padar Island on Youth Pledge Day last year. They are initially not meant for trekkers, but manage to offer easier options for visitors, nonetheless, who either have less fond of adventure or less physical strength.

pulau padar

On the other hand, European trekkers object the availability of the stairs as they ruin the fun and challenge that the nature already delivers. Not to mention that nearly all national parks in Europe have stairs with a better quality than those in Indonesia.

The ugly truth of the hilly terrain with gravels and steep paths came next after the last step of the stairs. I was (and still am) a trekker newbie. Without some helpful hand from our guide, I could only imagine how many more times I would get slipped. I was amazed that some people (not from our group) can walk nearly effortlessly only by wearing a pair of cheap flip-flops!

The view point from each level of the hill was pretty. Every time we took a break, we looked down to see how far we had been. We chuckled in awe, witnessing the beauty of God’s creation and capturing with our camera as much as we could. Yet the local guide kept reminding us,

“You haven’t seen it all. More magnificent views await as you go further up.”

padar island

padar island

padar island
the x-trail

So true. The higher we went, the more stunning views we got. In fact, Padar Island has a very unique shape, like a tree with crooked branches on both sides, creating giant C-shaped silhouette hugging the water. Not to mention that the savanna made the entire surface of the island looked like a hilly golf course from the distance.

I felt so lucky that the savanna was still green when we were there in April, as it will dry somewhere in July and the hills will become barren and look more “rocky”.

padar island

padar island
keep going, despite the burning heat. Photo Credit: @firman_photography

The most outstanding viewpoint of all was indeed the destined location for chasing sunset, which was actually not on the peak of the hill. There were 2 C-shaped angles instead of 1, creating a signature characteristic of this spot. The sun was shining right above the crooked part of the hill and I couldn’t be more excited how the sunset would look like. We immediately placed our tripod and set up the (photography) tools required for best results. I didn’t really have those sophisticated tools, except a tripod, a shutter release and of course, my own Fuji XA-1.

Landscape photography requires a lot of patience, the right technique, tools, and timing. But suddenly, when the right (sunset) time arrived, the uninvited cloud came out from nowhere blocking the view of the sun going down!! A stroke of luck is something we should not put aside, and that’s what we missed at that time.

The picture below was taken a few moments before the cloud hid the sun.

padar island

I think the sky could be more reddish in blue hour if the thick cloud didn’t conceal the source of residual sunlight before it completely disappeared. No matter what happened, I still believe that all the struggle we had from the start was paid off with picturesque views like nowhere else in the world.

blue hour
padar island
blue hour on the other side of the spot

Other remaining challenge was going down from the hill after dark and get ready to gather at 4.30 am the day after at the dining room above our rooms for chasing sunrise.

padar island
gorilla shaped rock a few step above our sunset spot

CHASING SUNRISE: BEST VIEW FROM THE BEACH

Despite motion sickness due to the mild wave that shook the boat the night before, I managed to get up 40 minutes earlier than the actual gathering hour. What motivates me the most was to take a shower before peak hour since there were only 2 shared bathroom for 12 people. So, I really needed to outsmart the situation to avoid the queue.

Fortunately, there was no need to trek for sunrise hunting because we captured the moment from the beach, with an eye level view of sailing boats at sea. The colour change of the sky started at 5 am and gradually turned into the most spectacular red sky I’ve ever seen in my life, just before the sun was up.

padar island
before sunrise
padar island
the most spectacular sky ever seen
padar island
the sunrise

Since we were the only ones witnessing the sunrise, there was no need to fight for a great spot. When we headed back to the boat for breakfast after the sky turned brighter, we saw a group of non-photography tour who just arrived at the beach and start trekking.

Well, I wish they knew what they just missed a moment ago.

padar island

sand
the sand pattern is just like a wallpaper

Further enquiry about the trip, please check: http://www.indonesia-photography.com/. Instagram: @indonesiaphototour

DISCLAIMER

Please note that I’m not affiliated with this company and not paid for this article. I’m nothing but a participant of this trip.

 

 

West Jakarta Cityscape Tourists Overlook: Evening in Central Park

WEST JAKARTA ATTRACTION: MORE THAN JUST OLD TOWN 

When it comes to a short stay in Jakarta, especially in the west side of Indonesia’s capital, The Old Town (Kota Tua) and Chinatown, where both are situated nearby, are the most visited destinations for tourists.

Nonetheless, West Jakarta is quite a big piece, stretching about 129.54 km2 (50.02 sq mi) and consisting of 8 sub-districts, thus historical sites are not the only ones defining the identity of the west. The growing population over the years in “newer” areas also contributes today’s culture and lifestyle.

Not to mention the spreading of big shopping malls in several areas and districts in West Jakarta since the end of 1990’s, that were once only located in South and Central Jakarta.

The presence of shopping malls in Jakarta is more than just about shopping. They actually apply the concept of superblock, catering the needs and wants under one roof. Various facilities are available at a stone’s throw away without leaving the complex, from department stores, hair salons, restaurants, banks, ATM centers, fitness centers until English course and community church. It saves a lot of time to commute without facing a traffic jam from one place to another.

It’s no surprise to see a (Jakarta) citizen does a grocery, cuts one’s hair, withdraws money, eats out, takes a gym class and a shower in a fitness centre and when one gets home or a condo adjacent to the mall, what one needs to do left is to sleep.

In tourists’ point of view, visiting a shopping mall could be the last option or a “spare” attraction, which is totally understandable.

CITYSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY: ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITY?

There’s one activity in West Jakarta I had not thought of until I joined one of the events held by Gallery Photography Indonesia community: a cityscape photography to capture bird’s eye view of Central Park Mall and surroundings after the sun goes down from 2 different locations: the rooftop of Alaina Tower at Central Park Residences and Royal Mediteranea Garden.

The Central Park cityscape hunting is actually not something new. Nonetheless, a couple years ago, someone did a suicide by jumping off from a tower next to Alaina tower that caused the management of Central Park Residences prohibited any photography activities from their towers.

Therefore, last November 2016 marks the return of this activity and my first time ever to gather with other amateur and experienced photo enthousiast members to learn and excel low light photography.

CENTRAL PARK CITYSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM VARIOUS ANGLES

Central Park Mall is a shopping mall that has been launching since 2009 by Agung Podomoro Land in Grogol Petamburan subdistrict, West Jakarta. The mall is adjacent with Central Park Residences, Tribeca Park, Agung Podomoro University, Pullman Hotel and Neo Soho, the latest shopping mall developed by the same developer.

The most eye-catching part of this West Jakarta superblock is the sky bridge linking Central Park and Neo Soho, which is accessible from the 1st floor of Neo Soho.

I’m happy enough that my “old” Fuji XA-1 manage to capture the cityscape, although it’s not as sophisticated as its sister products (Fuji XA-2, XT-1 and so on).

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Central Park (right) and Neo Soho (left) at 5 pm after the rain, from Alaina Tower

 Nothing much to capture unless the lights shine at night. A few days earlier, the unoccupied residential building of Neo Soho was on fire, whose remains were still visible during the day. The sky was rather dark and capturing the sunset was something no one could do on that day.

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Central Park and Neo Soho after the sun goes down, from Alaina Tower

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Apartemen Taman Anggrek (Taman Anggrek Apartment), the competitor, from Alaina Tower

Like Central Park Mall, this apartment is connected to Taman Anggrek Mall. It has been operating a few years earlier than Central Park Mall, but nowadays Central Park Mall has much more traffic than Taman Anggrek Mall.

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The “bowl” of Tribeca Park, from Alaina Tower

A few minutes before leaving the rooftop, I spotted this spectacular view of Central Park Mall I had never seen in my life. The angle is actually against the mall façade, but Tribeca Park is in the limelight of this picture.

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Pullman Hotel, from Royal Mediteranea Garden

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Tribeca Park, from Royal Mediteranea Garden

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The main entrance, from Royal Mediteranea Garden

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The sky bridge in focus, from Royal Mediteranea Garden

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Pedestrians on the sky bridge

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Zooming the details of the sky bridge 

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Tribeca Park with Pullman Hotel background in the month of Christmas

 It displays the same Christmas tree every year. It’s appealing at first, but after 4 years?? It needs to refresh!

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Tribeca Park, from the sky bridge

Perhaps, what I did with Gallery Photography Indonesia community could be something inspiring for an alternative place of interest and activity in West Jakarta, especially for photo enthousiasts. Why not?

However, tourists cannot access the rooftops I visited since they are residential areas. Alternatively, both Neo Soho and Central Park have balconies somewhere, which are accessible for public and provide nice views and angles for photography.

HOW TO GO TO CENTRAL PARK MALL WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

By bus: Take a Transjakarta Bus, get off at Grogol 1 Bus Terminal. Then, walk along the bridge to Grogol 2 Bus Terminal for a transfer. From there, you can take any Transjakarta bus and get off at the first stop, which is S. Parman Bus Terminal.

By Taxi: Alternatively, you can take a conventional taxi (so far, the safest is Blue Bird) or online transportations, such as Uber, GrabCar and GoCar. Generally speaking, everybody knows where Central Park Mall is.

Pringga’s Grill Restaurant, Ubud: Terrible Service and Inverted Racism

The night was still young. Although my sis, my brother-in-law and I were not about to party all night long till the morning light, we were not ready to sleep like a baby at 8 pm either. After all, night life in Bali is something everyone should experience, at least once.

The intensity of crowds at night in Ubud is much less than that in Legian, including the main street of Monkey Forest. Ubud is more famous for art galleries, artsy stores, yoga centers, and the Monkey Forest itself, than pubs and discotheques. As these places are closed at night, the whole street looks partially dark.

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dining rooms

Nonetheless, no worries. Walk further, passing all the (closed) stores, and the more vivid part of the street appears, thanks to the lighting from hotels, hostels, restaurants, pubs and mini markets, including Pondok Pundi Village Inn where we stayed.

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the bar

Within 5 minutes walking distance from the inn, we finally found a very cozy place and not too crowded to hang out: Pringga’s Grill Ubud.

The open air space, homey feeling and traditional atmosphere, enhanced by barong statues, engravings and Balinese gamelan music background, managed to drag us to sit on one of their big sofas to get lazy and have some booze despite the emphasis of “grill” in the name of this cafe restaurant.

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to the bungalow entrance

My brother in-law ordered a glass of cocktail for himself (I forget what he had), while my sis and I got a grenadine-based cocktail for sharing. My sis is not a huge fan of cocktails, after all, but wanted to have some zips of sweetness.

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At a glance, I noticed something pretty behind Pringga’s Grill, especially the building is adjacent with Wibawa Spa and Fibra Inn Bungalow, a Balinese Garden Hotel. While waiting for the drinks, I took a self-walking tour to the hotel and spa area.

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shrines

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Balinese traditional house is clearly the main inspiration of the property, something that I found beautiful and serene. The use of secluded building to separate one room to another is one of the signature styles of Balinese houses because of the application of Hindu dharma principle, where objects must be properly located, aligned with the universe to create harmony.

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Probably, it is formerly a family residence transformed into a business area. I noticed several additional rooms in modern architecture. Besides, I believe that Pringga’s Grill was built later to cater the needs of guests and maximize the potential to earn more.

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the pond

Anyways, this was a great place to kill the time before my drink arrived.

Returning to our seat 15 minutes later, the cocktails had not arrived yet. I was expecting they would be on the table by the time I got back.

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I looked at our surroundings. It wasn’t a very busy day. The occupation of seats were less than half of the room. If our orders were grilled food, I could understand that it may take longer. But for heaven’s sake, ours were just 2 glasses of cocktails!

We all agreed that something was not right and called the staff to remind that our orders were still pending after a while. She nodded and walked to the bar area.

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Another 10 minutes went by. My sister noticed that those who were served first were foreigners, that happened to have Caucasian look. The only local guests in the room was my sister and I. My brother-in-law is not even an Indonesian, but a Chinese-Fijian nationality. However, as he joined us, he looked just like any Chinese-Indonesian people.

I felt the same. I observed approximately 4 small groups of (Caucasian-look) guests arriving later than us and they all got their drinks first.

We could have scolded the staffs or left our spot without their knowledge. But we came to this place to relax, not to argue and lecture them about service excellence. We called the staff once again, asking for our drinks.

They finally arrived, nearly 40 minutes the orders were made. Great. First come, last served!

There was no problem about the taste of the cocktails. The grenadine cocktail was a bit too sweet, but it was still okay and enjoyable.

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Well, I believe that the real issue behind the terribly slow service was not about operational mismanagement. Blame it on inverted racism attitude or valuing other races more than your own (www.urbandictionary.com).

Unfortunately, there are some Indonesian people who still consider that foreigners (Caucasian-look people so-called bule, to be exact) have higher social status than locals (Indonesians). Literally means “pale”, bule, is an Indonesian slang for fair-skinned people.

Since the bules tend to spend more freely when they come to Indonesia, they look rich. So, these inverted racists have a stereotype that “all” bules are rich. And spendy.

I mean no offense about this. But in fact, not all bules are rich for real in their hometown, although some of them are. They generally become rich by conversion rate. Say, they can get more stuffs in Indonesia for $50 (about Rp. 400.000) than in their own country. So, they take a chance to be splendor travellers while visiting cheaper countries (by currency), which is something normal to do.

On the other hand, not all locals are poor. And not all of then are rich either. These inverted racists, who undoubtedly are narrow-minded, are not able or refuse to see this.

No one should judge the book by its cover. All guests deserve an equally good service regardless social status, outlook, skin colour, religion etc. As you have heard before: customers are kings. Customers are the real boss of your business.

First come, first served!

I actually don’t care what the staffs thought about us, but service discrimination is totally unacceptable. I was am totally pissed off about it until now. And there’s no way I will return to that place again, ever!

Nonetheless, deep inside my heart, I feel sorry for them. They don’t only look down their own people, but also themselves. It gradually crushes their self-esteem and that’s pathetic.

It’s been 2 years and I hope that this inverted racism is no longer part of the company culture. Especially a new chapter of life has begun, marked by the arrival of year 2017.

I wish you all brighter days this year. Happy new year 2017!

 

 

 

 

How To Line Up for Public Toilets in Jakarta

Eating out with family members, hanging out with friends in shopping malls is part of the common lifestyle in Jakarta. In fact, they are not only built for shopaholics and branded good top spenders, but also for fulfilling some other necessities with the availability of supermarkets, hair salons, a fitness centre, banks, a post office, and more.

The more hours you spend in the mall, the more possibility you answer your nature calls there. Fear not, public toilets are abundant in every floor and free of charge. Yes, a free of charge public toilet is the luxury I hardly get in Europe unless I sneak in to the one inside a cinema building or a hotel.

Nonetheless, I experience a constant confusion every time I go to public toilets in the malls in Jakarta, in terms of the norm of lining up. This time, I focus on ladies public toilets in the malls, that usually comes with a room with multiple toilets inside.

Living in The Netherlands for years, I always line up on the side or the alley before the rows of toilet inside the (toilet) room. So do the rest of the Dutch and European people in general. And I do exactly the same way when I enter a public toilet in Jakarta.

After that, a woman behind me cuts my line to one of the rooms she thinks it will be vacant in a bit. It happens over and over again in different day and time. I piss off and keep asking myself why Indonesian women cannot maintain their manner to queue up patiently and obediently like Europeans.

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Then I recall something. Actually, it’s been a custom in Indonesia that people queue up by the door, regardless how many (toilet) rooms available. It’s up to the people to pick which room will be the fastest to get empty for their turn, like queuing up for a supermarket cashier. It’s all about luck and everybody knows that.

I did that too, until I graduated from high school. I stopped doing that when I went abroad to pursue my study and adjusted with the local culture in The Netherlands for another 7 years. I forgot about it. Now when I return to my hometown for good, it becomes some kind of culture shock.

Thus, I remind myself that I only need to readjust with Indonesian culture that I previously had left behind.

I thought that’s enough. Until I witnessed my friend insinuating another young woman who walked straight to the door, ignoring the rest of them standing patiently on the side before the rooms.

“What a lady, cutting other people’s line just like that!” My friend said in a satirical way.

Seconds after my friend shut the door when her turn came, the young woman looked at me and asked, “Is there any certain guidelines to line up that I should know beforehand?”

I shrugged, avoiding potential conflicts that could happen in such situation.

And that’s not it.

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Once I stood by a toilet door in the cinema. After a woman walked out of the room in front of me, I took my turn. I had to be quick, the movie was about to start. Then, I overheard a Caucasian woman who stood by the door next to mine complained to the cleaning lady that I simply cut her line, claiming that she came earlier although not by the same door as mine.

The cleaning lady justified my action, “The starting point of the queue is by the door, Ma’am.”

I felt bad, but if the norm of lining up is standing by the door, I did it right. I experience the same thing as that of the Caucasian woman repeatedly and I’m finally okay about it, knowing that it’s the common practice. Because I readjust with it already.

In a nutshell, how to line up for public toilets in Jakarta?

Some line up by the toilet door. Some others line up on the side before the toilet rooms.

Based on my observation and experience, anyone who comes first defines the norm. If anyone before you stand by the door, that means it’s today’s house rules. If anyone before you stand on the side before the rooms, that means it’s today’s house rules.

I believe there’s a shifting trend towards this issue and both manners stand side by side. With a growing amount of people studying abroad and return for good years later, they apply the (foreign) manner to their homeland before they know it, while the local manner is still well-maintained.

How about other cities or towns in Indonesia? From what I see, standing by the door remains the common practice.

Suppose you want to avoid lining up conflicts but feel too hassle to ask, do the same thing as anyone before you. Or ask the cleaning lady when she’s around or ask other guests in front of you.

Get used to it, and have a great travel!