Local Travel in Jakarta: Been to Kota Tua?

Kota Tua, or people call it as “Old Town”, “Old Jakarta”, or even “Old Batavia” feels like a time leap through 16th century. Colonial Dutch buildings stand side by side, reflecting the Dutch colonization for about three centuries long. Exploring 1.3 square kilometres of old town is one unforgettable adventure. Hop on to your time machine and enjoy the adventure!
Taking a train to Stasiun Kota is the best possible way to enjoy the atmosphere of Kota Tua. The terminal station is located in the heart of the Kota Tua and it was the backbone of the transportation on the colonial age. The architecture of the station was same like the colonial times and it was appointed that it was a historical landmark on 1993. Going outside the station, you are greeted with traffic jams and people on the streets walking,  taking photographs and and buying goods at nearby stalls. Local treats, street foods, and bottled drinks can be found almost anywhere. Taking minute walk will lead you to Stadhouse, the Capitol of Batavia (old Jakarta), now the Museum Fatahillah.

Dutch built museum Fatahillah on early 18th century. If you’ve been to Dam Square in Amsterdam, you can see that there are strikingly similar features with Museum Fatahillah. Governor General Johan van Hoorn made that because Batavia was the center for Dutch East India Company since 17th century. Looking around the museum, we can see the courtyard where people meet, street painter are creating masterpieces and even musicians that play traditional music. Not only the courtyard, we can see some legendary cannons that hold the reputation on the colonial war. On the nighttime, the museum is a famous ghost-hunting trip. The courtyard was used as the execution for the criminals and prison under the museum building is dark and quiet. Some ghost sighting was reported during the hunt and it make people are coming for more ghost hunts.

Skipping the ghost hunt, we move to the National Archive. The building is another colonial age architecture. The difference is this building is more “homey” atmosphere with wide garden and grass courtyard. This building was the residence of Dutch Governor General. Now, people can visit the archive that is partially changed into a museum. We can look around to see what does colonial houses feels like.

From the old colonial town, Kota Tua is also home to Jakarta’s old Chinatown. While modern Chinatowns are within a 15 minute drive, all of them are almost the same, except the old one. We are moving into Candra Naya Complex, used as the residence of a Chinese Major on early 20th century. One of the buildings in the complex was used as RRC embassy before it was moved. Walking around Candra Naya will make you feel that you are being teleported into 18th century East Asia. Street foods also have more variations here. Pork based foods can be found easily (Indonesian majority don’t eat pork).

After having some snacks from various street food vendors, stalls, and carts, we move into Café Batavia. This café has colonial architecture like buildings beside it. Indonesians, Chinese and old Dutch food can be enjoyed – Nasi Goreng, Siomay, Dim Sum, traditional pancake and others for about $15 per person including drinks. Yet for those seeking the cheaper, more ‘different’ experience, Kota Tua has no shortage of street food. I recommend Nasi Goreng Pedas (hot fried rice) or Kerak Telor (kind of sticky rice mixed with egg, cooked into an omelet form and served with fried coconut shredding, fried shallots, and dried shrimp) for as low as just $1 per person with 50-cent drinks. It’s not as the café – but you blend more with the locals. But beware, Indonesian spicy foods are really spicy (Mexican foods are just as half spicy as Indonesian). So get your backpack and take a leap through time into the 17th century.

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