Jakarta Old Town

Jakarta Old Town

Jakarta Old Town: The Wealth Traces of Batavia City

Jakarta Old Town is one of must visit places in Jakarta. At the mouth of Ciliwung River in Java, is where it is located. The old town was established by the VOC in 1619, when VOC was in the golden era. In 17th and 18th century Batavia became the best as a port city, where trade and government grown up. Until now you can see the remains of Jakarta Old Town in the site. Many buildings, bank, and café are still in vintage architecture. Some of them switch function into a museum.

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Jakarta Old Town

Jakarta Old Town, Town Planning and Architecture

Jakarta Old Town or Batavia is an excellent example of Dutch colonial city town planning during the 17th to 18th century. Because this was the golden era of VOC in Indonesia, many building with Dutch architecture can be found easily and this is the best town planning made by the Dutch so far in Indonesia. The property included in this old town is major areas on Ciliwung River sides; former Jayakarta and two 18th century houses in the west side, west warehouse, floating warehouse, VOC shipyard, Luar Batang Mosque, and old town wall in the north west side, East warehouse, town square, and town hall in the east side, China Town and Kalibesar Canal with traditional boats wharf in the south east side, plus several smaller islands: Kelor, Cipir, Onrust, and Bidadari.

Batavia or Jakarta Old Town was made into multi-layer grid of canals not only to dry the swamplands but also to provide transport the best for commodities coming from hinterlands by shop which made trade far more efficient and easier. The architecture and technology was the best of its time. The town filled with blocks of the required elements of military, government, and urban landscape (houses and building of various religions). The island Onrust and Batavia has a unique technology of windmill and watermill from Dutch.

If you come to Jakarta Old Town, you will see that this site is not far different than in the past. It kept the same style and square shape at the river mouth. Ciliwung is in the centre and separate the city into west and east. Several important buildings remain are the Town Hall, Portuguese Church, Governor general Van Imhoff’s house (Toko Merah), Radermacher’s House, VOC shipyard, Floating Warehouse, West Warehouse, remains of the city wall (Maritime Museum), remains of bastion, and Lookout Tower (Syahbandar Tower).

The old town of Jakarta was built in a multi grid and canals so that the Dutch could measure the land, arrange the building in an effective way, and count the density. It also separated the main town and suburban, where in this case Jakarta Old Town is the centre and Glodok or Chinatown is the suburb area.

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Cultural Heritage of Jakarta Old Town

The old town was built to match the grandeur and completeness of Dutch town planning and being the best city at the time. Especially to advance the world of VOC trading where the port in Batavia become the trading network that connect Middle East, Indian, China, Japan, and South Africa to Batavia. It is not surprising then that Batavia is filled with multicultural heritage until today. It caused the creation of Indonesian culture. European, Chinese, Indian, and Arabian culture met with the local culture and created a unique mixture that called ‘Peranakan’ culture.

It cannot be avoided that a mix of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Indian, Arabic traditions and the local culture occurred during this time. It can be proved by cuisine that influenced by the Dutch that is Rijstaffel and nasi kebuli from the Arabic influence. Many foreign loan words also in the Indonesian language, while in the music, Keroncong has the same roots as Portuguese fado, Tanjidor is influenced by the Dutch, and Gambang Kromong is the combination of Javanese Gamelan with Chinese traditional musical instruments. Other than that, they share rites of passage ceremonies, costumes, furniture, and architecture.

Jakarta Old Town Maritime Culture

The sea use in Batavia is one of the best examples that reflect unique maritime culture. In the traditional boat wharf of Jakarta Old Town is where vernacular boats come from all over Indonesia bring trade commodities. Indonesia is well known as the largest fleet of merchant sailing boats in the world. The boats of various islands in Indonesia show their different characteristics. The maritime culture still exists until today. Batavia port was the most important port in Asia for inter-island, inter-Asia, and Asia-Europe trading route. Nowadays it is still important as an inter-island port. They bring trade items around Indonesia Archipelago such as clothes, rice, spices, and many more.

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Nearest Jakarta Old Town Attraction

When you confuse where to go around the Old Town Jakarta Batavia, we have some places to visit below.

Jakarta History Museum (Fatahillah Museum)

Jakarta History Museum or Fatahillah Museum is in the former City Hall of Old Town, exhibits about the history of the city from colonization period to independence of Indonesia. It is a grand public building that always attract people’s eyes. But of course, visit Kota Tua only to see Jakarta History Museum is always not enough.

Wayang Museum

Wayang is the pride of Indonesia. It is a puppet original from Indonesia that usually performs in traditional form of theatre. Some of Wayang are shadow puppet, while some others are not, like the one from Betawi.  In Kota Tua, they are taken care very well. Wayang from around Indonesia become collection in Wayang Museum.

Fine Art and Ceramic Museum

Yes, Kota Tua Jakarta is indeed become the center of many museums in Jakarta. The next museum you can see around the old town Batavia is Fine Art and Ceramic Museum. The former Court of Justice build by the Dutch in 1870 is now replaced by this museum. With and impressive architectural building, the old Court of Justice is changed into a museum that keep collection of art and ceramic from across the archipelago and also outside country.

Maritime Museum

Just 10 minute walk from the main square of Old Town, Maritime Museum will be the next places to go. The building was once a warehouse of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Now the museum showcases some examples of the history of Batavia.

Bank Indonesia Museum

A little bit different than any subject interesting for travelling, Bank Indonesia Museum stands as the only one museum that showcases all about banking. In fact going to this museum can be so much interesting. The Bank Indonesia Museum takes modern multimedia and interactive approach to the visitors to telling the real story of banks in Indonesia.

Toko Merah Jakarta (Red Shop)

Toko Merah or The Red Shop is an interesting place though not so many people will visit this. Red Shop is a quiet place with no English speaking tour guide, no history dioramas, no printed story, and even slide show. But, it is not bad at all, really. You can enter Red Shop by paying only 10.000 rupiahs. The keeper will kindly escort you to walk around inside Toko Merah. There are many remains of furniture and decoration from the colonial era. This building was once used as residence of Governor General of the Dutch East Indies Company. After that the building changed into hotel, bank, hospital, and warehouse. In 1851, a Chinese captain owned the building and made it into shop and private residence. That’s why the brick walls in front painted in red color. Chinese decoration then blends perfectly with the Dutch style.

Batavia Café

This time you can rest and relax while enjoying some drinks and beverages. Batavia café, an authentic place around Kota Tua is on the main square with the view across to the old City Hall. The building of Batavia Café is very classic, taking the theme of colonial style. Once you enter the café you can enjoy all the interior and furniture which will bring back the mood of Dutch City Batavia.

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