The Champagne Backpacker: Michael's Round the World Trip 2005-2007-- The Adventure of a Lifetime travel blog

Jakarta History Museum (Formerly The Old Dutch City Hall)

Old Portuguese Cannon

Children Play In Taman Fatahillah's Fountain

Cafe Batavia

Chicken Market Bridge--Old Dutch Drawbridge

Polluted Waterway

One Of Jakarta's Many Autorickshaws

Fish Out To Dry

Fish Vendor

Fruit Vendor

Freedom Park And Mona Monument

SUNDAY, MAY 28, 2006. JAKARTA, INDONESIA. Home to 9.3 million people, Jakarta is the commercial and business capital of Indonesia, not a tourist destination. From my research, one full day in Jakarta would be enough time to see the main sights. It was. Lapangan Merdeka (Freedom Square), with Soekarno's Monas, a gold flame topped column, forms the main landmark of central Jakarta. Just south of Lapangan Merdeka is Jalan Jaksa, the budget travelers' haunt, where I found accommodation at Hotel Margot (Rp 170,000). Other than Poppies Cottages in Bali, this was the highest I've paid for a room.

Jakarta's main sights are mostly to the north of Lapangan Merdeka. A bus to Kota (Rp 3,500), the heart of the old Dutch city takes 20 minutes. Fronting Taman Fatahillah, the old town square, is the old City Hall, dating from 1710, now the Jakarta History Museum. The museum has a great collection of period Dutch and Javanese furniture. I really liked all the teak round tables. Across from the museum is Café Batavia, where I stopped for lunch. Back in 1619, the Dutch renamed Jakarta as Batavia and made it the base for the Dutch empire in Indonesia. Café Batavia harkens back to the Dutch colonial period.

A short walk north along the putrid Kali Besar canal leads to Sunda Kelapa, the old Dutch port. After wandering the fish and other markets, I stroll back past Taman Fatahillah and continued on to Glodok, the old Chinatown of Batavia. I did not see much evidence of a Chinese presence, just lots of stores selling electronics and street-side vendors hawking pornographic VCDs. Apparently, many of the Chinese businesses left the area after riots targeted them in 1998.

I ended my full day in Jakarta at Lapangan Merdaka and the Mona's monument, euphemistically called "Soekarno's last erection" by the locals. (Soekarno lead Indonesia from independence in 1949 until he was ousted in 1968 by General Soeharto.) Freedom Square is a huge, leafy green park, with Monas at its core.. You can view hazy Jakarta from the top of Monas, but I didn't want to wait in the long line. Many Jakartans families lazed about under the trees. Children flew kites as their parents looked on. Kite flying seems to be a passion of the Indonesians as I've noticed it throughout my travels in Indonesia.

From Freedom Square, I walked back to my hotel, passing along the way the heavily guarded U.S. embassy. Three layers of concertina wire surrounded the walled compound, making the embassy look like a military installation. It's a sad reality of the times that this has come to represent the United States.

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