As today’s capital of a huge archipelago of Indonesia, Jakarta holds a series of interesting history from the Javanese empire days to the late 90s Reformation days. It was once (and now too) the central trading and fort city named Sunda Kelapa, then Jayakarta, then Batavia when the Dutch sieged the city in 1619.
Colonizing Indonesia (formerly Dutch East India) for three and a half centuries, the Dutch traces still stands firm among today’s modern and independent Indonesia. Unfortunately, many of the colonial-style buildings have been demolished either due to natural deterioration or transformed into another function.
Don’t worry, there are still places in the megapolitan city that rings history. All of these places are now protected by the local government and are open for public.
1. The Old City
When you ask the locals about the must-visit museums, historical places or simply a tourist attraction in Jakarta, they will automatically recommend you to the Old City or Kota Tua. This area holds most of the museums in Jakarta, ranging from the famous Jakarta History Museum, Indonesian Bank Museum, the Puppet Museum, the Marine Museum to the Sunda Kelapa Harbour Dock (not the real harbour, as it is extremely dangerous even for the locals, but the part that is tourist-safe). Best of all, most of them are within walking distance!
2. The Red Shop
In the earliest period of Dutch colonialism in Jakarta, most buildings style were the tropical counterpart 17th-century Dutch architecture. The prominent features include the typical Dutch high sash windows with split shutters, gable roofs and white coral painted walls (as opposed to the brick walls in Europe). It was a relatively closed structure that is not exactly tropical friendly.
Examples of this type of building were located along Jalan Muka Timur. However, all had been demolished. The best surviving example still standing now is the Red Shop or Toko Merah.
The Red Shop was built in 1730 on the west side of the main canal Kali Besar. It was first built to serve as the residence of the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies Gustaaf Willem, Baron van Imhoff. Then it served as a Navy Academy (Dutch Academie de Marine), which is called to be the oldest navy academy in Asia.
Afterwards, the building changed ownership several times until it was purchased by Oey Liauw Kong, Kapitein der Chinezen of Batavia, to be his residence and shop. He painted the walls red and ever since it was known as Toko Merah. Today, Toko Merah is restored as a conference hall and commercial gallery.
3. Tugu Village
Although the Portuguese’s presence in Indonesia was brief, they left quite a unique culture across the country. In Jakarta alone, there is a village designated to conserve the Portuguese culture called Tugu Village or Kampung Tugu.
The Tugu village originated from Portuguese prisoners of war which were centralized by the Dutch Indies into one place. Today, the residents or former residents are still practising their ancestors’ traditions such as rebo-rebo, which is playing Keroncong Tugu (a set of orchestral music made by the Portuguese when they were residing in Batavia) from house to house and eat together at the last house they stop by.
If you search ‘Weltevreden’ you will be referred to an old area back in the days when Jakarta was still Batavia. In other words, the name is not used anymore. However, Weltevreden refers to today’s area of Gambir and Menteng in Central Jakarta. In this area, you will discover some colonial-style buildings whose purposes are mostly closer to Indonesia’s Independence.
There is Jakarta Art Building (formerly Batavia Theatre), a concert hall and popular venue for theatre play; Museum of National Awakening (formerly the first and most prestigious medical school during the Dutch colonialism, STOVIA), a museum to commemorate the birth of Budi Utomo as the first native political organisation in the Dutch Indies; and Proclamation Monument, a park complex located at the former property of Indonesia’s first president Soekarno where the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence was first announced.