Similarities and contrasts made Jakarta an interesting place to visit, write ANAND & MADHURA KATTI.
“There are 13 types of wedding costumes on the island of Sumatra” said our guide Henry as we checked on the beautiful headgear of a wedding costume on display. We were at Sumatera Barat traditional house in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah Miniature Park on the outskirts of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. Indonesia is a country with 13,466 islands- some big ones among them are inhabited. Isolation of these lands by the sea has resulted in each region having its own characteristics of people, flora, fauna, art and culture. Entire country’s diversity is brought together for display at the 250 acre miniature park on the southeastern suburbs of Jakarta.
Taman Mini Indonesia
It is indeed Indah (beautiful) in depiction of different lifestyles and traditions and made a good introduction of its people and their lifestyles. Like the one we were at, various provinces of the country are displayed through separate pavilions with collections of architecture, customs, clothing and performing arts. Detailed decoration on the wood walls of the house was intricate and colourful. Thatched roof structures with high tapering ends were impressive and offered good photo opportunity for groups of tourists who seemed to enjoy ethnic characteristics of indigenous cultures.
Houses in each region have different architecture, clothing and use of traditional household essentials as displayed. Indonesia’s rich artistry is visible in its fine designs. Most traditional houses are built on stilts- probably to keep safe from floods, wild animals and other creatures. 30 percent of the land in Jakarta itself is below sea level and many raised roads are supposed to have built after last major floods. We picked beautiful foldable batik hats and batik hand fans from the shop at a display house from Java Island, where ethnic handicrafts were being made.
The park also has a mini-scale Borobudur temple, a world Heritage site situated in Yogyakarta. We skipped the orchid garden, Bird Park and the IMAX cinema and proceeded to Timor pavilion on the other end. Visitors can wear tribal head gears and pose with bows and arrows alongside tribes dressed in ethnic costumes and pose for photographs for a fee. Music instruments, grass costumes, and unique community homes within a compound were interesting way to learn a lifestyle. There are shuttle buses and monorail to go around park. One can even drive through or take cable car.
Indonesia’s liberalism was visible as we entered the big modern, national mosque near Merdeka Square in the city centre. Some women and children prayed while others sat in groups, talking, laughing and some just relaxing at the left side of the magnanimous central hall. Men did the same on the other side. Henry said that more than 200,000 worshippers gather here during Ramadan. The mosque has five levels, representing the five pillars of Islam. The magnificent dome is 45m across and double in height to the minaret tip. Hundreds can wash their feet and hands before entering for prayers at the wash facility at the mosque. Big drum at the rear reverberates when struck.
Directly opposite to the mosque is the imposing twin-spired Catholic cathedral, a reminder of Jakarta’s colonial occupation. Henry mentioned of the cordial relationship between different religions in Indonesia. In fact, Masjid Isteqlal was designed by a Catholic architect Frederich Silaban.
The national monument or the Monas, as it is locally called, is a principal landmark of Jakarta, rising to 132 m high. An elevator within the tower takes visitors to the top for a bird’s eye view of the city. We could see that the surrounding huge square served as a demonstration ground for protestors. Our Indian group became an attraction for the local media as the expected demonstrators had failed to turn-up for the day. White marble tower is topped with a sculpted flame that is supposed to be covered with 35kg of gold. As we left thinking about some similarities with Indian ethos, obvious Indian influence came into sight with a big statue of chariot of Krishna reciting Bhagavad-Gita to Arjuna in one of the main squares. Indian Kingdoms had ruled the region for almost ten centuries, starting from 5th century. Many words like Bahasa for language, aksara(akshara), aneka, dewa, dewi, desa, antara, asa(asha), berita(varta), budiman(budhiman), busana(bhushana), dana, dharma, gita(song), Karma, mitra and so on.
Just across the national monument is the colonial White House, now housing Ministry of Finance. Next to it is another white building of Mahkamah Agung, the Supreme Court of Republic of Indonesia.
153 year old National Museum is worth the visit for its wide variety of displays; some even millennia old. We started our museum tour from the display of gold treasures from Candi Brahu in Central Java. A fine bowl depicting scenes from the Ramayana was a masterpiece. Glittering jewellery, bowls and decorative pieces make a rich collection.
The four floor new wing starts with a section showing the origin of mankind depicted through stone-age human beings. Many statues of Indian epics, Ganesha, Shiva are in the central open courtyard of the museum. There are wood statues, Dayak puppets, wood carvings, musical instruments, ethnic utility items and many more interesting objects. The modern art display made from steel scrap infront of the museum is impressive.
Jakarta is a good shopping destination. Mega city and has 177 malls and lower value of Indonesian Rupiah (1 Indian Rupee=200 Rupiah) tends to great value shopping. Serena mall has four floors of both ethnic and western clothes and other utility items and has good collections of batiks, puppets, and handicraft at fixed prices.
Indian restaurant on the ground floor outside serves south and north Indian thali. Manga Dua Mall is popular both with locals as well as tourists for choice personal and home needs from electronics to clothes, at good prices. With a free visa offered on arrival since last November, one can spend the saved visa money as well on shopping.
Similarities and contrasts made Jakarta an interesting place to visit.
Visa: Indian nationals can get Indonesian visa upon arrival & that is given free of cost.
Getting there: One can fly on Air India, Malaysian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Bangkok Airways or Thai Airways to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Bangkok and further connect to Jakarta. One can also connect from these points on Garuda Indonesia airlines to Jakarta.
Accommodation: Jakarta has many hotels suiting different budgets. Grand Mercure Jakarta is a new, trendy hotel with a wide choice of breakfast items, including local fruits and jamu, traditional health drink.
Food: Rice is the staple. Seafood is fresh and plenty, also chicken and beef. Soya fried cakes and sauted greens and sprouts are available in local food for vegetarians. There are Indian restaurants as well.
Useful website: www.indonesia–tourism.com/
(Photos by Anand & Madhura Katti)