Monday, 27 October 2008

Jakarta Rediscovered III - Fatahillah Square in Kota Tua

Kota Tua or Old City, formerly Batavia during the Dutch Occupation, lies in the northern limits of Jakarta, abutting the Jakarta Bay.

The ruling Dutch governed Java from Fatahillah Square. Reminiscent of European architectural style, the large expanse of space , is an unexpected relief from the congestion of the modern city. The Stadhuys occupy pride of place around the Square and remain an impressive reminder of the past, currently housing the History Museum, Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum.

The Puppet Museum or Museum Wayang, with the undoubtedly Dutch facade was previously a church built in 1640. It was destroyed by an earthquake and underwent several major renovations. It was converted to a museum in 1939 and finally was inaugurated as the Puppet Museum in 1975.

The elegant carved teak door leads to the inner courtyard where Dutch engravings are indicative of its beginnings as a church.

A large collection of wayang kulit, wayang golek and masks from all over Indonesia are cramped into the upper floor. Poor lighting and lack of annotation makes the experience less informative.

Finely crafted life-like puppets.

The museum guides lament the lack of resources and make a desperate effort to sell souvenirs to improve their coffers. The entrance fee of 2,000 rupiahs (RM0.80sen or S$0.30cents!) reflects their dire needs! It looks like the entrance fee has not been revised for some time.

In comparison the entrance fee for the Asian Civilisation Museum in Singapore is a reasonable S$5 ( RM11.50; 31,050 rupiahs).

An interesting display of wayang kulit depicting Dutch and Indonesian figures purportedly for the benefit of audiences in Holland.

Cafe Batavia on the Square has an understated frontage that you could very easily miss. Once you gain access, however, the atmosphere of the 1900's, from decor to crooners, is overwhelming.The teak staircase leads up to the long bar and dinning area. Blue and white Dutch porcelain add further detail to the walls which are covered with dated black and white and sepia pictures from end to end. The effect is dramatic.

One literally keeps slipping in and out of the present, back to the past.

Bright and airy veranda and cosy cafe.

The elegant dinning area . . .

. . . where you can almost feel the presence of past dignitaries.Diners get a great view of the Square.
And that my friends is Cafe Batavia.

No comments: