Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Jakarta Rediscovered IV - Pasar Ikan, the legacy of the Dutch East India Company

Day 3 in Jakarta

My trusty cabbie, Pak Tarsono, and I ventured to Pasar Ikan in search of the Dutch warehouses dating back to the Dutch East India Company. Dutch ships arrived in Jayakarta in 1596. In 1619 the Dutch renamed the city Batavia. After the bankrupt company was liquidated on 1 January 1800, its territorial possessions became the property of the Dutch government.Commercial opportunities attracted indigenous groups from Sumatra, Ambon, Sulawesi and many Chinese migrants. There were numerous wars and disturbances across the archipelago in efforts to resist establishment of a Dutch hegemony resulting in the Java War and the 30-year Acheh War. Travelling northwards, we passed the districts of Gajah Mada and Glodok. Every conceivable space is utilised for commercial enterprise, be it rent-a-park for lorries or sidewalk galleries for artists.In 1740, Chinese migrants were moved outside the city walls to Glodok after a massacre in which 5,000 Chinese were killed. Though still a landmark neighbourhood, Glodok has never quite recovered from the deadly riots that recurred in May 1998. Built in the 19th century in Art Deco style, the railway station of BEOS (Bataviasche Ooster Spoorweg Maatschappij) marks the entry to Kota Tua (Old City). The buildings approaching Fatahillah Square reflect more of the Art Deco architecture, several having undergone refurbishment and now homes to banks. On the banks of the Sungai Kali Besar (Biggest River), major reconstruction promises to rejuvenate and beautify the area to its former glory.Once more it is easy to slip back in time as the old wooden structures still remain to this day.Pasar Ikan (Fish Market) was elusive to us as signage to this important site was lacking.

The old Dutch warehouses of the Dutch East India Company were well protected by canons and high ramparts. This would have been the stronghold of spices and other eastern treasures for export back to Holland. "Konservasi Fisik Gedung Museum" was on the notice board indicating an ongoing conservation program for this historical complex.
Vestige of Dutch sluice gates adjacent to the warehouses where boats were loaded with booty, to be transferred to Dutch frigates anchored in the Jakarta Bay before setting sail for the motherland. Fast forward to the present. The middle class of Indonesia amounts to 10% of the population. Do the math: 10% of 200 million is 20 million!

A detour to Pluit district, a newer Chinatown, was a eye opener. Mega-houses set closely next to one another lined both sides of the road. The number of cars per household was notably more than two. Pak Tarsono asked me if we in Malaysia also liked having eight cars, one for each of the kids, wife etc ? So too were the satellite dishes, or parabolas as Pak Tarsono called them, on the rooftops.

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