THE OLD TOWN OF JAKARTA

Image by Gunawan Kartapranata - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons

Kota Tua or the Old Town is a little town of the past in Jakarta, Indonesia. It is about 1.3 square kilometers, extending over the area of the north and west of Jakarta.

It was crowned the Diamond of Asia and the Eastern Queen by the European sailors in the 16th century. As this old town was so strategic and had a great amount of resources, it was considered the business centre of Asian continent.

In 1526, the Sultan of Demak sent Fatahillah to attack Sunda Kelapa harbour which belonged to Pajajaran Kingdom. Afterwards, the conqueror built a 15 hectare Javanese tradition port town named Jayakarta.

In 1619, Jayakarta was destroyed by Jan Pieterszoon Coen's troops. A year later, the Dutch East India Company established a new town called Batavia. This town lay around the east side of Ciliwung River. Nowadays, it’s the Fatahillah square. The native inhabitants of Batavia were called Batavians and then they have been known as Betawis or Betawi people.

Batavia along with its castle, walls and drainage channels were built in Dutch architectural style. It was completely built in 1650 and the Dutch East India Company was headquartered there. The area of this town started expanding to the south after a widespread of disease in 1835 and 1870. Many people left this overcrowded place and moved to Weltevreden (The Lapangan Merdeka of today). In the Japanese occupation, the name Batavia was changed to Jakarta.

Ali Sadikin, the governor of Jakarta decreed that the Old Town should become the heritage site in 1972. The decree was aimed to protect the historical buildings of the Old Town. The Jakartans had been quite enthusiastic to accept this tough decision, but did little to protect this historical site inherited from the Dutch colonization.

Some buildings in the Old Town were demolished due to the development of Jakarta City. During the period of 1890 – 1910, the Batavia castle was flattened.

There are some places that you should go to visit while you’re at the Old Town. It is so attractive and wonderful and you’ll feel as if you were back to the era of Dutch occupation.

The train station is one of the historical buildings and it’s usually very crowded. It was built by the Dutch authorities in 1929. There’s a starbucks coffee shop inside the station. Passengers may go in to have a cup of coffee before leaving the station. You should be very careful with your precious things when you’re in the crowd outside the station. A pickpocket will steal your wallet and smart phone if you’re careless.

The Wayang Museum (Puppet Museum) is a unique museum which has high historical value and had been renovated several times. This building was called De Oude Hollandsche Kerk (The Old Dutch Church) after it was built in 1640. It was first renovated in 1732 and the name De Oude Hollandsche Kerk was changed to De Nieuwe Hollandse Kerk (The New Dutch Church). However, it was ruined by a destructive earthquake in 1808. 

Afterwards, a puppet museum was built at the same location on August 13, 1975. Some remains of the old and new churches can still be seen.

The museum displays all kinds of puppets from different places and regions in Indonesia. There’re the leather puppets, wooden puppets, etc. The puppets from other countries can also be found in this museum.

The museum has collected 4000 different types of puppets, such as shadow puppet, marionette puppet, cardboard puppet, grass puppet, palm puppet, etc. The dolls colleted in this museum are mostly from Europe, but some are of non European countries. Periodically, the puppet show is performed in week 2 and 3 every month.

There’re still a lot of beautiful places to visit in the Jakarta Old Town, where you can see many historical buildings.

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