Jakarta (Old Town & Chinatown)

Sunday, June 30th
Today Jen’s colleague was kind enough to take us on a little sightseeing and food tour through Chinatown and the old town of Jakarta. As Jakarta is a huge sprawling metropolis of 10 million (almost 30 million people when counting the surrounding urban area), I did not have enough time to see much of the city. This blog entry is just about an afternoon walking tour through Chinatown and the old colonial parts of the city.
Our first stop was the beautiful Jin de Huan Chinese temple. It’s one of the most important Buddhist temples in the city and it dates back to 1755. Jakarta has a large ethnic Chinese minority (estimated to be about 5% of the city’s population), many of which emigrated to Indonesia during the colonial period. (Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese population overall is about 2.5 million).

Afterwards we visit a small catholic church nearby. Based on the last census Jakarta’s population is 85% Muslim, with about 10% Christian and 3% Buddhist.

We stroll through some very narrow streets and Chinese markets. This ended up as a bit of a food tour, as we sampled various interesting and delicious foods at roadside stalls and stopped at a couple of quaint restaurants hidden away in narrow alleyways. Even though Ramadan had just started, here in Chinatown all the restaurant were open, whereas in other dominantly Muslim parts of Jakarta it can apparently be a bit more of a challenge to find food during daylight hours.

Our final stop is the old town square of Batavia, which was the city’s name during Dutch colonial times. The buildings surrounding the square are beautifully restored, which unfortunately cannot be said for most of Jakarta’s colonial buildings on the other side of the road. Just off the main square we see many rather dilapidated historical buildings seemingly left to rot away.  

                          The old Dutch Town Hall (built in 1627)

                               Taman Fatahillah (The old town square).                        Fine Arts Museum in the former Palace of Justice.

We have a drink on the second floor of the Cafe Batavia, which is located in a gorgeous and grand colonial building overlooking the square. And despite Ramadan they serve alcohol to the tourists here, so we finish off our very interesting sightseeing and food tour in style.

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