The sad old town of Jakarta

A feeling of sadness always descends on me when I travel to the old, colonial part of Jakarta, Kota Tua. It was once the busiest part of Jakarta since it was close to the sea and port. Many old buildings stand there still. A few have been restored well, some have been mangled by modern bad taste.

DSCF0281
This row of houses along Jalan Tiang Bendera III are one of the very few privately restored buildings I saw. I imagine that if in Penang, Malacca, Hoi An or other historical cities they would have been restored and turned into shops, cafes or restaurants

The majority of buildings however, are left to rot, abandoned and neglected and suffer the indignity of being a dumpsite for rubble and rubbish.

DSCF0297
DSCF0306 This building along Jalan Pasar Pagi Kecil I (above) is now used as a backdrop for carts and other personal effects. Below- this building along Jalan Malaka is now the backdrop for recyclable rubbish

In spite, or perhaps because of this neglect, the Kota Tua area has grown to be a hodgepodge of narrow streets, filthy drains and canals, small recently built houses, and homeless workers who sleep outside the buildings at nights or on holidays when the shops are closed.

DSCF0304
The underclass sleep along the wide corridors of the old buildings

A way of life has evolved there, with middle-class to poor Chinese Indonesians living cheek by jowl with the Betawi and other immigrants. This life recalls a Jakarta gone by, a simpler and less prosperous time when people made do, things get repaired or recycled rather than discarded.

DSCF0277
Bicycle repairman. Many of the Kota Tua residents still rely on the bicycle to get them around
DSCF0310
A worker, watched by presumably his boss, recycles old bones of staples, probably to sell off as scrap metal

It is also a time of simpler pleasures, such as a bicycle ride but now done with the menacing roar of traffic beside the cyclists.

DSCF0279
If not for the modern bicycle and the cars, this scene of a father taking his son out on a bicycle would have been played out in the last hundred years in old Jakarta.

It is a life of simple commerce where you’re likely to know the street vendor and shops catering to local tastes.

DSCF0272
Fruit vendor, Jalan Melaka II
DSCF0340
Turtle or Pi Oh is a delicacy in the Kota Tua area. A shop near the Glodok market sells them and cuts them up for their customers. The shells of the turtles are flung onto the roof to dry once they’ve done their grisly work.

The Jakarta Government has talked about reviving Kota Tua and have even formed a Jakarta Old Town Revitalisation Corporation, but it seems to be more talk than action.Buildings lies neglected but life goes on as people, in their ingenuity, will find some means to make money to feed themselves and their families.

DSCF0315
Talk is cheap about revitalisation and restoration but the truth is that many magnificent buildings in Kota Tua are left to rot

DSCF0334DSCF0279   DSCF0331

DSCF0333
Facets of life in Kota Tua. 1. many buildings are left to rot in spite of talk about revitalisation and restoration 2. A potential buyer checks out semi-precious stones along a Glodok sidewalk 3. Who’s the monster? Mural in Glodok 4. Some eke out a living as sidewalk artists in Kota Tua

So another year goes buy. The buildings rot even more. Some are knocked down, others catch fire. Slowly, what was once the heart of Jakarta gets buried ever deeper into the mists of time. DSCF0330

Malaysians’ shopping haven in Indonesia

If you’ve been to Bandung lately you’ll know how bad the traffic gets during holidays. It’s mostly people from Jakarta but also an increasing number of tourists from Malaysia with an eye for bargains. This from The Jakarta Post

Malaysians flock to Bandung to shop

Yuli Tri Suwarni ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Bandung   |  Thu, 07/16/2009 1:36 PM  |  Supplement

Nuryahati Sailima, 24, of Selangor, Malaysia, did not mind at all that she had to wear a surgical mask for about an hour on an Air Asia flight that flew her from Kuala Lumpur to Bandung, the capital of West Java, last Friday.

The swine flu issue has prompted the Malaysian government to take precautionary steps by obliging its citizens to wear masks on plane trips. However, this did not hinder Nurhayati’s determination to bring her two-year-old daughter and her mother to visit Bandung.

“I want to go to Pasar Baru to look for cheap textiles,” said Nurhayati who spent three days in Bandung shopping and eating out.

Nurhayati was picked up by a tour guide from a local travel agent. Most Malaysians use the services of travel agents because they feel more secure.

Ahmad Zulkifli and his three friends, on the other hand, came to Bandung from Kuala Lumpur on their own. Zulkifli, 27, said that he had visited Bandung four times prior to this trip for the delicious food and shopping bargains.

“The textiles and garments here are equal to those in Singapore, while the prices are much lower,” said Zulkifli.

Pasar Baru, lines of distros and factory outlets on Jl. Juanda (Dago), Jl. Martadinata (Riau) as well as Jl. Setiabudi are the main places where Malaysian tourists spend most of their money. Jeans outlets also attract these tourists and make them feel at home. Read more here.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

A site for divers in Indonesia

Blogger, diver, film director, object of jealous husbands’ wrath and Professor of Bijiology Iman Brotoseno has started a new blog about diving called Dunia laut. As with things Iman, great photos are part of the blog. It is meant for divers in Indonesia and is mainly in Indonesian but has some posts in English (e.g. a posting on Cenderawasih Bay by Unspun’s alter ego).

The idea behind the blog, Iman explained to me the other day, was to have a site for divers to go to. Divers can also contribute their photos and postings to the blog, but they would have to be registered.

It’s also meant to be a platform where divers can find other divers on a trip or where those organizing trips can find participants. Great idea.

What next Iman? A blog on Bijiology?