Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia today, and was formerly known as Batavia, when it was capital of the Netherlands East Indies. Old Batavia still exists today and can be experienced as follows:
✑ A walk around the Old Town, Kota, and along the banks of the Kali Besar where the oldest Dutch-era merchant houses slumber in a kind of purgatory.
✑ Take in the monuments around Fatahillah Square. Visit the Jakarta History Museum (the ancien Stadhuys) for the building and the Wayang Museum for the tomb of Jan Pieterszoon Coen. Lunch at Café Batavia – an institution in its own right.
✑ Stop by the Mandiri Bank Museum, for an eerie experience of life stopped in media res; and the Bank of Indonesia Museum for the few precious photos of Indische families that it presents. In both cases, check out the stained glass.
✑ Pay a visit to the National Museum of Indonesia at Merdeka Square, for a mind-boggling display of ancient sculpture from Java’s Hindu and Buddhist era.
✑ Take a short detour to the residential district of Menteng, for a glimpse of wealth, privilege and beautiful Indische-style colonial villas. Lunch at the excellent Bungarampai, serving Dutch-Peranakan food.
Jakarta has an excellent and totally brand new Bus Rapid Transit system that plies the main streets of the city. It is the only way to beat the traffic, and it is highly recommended if you want to get anywhere. Prepare to brave the crowds.
[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Waterstones in London. Find it also on http://www.amazon.co.uk andhttp://www.bookdepository.com]