Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jakarta Sights

On Meghan and Liz's first full day in Indonesia, we took in some sights in "sweltering, steaming, heaving mass" that is Jakarta.

First on the list: Monument Nasional (Monas), Jakarta's obligatory phallic symbol/national monument.  A 137 meter tall tower in Central Jakarta that commenced construction (Haaa! Shout-out to my EPA folks! Regulatory humor never gets old.) in 1961 under President Sukarno, Monas is meant to represent a rice mortar and pestle and/or female and male body parts. With a flame on top.  Hmmm.

Since it is a symbol of national unity, like the Washington Monument, Monas attracts tourists from all over Indonesia, some of whom were super excited to see 3 bule ladies also enjoying the monument.  We got our photos taken with several groups of people, including 2 "aunties" who insisted on their own separate photos, lest one upstage the other.  Pretty funny.

Monas is surrounded by several cool bas-relief wall carvings highlighting Indonesian history.  Unfortunately we couldn't get very close to take in the detail due to some odd barrier placement, but they looked kinda neat from afar anyway:

 After taking a little time to figure out how to get into the monument (and subsequently being laughed at by several vendors- who knew the entrance was across the street and that you had to walk under the square to get into the monument??), we made it inside and were able to check out a series of 51 interesting, albeit incomplete and amusingly translated dioramas that also took a stab at retelling Indonesia's incredibly complicated history.  No photos, as the dioramas were really dark, but it's worth the $2 cab ride and 75 cent entrance fee to check these out if you are in the area.

Following our diorama tour, we headed up to the top observation desk of Monas in a crowded elevator in order to catch a glimpse of Jakarta from above:

Once safely back on the ground post-Monas, we headed to the old part of Jakarta, Kota Tua (Old City), the center of the Dutch colonial capital formerly known as Batavia.  Specifically, we started at Fatahillah Square for a glimpse of the crumbling colonial architecture, a cold drink a the quaintly colonial Cafe Batavia, and a view of some seriously cute school kids enjoying themselves immensely on the two-person rental bikes (with matching hats!) available in the square.  We would have gone to some of the surrounding museums, but I was dumb and didn't think to see if they were open.  Turns out all the museums are closed on Mondays... live and learn.

After a brief sojourn in Fatahillah Square, we walked over to check out Sunda Kelapa Port, or the Old Harbor.  Dodging a few trucks and catcalls on the way (I don't think many tourists do the walk we did, let alone 3 lady bules!), we saw some interesting stuff, including:

Trash collector guys on narrow bamboo boats floating along a horrendously polluted canal: 

During a detour due to a wrong turn onto Jalan Pasar Ikan (Fish Market Street), we saw these dyed chicks, which we wrongly assumed were for Easter (more on that later), plus many vendors selling all sorts of maritime paraphernelia, including giant tangles of anchors and old-timey looking nautical steering wheels: 

Finally, when we reached the harbor, we found that the historic harbor still serves as a hub for inter-island trade, although it is no longer the main port for the city of Jakarta. It was a little bit like a time-warp in that we saw a fleet of wooden-masted schooners being hand-loaded by gaggles of bare-foot men.  Apparently Sunda Kelapa berths the world's last wind-powered sailing fleet still used for trade.  Wow.

After taking in all of these sights, we were pretty sweaty and tired, so we hopped a taksi, braved the jalan macet and headed home.  After a quick shower and trip to the grocery store for a live-action version of Grocery Games, we grabbed dinner and drinks at the new Jakarta stand-by, the mega mall.  At the mall we encountered elaborate Easter displays, overpriced luxury goods, a boat on the 6th floor, American propaganda, and

Afterwards Meghan tried durian for the first time and did not puke, nor did she keep Liz awake with smelly durian burps, so we had that going for us, which is nice.

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