To tell you about our experiences, we will go back in time a few days, to Saturday. We began the morning by visiting the National Monument, which looks a lot like the national monument in the United States, but with a golden flame at the top. While we could have waited in line and gone to the top, this was our first adventure in the Indonesian heat and humidity, and we instead opted for getting back on to our air conditioned tour bus. :)
We next drove to Fatahillah Square, which is a small plaza surrounded by buildings built by the Dutch in the 1600s. Although the square has a pretty gruesome past, it is now filled with people visiting the two museums, selling items, and performing.
We first visited Museum Sejarah Jakarta, a museum that sought to preserve some of the artifacts from when the area was governed by the Dutch. While obviously very poorly maintained, our tour guide was very knowledgable about the items and era, making it a worthwhile stop both culturally and historically.
Museum Wayang, which focused on the history and significance of puppets, was obviously better funded and its items were much more preserved. We were taught about puppet making from a man whose family had been crating and performing with puppets for generations. He walked us through the steps of selection and preservation of the skins used for the puppets, to the actual cutting out and painting of the character.
Puppet maker with the Tree of Life
Our tour guide led us to the Chicken Market Bridge, which was a short walk from the square. Built in the 1600s, the bridge was constructed by the Dutch and is the oldest bridge in Jakarta. For many of us, the potential beauty of the bridge was spoiled by the state of the river. Filled with trash and thick with pollutants, the river was both visually tragic and smelled extremely horrible.
Dodging cars and motorbikes, we then walked to the harbor, where our tour guide suggested we climb on one of the boats that lined the 1 kilometer harbor streach. Intimidated by the state of the water and the instability of the bridge, only Nate was adventuresome enough to climb aboard.
We ate lunch at Cafe Batavia, a historical cafe sporting beautiful, big windows, wood paneling, and large fans spinning on the ceiling. Another leftover from the Dutch settlement, Cafe Batavia overlooks Fatahilliah Square and is directly across from the Museum Sejarah Jakarta. It was easy to imagine that it would have been a hub of activity in the era's prime.
To add to the juxtaposition of the country, we finished off the day by going to Grand Indonesia, the newest mall in Jakarta. With two malls connect by a sky-walk, a movie theatre, a bowling alley, a grocery store, food court and designer stores, Grand Indonesia was the antithesis of what we had experienced earlier in the day. Exhausted, most of us found places to sit and relax, either in coffee shops, restaurants, or the grocery store food court.
Saturday was our introduction to Indonesia. Everywhere we went, people pointed at us, children wanted to take photos with us, and vendors tried to sell us items from toy bikes to iced teas, shoes and rings. We saw the intensity of the poverty, the poor living conditions, the pollution and the shop houses covered by scrap metal. And then, in almost an instant, we were in a mall, surrounded by designer fashion and the opulence of the Indonesian upper class. We are still processing these sights, but we all seem to be left with a feeling of thanksgiving, that we a blessed to have clean air, fresh water, enough to eat, and a world of opportunity at our fingertips.