We spent the first few hours of our initial day in Jakarta sleeping, taking a bath and eating. The last two were the things we skipped during the eight-hour train ride from Yogyakarta to Jakarta. The sleeping part was intermittent because of the noise caused by the train. It was like being inside an unsteady can in motion and every little turn caused the metals to scrape against each other, and for the passenger to almost fall out of his seat. I am not complaining because the train ride was a choice we made for we wanted to experience travelling in a sleeper train and it arrived on time and its people were kind to us.
A little after 2pm, Nadya, her husband Ricky and their adorable child Aisha fetched us at Amaris hotel. They treated us to lunch and we started our afternoon of discovering Jakarta.
Our first stop was Istiqlal Mosque (Masjid Istiqlal), the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. “Istiqlal” is the Arabic word for independence, and the mosque was named as such because it commemorates Indonesian independence.
Like all the other sacred places we visited, we had to go inside the mosque barefoot. The inner part of the ground was spacious and solemn. It was a very peaceful place, perfect for prayer, reflection and hushed conversation. The main hall is expansive with men and women having their own place of prayer.
Our next stop is right in front of Istiqlal Mosque, the Jakarta Cathedral (Gereja Katedral Jakarta). It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jakarta and is officially known as The Church of Our Lady of Assumption. On the day we stopped by, it was closed because it was Good Friday but there were singing and praying coming from inside the church.
A short drive from Jakarta Cathedral is Merdeka Square, one of the largest squares in the world. On that holiday, it was crawling with people and buzzing with business. There were horse-drawn carriages, bajay (bajaj), a lot of street food and clothes and toys for sale, but the main attraction of Merdeka Square is located in its center, the National Monument (Monumen Nasional) or Monas.
Monas stands proud at 132 meters and it is topped by a flame covered with gold foil. This tower commemorates the fight for Indonesian freedom. The structure blends the philosophy of Lingga (rice pestle) and Yoni (mortar) to symbolize masculinity and femininity and eternal life. Unfortunately, the observation deck and Flame of Independence were not open on a holiday so we had to content ourselves with the scenes around the Monas.
After the visit to Merdeka Square, we procceded to Old Batavia. Old Batavia (Old Jakarta or Kota) was the center of commerce and trade of Indonesia during Dutch occupation. It covers an area of 1.3 square kilometers and houses a number of historical buildings.
As the sun started to set, street artists came out of the woodwork to entertain the masses that flocked to Old Batavia.
Aside from street performances, there were a multitude of street food vendors and sellers of other things.
Thank you, Nadya, Ricky and Aisha. 🙂