We went to Indonesia in December 2010 during the rainy season. Judith had extensive meetings in Jakarta with her colleagues discussing AIDS prevention research and programs. After the meetings were over we spend a day going through several museums and historic buildings. In particular we went to the area where the Dutch set up their governmental offices, near the ancient port called Sudra Kepala. The Dutch called Jakarta, Batavia. In this area, there is a restaurant called Batavia.
The first time I came to Jakarta, we ate a group dinner in a back room at this restaurant and I thought it was really a nice place but I didn’t really have time to linger and browse around because we had to climb into a taxi right afterwards. But this time we ate in the main dining room for lunch and almost had the place to ourselves. The building overlooks the Fatahillah Square, the Fatahillah Museum, and the old City Hall from the Dutch colonial period. The furniture and incredible picture collection make this place a feast for the eye and it is topped off by the world famous Churchill Bar on the second floor. The upstairs “grand salon” is made entirely of Java teak wood.
The waitress removes one of the photos on the columns, turns it over and presents the menu.
The food and service were at best, adequate, but they were a secondary priority. During lengthy time to have our food served, I took the opportunity to take photos of the photos. Here is the Churchill Bar, singled out by Newsweek as one of the world’s best bars in 1994 and 1996.
And down at the end of the bar is a photo of its namesake.
Here are a few more of the many photos I took of famous people. I am sure I don’t need to identify them.
And this is my favorite…
Even the toilets were filled with photos including one of Mickey Rourke taking a whiz.
We actually visited the museums before lunch, and it appears to be a day where school children from various schools visited museums as a class displaying their various school colors. Some were taking notes, knowing they would be quizzed about what they learned and saw.
This group posed for me and the teachers all rushed to be included.
The first time I came to Jakarta, I was not too happy but I really love Jakarta now. Of course there are still obstacles The airport terminal is old, the immigration lines are long, the baggage conveyors are short, making them crowded, and once you have your luggage, you have to line up in one of the two custom lines where your luggage is put through a scanning conveyor. It seems to me the objective is to get people quickly through this process making any security efforts seem like they have to be cursory at best. Then without out the aid of any clear organization, trying to get a Blue Bird or Black Bird taxi becomes another wait and struggle. These taxes have licensed drivers and metered fare. One should always take one of these taxis in favor the friendly man who wants to grab your bag and put it in his car and charge you 2-3 times the going rate. The going rate is only about $12 USD so if you are used to paying $33 with at least a $5 tip to get to and from O’Hare, you might not even learn that you were ripped off by paying $30.
The ride to the center of the city is long and the traffic is always, always impossible, especially the last one or so miles. Our hotel of choice is the Grand Hyatt.
Once arriving the car must go through a security check before allowed to travel to the front of the hotel. After de-taxiing, all luggage, including hand carried items are again scanned. But once inside our room which has club floor privilege, all becomes good. Some hotels charge way too much for massages and other spa treatments, but we find the prices acceptable avoiding the search for less expensive services nearby. The pool area is outstanding and early in the morning, before the clouds start to build, I was able to enjoy the sun for about one hour each day. The restaurant by the pool area is a great place for lunch and even though the rain would come, the weather stayed warm.
During out stay, we are treated to dine in some famous old exotic restaurants decorated with Indonesian art and artifacts. But what makes the Jakarta so enjoyable are the warm and friendly people. There are about 200 million people in Indonesia comprising about 300 different ethnic groups and 500 different languages. Fortunately English is widely spoken, especially in the cities.
I realize that most Americans have a much distorted view of Indonesia. However, we look forward to travelling to more places within the country. There are so many different forms of paradise to enjoy for a few days here. If only we could wean ourselves from Bali once in a while.