Batavia, Jakarta’s Old Town

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As a child, young moviemaker Yusuf Andibachtiar learned much about Indonesia’s rich history as he grew up amid the relics of history in the heart of Jakarta’s Old Town.

 

Ever since the Dutch East India Company destroyed an existing settlement called Jayakarta and built a new one called Batavia in the 17th century, the city has been one of trade. The port of Sunda Kelapa was at the heart of that trade, and while the sailing ships have long gone, the old port still maintains some of its glory with impressive wooden phinisi, traditional sailing ships, loading and unloading cargo from the outer islands.


“Sunda Kelapa made Indonesia come alive for me in a way school books and maps never could,” he recalls.


Taman Fatahillah(Fatahillah Square) was the political heart of the country, and the Town Hall was where the Dutch ruled their sprawling eastern empire. Today it is home to the impressive Jakarta History Museum, with an open-air dining area in the courtyard just feet away from the cramped cellars where the enemies of the state were left to await their fate.


“I have always loved movies. I used to play football barefoot in Taman Fatahillah with my friends, but I was always aware of this history around me and I realised there are 1,001 stories waiting to be told about Indonesia, and most of them have their origins right here.”


Much has been done to rejuvenate the area and make it more attractive to visitors, with people now able to walk from the whitewashed Fine Arts Museum at one end of the square to the puppet museum, better known as the Wayang Museum.


“The Wayang Museum was my favourite place. I had grown up with the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and in those days puppet shows were still popular.”


Cafe Bataviais the perfect place to unwind after dipping into Jakarta’s history. Eating traditional local dishes by a window on the first floor offers a fine vista of the square, and amid the wooden floors, high ceilings, and attentive staff, it is easy to step back in time and imagine the square in its glory – when Jakarta wasn’t just a capital city, but the heart of an empire spanning the globe.



Yusuf Andibachtiar

Yusuf gave up his job in advertising to travel to South Korea for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Jobless on his return, he took a video camera to a football match and was so impressed by the passion on the terraces he decided to make a movie. He had discovered his own passion.
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Jakarta, Indonesia
Distance: 6,918 km
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