Indonesia // Java //

Kota (Old Batavia)

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The quaint old district of Kota was known as Batavia when it was the administrative centre of the Dutch trading empire. To reach Kota, either take the Trans Jakarta from Sarinah or catch the local red-and-yellow bus, both of which end up in front of Kota train station. North from Kota station along Jalan Lada, past the Politeknik Swadharma, you enter what was once the walled city of Batavia, whose centre, Taman Fatahillah, an attractive cobbled square hemmed in by museums, lies 300m to the north of the train station. On the south side, the Jakarta History Museum covers the history of the city from the Stone Age. Most displays have descriptions in English. The finest exhibit is the ornate Cannon Si Jagur, which previously stood in the square and was built by the Portuguese to defend Melaka. The whole thing is emblazoned with sexual imagery, from the clenched fist (a suggestive gesture in Southeast Asia) to the barrel itself, a potent phallic symbol in Indonesia.

The largely disappointing Wayang Museum, to the west of the square, is dedicated to the Javanese art of puppetry and housed in one of the oldest buildings in the city. Puppets from right across the archipelago are displayed, and on most Sundays there is a free wayang show (between 10am & 2pm). While in the area, don’t miss the chance to luxuriate in the stylish surroundings of the historic Café Batavia, on the northwestern corner of Taman Fatahillah. To the east of the square, the Balai Seni Rupa, Jakarta’s fine arts museum, and the Ceramics Museum house works by Indonesia’s most illustrious artists.