A Slice of Jakarta: Palmerah

Have you visited Jakarta? For those of you who once visit the Indonesian capital, there are places within the city that are often mentioned in Jakarta tour guide books. Sudirman, Thamrin, and Kuningan are three most famous sections of the city for you. They become busiest and elite parts of the capital. Most embassies, international offices and government buildings open their businesses and services in the areas.

We would like you to step outside the three places then move a bit to the outskirt of Central Jakarta. The name of the area is called Palmerah. This is the part of the capital where I have been living for about 11 years. Palmerah occupies strategic location. I call this area lies on the edge of the municipality because from where I precisely live, Palmerah Selatan (South Palmerah), is just within hundreds of meters from South Jakarta (Kebayoran Lama). My exact point is closer to Rawa Belong (West Jakarta).

On the other hand, Palmerah is very far from Kemayoran although the two areas fall under the same municipality, Central Jakarta. So, I prefer going to Kebayoran Lama (whenever I have to) than Kemayoran.

By location, Palmerah is so close to the House of Representatives building. Sometimes I walk to the building on foot. Palmerah has Palmerah train station that connects commuters traveling from Tanah Abang to Tangerang Selatan and Banten, two neighboring areas outside Jakarta. Palmerah is also close to Slipi district. This district occupies a strategic spot that is passed by toll roads leading you to Soekarno-Hatta international airport.

Given the easy access, you probably wonder about what makes Palmerah is worthy of a visit, right? Besides the fact that I love living here, here are some cool things about Palmerah:

Palmerah Traditional Market

Source: YouTube.com

A traditional market sits in the center of Palmerah that consists of Palmerah Utara, Palmerah Barat, and Palmerah Selatan. The market is close to the Palmerah train station. You can reach the market on foot. The market is almost alive within 24 hours every day. The hectic hours happen in the morning. When I was still working at The Jakarta Post newspaper, I saw the market was even livelier at midnight. Sometimes, at 11 or 12 p.m, I smelt fresh vegetables and fruits at the market. Dozens of traders dropped their stocks that would be bought by traders, here.

No wonder that in the morning, the market is so packed that you won’t find it easy to go through unless by walking. From fresh fishes to vegetables, you will see they crowd the market. As hours go on, the market doesn’t that much hectic. There are kiosks that you can get affordable items, from clothes to makeups.

Traders in the market are polite and friendly. You can ask for various information on the products you want to purchase. You can bargain, too. You can get plenty of items at cheap prices. The market gets surrounded by fruit sellers. They sell many fruits, such as oranges, apples, and bananas. If you’re bored with modern markets, try coming to the market.

You can take a commuter line then stop at the Palmerah train station. Or you can take a public minivan or angkot then stop at the Palmerah market. Shop here any time of the day then feel true vibes of Indonesia’s culture in business, here.

Hian Thian Siang Tee Temple

Source: yournews2013.wordpress.com

About 200 years old, Hian Thiang Siang Lee is a historical temple that lies just behind the market. Whenever I pass by the market, I get attracted by the temple that always looks viable and vibrant in red.

Behind the temple, there spans huge and tall Menara Kompas building. Viewing the two standing in harmony impresses me. We don’t have to tear down old buildings for the sake of modern architecture, that’s how they tell me.

Anyway, the temple still functions well until today by Chinese citizens who live in Jakarta. I don’t pass over the temple very often. I once saw the temple was packed by the followers during Chinese New Year if I’m not mistaken. Other than the festivity, the temple looks quieter but there are caretakers of the temple as in other temples.

Jakarta is indeed inseparable from Chinese influences. Their presence in the city has been helping the city enjoying an economic boom. Since Chinese people are skilled traders by nature, it’s easy to spot their presence in business areas across the capital, be they in traditional or modern markets.

I myself always love admiring a temple, including this one. Although I am a Muslim, I love temple for the architecture, philosophy, and value behind each and every symbol of the temple. The Chinese love red because the color symbolizes luck. I once read red identifies with courage and boldness.

The temple is well-maintained and is easy to reach. Do come whenever you wish to explore more on Jakarta’s diversity ambiance in religion and culture.

Bentara Budaya Cultural Foundation

An art event is taking place in Bentara Budaya. Source: kratonpedia.com

Just a few meters from the temple, you will see a large, Javanese housing complex. That’s called Bentara Budaya. The complex consists of some Javanese houses, each of which may function as an exhibition or gallery for certain events.

Bentara Budaya is part of Kompas Gramedia big company. Kompas Gramedia is one of the leading media companies in Indonesia. It has a newspaper, online media, television media, hotel, and bookstore chain. Bentara Budaya is one of the firm’s segments that oversee the country’s cultural and social events.

In my opinion, Bentara Budaya is an extraordinary blessing for the country. I’m thankful that the company runs the foundation today. As a developing country, Indonesians, particularly Jakartans, focus more on making money. Culture, mental health, environment, to name just a few, tend to be neglected.

The presence of Bentara Budaya brings refreshment for those who seek beyond money-making process. As such, Bentara Budaya often carries out a monthly theme that sometimes discusses art, painting, film, cultural heritage and others. The venue sometimes hosts exhibitions, art events, community events, music shows, and others.

I haven’t gone inside the building, anyway. But I once watched one of the musical shows that were performing in front of the main Javanese house. That strategy lured passers-by to just drop by, enjoy the music without registering themselves or paying any cents. Thanks Bentara Budaya!

Gramedia Bookstore

The front part of the bookstore. Just go inside the building. Source: karyaguru.com

Basically, the interesting parts of Palmerah are within few meters walk around. Gramedia bookstore has been one of the important literary parts in Indonesia’s publishing industry. The growing of the online bookstore doesn’t kill this offline bookstore chain, alhamdulillah (Thanks to Alloh swt).

This Gramedia bookstore is included in the Gramedia big building that lies close to the market. So, once in the market, simply walk straight a few meters. You will later see the office building that contains the bookstore on the ground floor.

The bookstore sells Indonesian novels, comics, stationery items, magazines and many more. If you still find it confused, you can ask for security officers of the building on things you would like to know about the store. I’m sure they will be glad to answer your questions.

So, those are my recommendations about places to visit when in Palmerah. Thanks for dropping by to my blog. Pardon me when you find inaccurate information or hurtful words in this article.

Stung by the fever of Asian Games 2018

Me at the main stadium of Gelora Bung Karno on Monday, 27 August 2018, cheering for Indonesian athletes.

My life in the past two weeks turns upside down thanks to Asian Games 2018. In case you haven’t heard anything about Asian Games 2018, my country, Indonesia, once again hosts the world’s second largest sporting competition after 56 years. This year’s event takes place in two cities, Jakarta and Palembang. I myself reside in Jakarta.

Alhamdulillah (praise to God) that I have time to get involved in all the excitements during the festivity thanks to my freelancing job. I can’t imagine if I work at office from 9 to 5, I wouldn’t be able to follow all news let alone watching my favorite sporting events.

I can tell you that long before I know classic novels and devote much of my time for reading, I am a huge sport fan. I learn about nationalism from sport, especially badminton. I even wish I were a badminton player back then.

So, whenever there are any sport competitions held in Jakarta, particularly global ones, I am so thrilled. I am so excited with the 2011 SEA Games, now Asian Games 2018. I couldn’t be happier!

Indonesians are very fond of badminton, probably second most favorite sport after football

I start and end the days within the two weeks by catching up news on Asian Games 2018. I check the news on daily events involving Indonesian athletes and I head on to purchase tickets if still available.

I am a little bit sad because I am only able to watch four events; 1 badminton (my most favorite match), 2 athletics and 1 baseball match. I am mistaken about Indonesians’ enthusiasms. I thought people wouldn’t care coming to the stadium by paying much money. But I am so wrong, very wrong. Tickets are sold very fast, especially favorite sporting events (my favorites as well), which are football, badminton, basketball and volley ball.

So I manage to buy one badminton ticket only, the second round of preliminary session of individual badminton. At far distance, I am joyful to witness the performance of local badminton player, Liliyana Natsir or Butet, probably for her last time. She and her partner, Tontowi Ahmad or Owi, are 2016 Olympic gold medalists. They eventually lose at the tournament but never mind though because I catch their playing at that session.

Asian Games Super Store with super queue. I can’t enter the store because you know, the very long line as you can see from the pict

I purchase two tickets for athletic games during the Asian Games 2018 as this is “the mother of all sports”. This is the sport at which I can witness new records, open my mouth wide open every time I see athletes jumping at the highest surpassing the pole. And of course, my adrenaline runs quickly every time running-theme events take place.

The best moment of all is shouting the loudest while jumping off the bench when the fourth runner of the Indonesia’s 4 x 100 m men relay is approaching the last few meters of the race. I won’t ever forget the moment that lasts for only a few seconds because it has been a very long time I didn’t experience that. The four runners eventually snatch silver medal. I am so, so blessed to be there at the moment, cheering for them at the stadium.

That’s the wonderful part of becoming a supporter for the host team. As a spectator and sport fan in general, I am amazed by my fellow citizens who are enthusiastic way more than I imagine. If they don’t like sports, they can bring along their friends and families enjoying Asian Fest who offers culinary, music shows and games. Either day or night, Gelora Bung Karno sports complex in the heart of Jakarta is full of visitors.

Then, I am so delighted to see a lot of families bringing their kids watching live at the stadium. Then, the children should or clap their hands while saying, “INDONESIA”, “INDONESIA! I bet that must be their once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave unforgettable trace in their minds. Who knows one day one of them will be national athlete?

Also, it’s a pleasant view to see many employees who go to the stadium to support local athletes along with their office mates after their job is over at that day. For myself, I’d love to head on to the stadium across the city to watch pure entertainment called sports.

Sport mixed with entertainment and culinary

Tomorrow is the last day of the Asian Games 2018. The much-awaited party is over within some hours from now. The hard work from the Indonesian government eventually is completed and what they do deserves a massive applause. I can’t imagine how the organizing committee of the event does the mass job for years. Minus poor ticketing system, all parts of the event run very well; security, public facility, venue-related things, service for spectators and participating athletes and officials and many aspects.

After months of news about corruption, political rivalry among presidential candidates, deeply stung by the fever of Asian Games 2018 is such relieve and refreshment. Looking at the atmosphere, I am sure that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Best thing is our country bags 31 gold medals, yes! This is way better than just four gold medals we get during the 2014 Asian Games Incheon, South Korea. The achievement also surpasses the targeted gold medals from the government (around 20 gold medals if I’m not mistaken). Gold, silver, bronze or doesn’t belong to top circles doesn’t matter for me. Because as a sport fan, again, watching world-class sport games here, just a few kilometer from my lodging room, is already a gift, a very great entertainment. I am very, very thankful for all the local athletes, coaches and officials who work super hard to whatever result they get from this event. May your sweat and tear will bring in best results in more events to come. Thank you, thank you very much once again.

Thank you very much Asian Games 2018 for giving me wnderful stories to cherish as long as I live

And last but not least, Alhamdulillah (praise to God) that I become a tiny part of the history for Indonesia as a citizen, spectator, sport fan and huge supporter for local athletes. This Asian Games 2018 adds a wonderful chapter to my already beautiful life. And for my country, this proves that we can be a good host for this huge event despite problems occurring in the country. Alhamdulillah..

Review on ‘Batavia 1936’: It isn’t all about the ending

I am quite sad knowing Kirani doesn’t end up marrying Hans. I wish they tie the knot, especially as the story draws its finale, both Kirani’s father and Hans’ know Hans actually wants to propose Kirani, not Kirana.

You know, why can’t that happen? I mean if they both follow their hearts, they can do just that. But I know, the writer wouldn’t do that. Because that would be a kind of taking an advantage from someone’s suffering. Precisely, being happy despite Kirana’s dying days.

That don’t really matter much for me anyway. What makes the novel a bit out of sense is the way how the finale unfolds. That Hans suddenly wants to marry Kirana, which is basically out of pity and how Kirani realizes she is more in love with Syam while most of the pages highlight her feeling to Hans.

I am sorry for the author’s immediate ending which for me seems forceful. Not smooth. May be when Hans is in Surabaya, the writer can focus on his changed feeling for Kirana, no longer to Kirani. While he has his heart changed, the writer can also bend Kirani’s affection to Syam who is her best friend.

Suppose the feeling transition runs smoothly I can totally understand why Hans ends up with Kirana and Kirani is more at her best with Syam. But the author doesn’t do her job right for this very essential part, which for me spoils the overall work. I applaud her attempt to craft the fiction, adding historical and cultural contexes here and there. Too bad the author doesn’t put good transition as the story moves to the end, the part that is mostly waited for all readers who have set aside much time reading for it.

 

“Batavia 1936” by Widya Harun

I completed reading ‘Batavia 1936’ a few days ago. In case you haven’t read my previous post about the novel,  ‘Batavia 1936’ is the first long novel in Bahasa Indonesia that I read after like, four years. So long..

I like the book at first. Because it takes historical background in Batavia, the old name of Jakarta before Indonesia gains independence from the Japanese troops in 1945. The author takes a bold move in writing the sort of novel because not many Indonesian readers prefer reading this type of book where you have to read footnotes about old buildings, history about certain places in Batavia at that time. Your brain works twice, enjoying the story while learning about history.

While my curiosity about how major characters get involved in national movement against the Dutch troops dim as they cease doing that, I keep reading the book because I expect something romantic out of the story between Kirani and Hans van Deventer. And obviously, I still wish I can let my imagination running wild when the author describes places at that time. I love the parts when the writer depict places and people when the story takes place.

Kirani, a young, beautiful and rich girl coming from a Moslem wealthy family namely Rijkaard, falls in love with Hans, a Dutch-descent doctor. Kirani is a brave, strong-willed person while Hans is quite the opposite. He is shy, poetic, mellow partly because of his sorrow family background. His mother, his past only friend, passes away when he is still a boy. He is the son of his mother, a Javanese moslem and his father’s brother. His biological father rapes his mother out of hatred when his mother is about to be married as the fourth wife of a local badass man.

His biological father dies shortly. Then Hans becomes the son of his current father, Phillip van Deventer, who is actually in love with his mother. Hans and Phillip are under the same roof but they are emotionally apart because Hans is not his biological son. Their relationship gets so much closer when Hans tells Philip that he is really fond of one of the Rijkaard’s daughters. Hans never mentions her name unknowingly that there are two women in the family: Kirani and her older sister, Kirana.

Shortly to put, Hans propose the wrong woman. Instead of Kirani, the Rijkaard family believes he wants to marry Kirana as she is the one who tells her feeling to her mother, Hillailah.

Hans, a weak man by the heart, gets fainted on the day of the proposal. He gets sad, even emotional. Thankfully, he has Syam, the only good friend that he has who is also in love with Kirani. While Kirani slowly moves on from the fate that her sister is going to have the man she loves. Hans, on the other hand, always wishes the wedding will never happen.

His wishes come true but on ways he never expects them to be.

A thief gets into the house of the Rijkaard family , injuring Kirana and causing Hillailah gets a heart attack then dies suddenly. The thief is later known as Mastur, the man whose sick child is cured by Hans. He does that by intention because he wants to steal the ring that Hans gives to Kirana, his future wife. Mastur knows that Hans get depressed because of proposing the wrong woman. Mastur does this to pay his debt of his son. The purpose that is actually in favour of Hans yet that turns out uglier than anyone can imagine.

Kirana is in her deathbed because she falls off the stairs. Their planned wedding is canceled. Kirani and Hans get closer as days go by as they spend much time nurturing the ill woman. Syam, on the other hand, keeps supporting Hans.

Then what happens next is just too diverted.

Hans departs for Surabaya to work as a volunteering doctor who help people suffering from malaria. Deep down in his heart, Hans wants to die there. This is known by Syam. So Syam asks for the help of his friend in Surabaya. Hans is transported back to Jakarta in very critical condition. Syam’s pal says Hans gets infected by malaria and doesn’t want to be cured.

What happens by the end of the novel? For most people it’s heartbreaking but for me it’s so silly.

Hans want to marry Kirana who is still in her comma because he dissapoint her. They do get married as they are dying. Kirani, who is seen loving Syam, seems happy with the marriage. Yet Kirani and Syam don’t know their feelings each other, too.

So the novel ends.

I read an Indonesian novel again, at last!

batavia 1936

I have been reading ‘Batavia 1936’ for the past a few weeks. This is the first novel in Bahasa Indonesia, my second language (my first one is Javanese language) that I read after Ayu Utami’s Lalita back in 2012/2013, if I’m not mistaken.

As I write in this post, I have been struggling reading novels in Bahasa Indonesia because I spend much time reading books in English language. Reading books in Bahasa Indonesia feels awkward.  It really is.

I can’t remember how enjoyable reading novels in Bahasa Indonesia when I was a university student, which means some 10 years back. Pragmatically, since I want to write books in Bahasa Indonesia, I have to read novels in the language, whether or not I like the idea. Yes, I know. The motivation sounds money-oriented. Sometimes I feel guilty reading books in Bahasa Indonesia out of money. Genuine writers who happen reading this piece will hate me. I’m sorry.

Anyway, I want to regain the delight of reading local literature though, yes again, it’s more because of money. What you may think as incorrect motivation has guided me learning again how to read stories in Bahasa Indonesia. I kind of enjoying the process.

‘Batavia 1936’ is a romance story that takes social background in Menteng area, Jakarta’s elite neighborhood when Indonesia is still under the Dutch occupation. Batavia itself is the old name of Jakarta before Indonesia gains independence from the Japanese troops on August 17, 1945.

The novel, which sadly doesn’t sell well, is quite rare. The writer, Widya W. Harun, opts writing a novel that doesn’t match with Indonesia’s literary enthusiasts preference who mostly like reading books about modern love story.

I salute the author for sticking at what she believes in. I bet she does a hard job matching her idea with the historical and background at the time. I believe she works hard collecting information to support her book. This makes me liking her already.

‘Batavia 1936’, as I read so far, tells about Kirana and Kirani, two siblings who have their hearts set on one man, Hans van Deventer, a Dutch doctor whose mother is a Javanese. While the essence of the story is not something extraordinary,what makes the novel worthy of my time is because the author brings me back to what happens in Jakarta before it is freed from colonialism.

As I go through page by page, my mind attempts to visualize the houses where the major characters live. I let my imagination wanders through time and space when Jakarta, which is now so crowded, is once a peaceful city. No bus, no trains. But horses and carriages.

As I read the book I try to put myself at the era where women, although like Kirana and Kirani who come from wealthy family, are restricted. I mean the two figures aren’t described as having jobs to do.

Male figures take the helms of the families. They work to make ends meet. While women, for instance, the mother of Kirani and Kirana, is skilled at household; cooking and sewing. The life of the rich people in the book is so glamorous even when television doesn’t exist. They throw expensive parties. They are like celebrities.

So far, the novel is a pleasant one to read. Because I can wholly sense the restriction of culture in it. Though Kirani and Hans love each other they don’t touch or kiss. People at that time holds culture so much that they can respect each other before they tie the knot.

The language is so soft, much different from today’s novels. From it, I can draw the conclusion that the language itself has grown so much. Although I am still a little bit struggling putting all of my heart into the book, I’d love to know how the story unfolds. Will Hans be with Kirani or her sister, Kirana?

Guess my efforts of making a good comeback as a national literary lover has been proven fruitful so far. Yeah, I think myself so.

The picture is taken from this

One fun morning in Jakarta’s Cikini classic area

I want to post pictures of me having fun while learning and exploring Cikini, a vintage part of Indonesia’s Jakarta, last Saturday. I was joining a free walking tour with a number of friendly new friends and a very warm tour guide from Jakarta Good Guide. Here are some pics:

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Us in front of the Gedung Joang 45 building, formerly a hotel now it is a museum displaying rare collections from Indonesia’s founding fathers.

 

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Us in a pedestrian area packed by a number of cafes and restaurants in Cikini. Now a creative, passers-by friendly area, the site was a popular hangout place for elites. The cafes and restaurants are still well-maintained by current owners. Very beautiful vintage side of Cikini.

Below: Our pose in front of a theatrical art building in the complex of Jakarta’s Taman Ismail Marzuki, still in Jakarta.

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Still in the Taman Ismail Marzuki complex.

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Eating ice cream

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Our last spot: Jalan Surabaya, where you can find unique and antique stuff.

Thank you very much Jakarta Good Guide and my fellow walkers!

See yaaa!

Wanted: a nice public reading spot in the capital

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Where else can I read in front of these pretty yellow flowers?

As Alessandro Del Piero no longer trains at the Macquarie University sports complex, the only place in Sydney that tops my list if I revisit the city is the Royal Botanic Garden. Not only the city park is such a paradise for a nature lover like me, but also it becomes the place where I eventually have a chance to read a book while laying on clean grass. For a bookworm living in a very hectic crowded city like Jakarta, what I have experienced in the garden is truly an enjoyment.

 

I go to the park three times during the six-days staying in the heart of Sydney. I firstly come to the Hyde Park but I prefer the Royal because it is across the sea, has very large green fields, more various flowers, and best of all it is a little bit secluded. On the other hand, the Hyde is right in the center of the city where you can view city buses encircle the place hence it’s a bit noisy to spend hours reading in it.

Some of you readers who can enjoy pure blue sky all around the places you currently live will say what I have felt there is a bit too much. But if you have visited Jakarta you will fully understand that my statements are understandable.

According to the Gardening and Cemetery Agency of the Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia has 1,178 gardens which for me, becomes rather useless because most of them serve as mere ornament, green refreshment for passers-by. Some famous parks, such as Taman Menteng and Taman Suropati, stands out among the huge number as they are commonly used as public space where people gather, do exercises or simply hang around during spare time.

But given rowdy atmosphere in those parks, I believe bookworms will find it difficult to concentrate reading. In short words, they are not convenient enough as reading spots. Despite the chattering situation in the parks I have a salute both for public and local administration who have made use of the parks as public area for I am really disappointed with the ‘ineffectual’ existence of the Taman Semanggi or Semanggi park.

PENATAAN TAMAN SEMANGGI

The fantastic view of Taman Semanggi from above. Thank you for http://www.ahok.org for this picture.

As you see from the below picture, the garden is really beautiful, very spacious and definitely, trees are all around it. The design is completely adorable where the park is divided into several parts that surrounds the city’s historical bridge, Jembatan Semanggi. It’s too bad, completely useless for the park is a mere garnish because barely no people visit the place for interaction. Usually, policemen or gardening staff who are seen in the park either for doing their jobs or taking some breaks.

taman semanggi (www.voraale.com)

Inside the garden. credit for http://www.voraale.com for the picture.

Aside from the fact that the park is in the centre of the busy Jakarta where it is normally treated as an eyeshot from the rear-view mirrors of vehicles, Indonesians don’t get used to use the parks, including the Semanggi park, as a reading spot because most Indonesians don’t read.

taman semanggi (www.nationalgeographic.co.id)

The picture is from http://www.nationalgeographic.co.id.

Even during Car Free Day, the garden remains empty. People, who run or bike around the place, keep their feet out of it. They only jog or walk around it. Sometimes, I really want to grab a book, a mattress then go to the park. I’d love to do what I have done in the Royal in the Semanggi park; reading while laying on the grass. I would be so happy if I could do that despite not being able to breathe fresh air in the park. But I believe people would stare at me while thinking I am a weird person should I execute the idea because, again, the very low reading habit in Indonesia and the location of the garden in the capital.

Although I still enjoy reading in my room, inside the bus or bus shelter, sometimes I want to do my hobby in an open area just like in Sydney but it’s almost impossible to have that kind of experience in Jakarta. If not because of noisy, pollution, the idea of reading in a garden already sounds silly.

The number of the public park mentioned in the article is taken from this link: http://megapolitan.kompas.com/read/2013/09/02/0820322/Berharap.Wajah.Jakarta.Lebih.Hijau