Not that Jogja isn’t a big city, but Jakarta is way bigger. This past weekend I went to Jakarta with two other members of my group, Sam and Danica. We just wanted to explore the city and get out of Jogja life for a while, and it was definitely an adventure!
The airports set out food for the Muslims who are fasting to break their fast with, and I thought that was incredibly nice of them. I have found that Indonesians, whether they are Muslims or not, are always willing to go the extra step to help those who are fasting and it is an action that is much appreciated by those who are fasting.
After we arrived in Jakarta, we caught a cab to our hotel. Along the way, we drove on a highway that was surrounded by skyscrapers…we could have been in any major city in the US and it would have been very similar. It was nice to be in familiar surroundings again. Our hotel was five minutes from a major circle and only ten minutes from the National Monument, MONAS.
We managed to visit many places even though we were only there for a short time. One of the great places we visited was Kota Tua, or Old City. We went to Fatahillah Square, a central area in Kota Tua. It was a large square surrounded by museums on three sides: to the right, a puppet museum, to the left, a fine arts and ceramics museum and straight ahead was the Bank Indonesia Museum.
In the square, there were various street performers and vendors all trying to earn money from the flocks of tourists. We walked for about fifteen minutes until we reached a port where there were many ships docked. However, the route we took was not the scenic route so while Sam and Danica decided to walk the scenic route back to Fatahillah Square, I grabbed a taxi and arrived in minutes. As I waited for Sam and Danica, I noticed the children playing around the square. Many of them seemed to be without parents. Given that it was a Saturday, that was to be expected; however, many of them were very very young, and it made me wonder if they were street kids. One member of our group, Gillian, is
working with street kids in her NGO, Do More. I wonder how many street kids there are in Jakarta.
From Fatahillah Square we went to the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, Masjid Istiqlal. It was ENORMOUS, and amazing. The sheer size alone dwarfed all other buildings. It can be seen from MONAS and from above the fifth floor of most buildings. We arrived around 4:30, about an hour or so before the time to break fast and there were already vendors there setting up food and Islamic clothing items. The masjid is so large, we barely saw a quarter of it. There are offices, a school, a huge courtyard, and conference and convention rooms all inside this mosque. About thirty minutes before the time to break fast, masjid workers (they may be volunteers; I have no idea) hand out cups of water or tea and a takeout tray full of food to everyone in attendance. I expected tea or water and maybe two dates (a traditional meal for breaking fast) but this was a full meal; rice, what seemed like chicken curry, and dates. I wasn’t feeling too hungry so I saved my food for later. After breaking fast downstairs, everyone hurried upstairs to the prayer area. I was just following the crowd of women because I figured they would lead me to the musullah (prayer area). When I entered the musullah, I literally stopped in awe. All I could do was stare around and above me in shock. I have never seen a masjid this large or this beautiful in its simplicity ever in my life. The floor was divided in two vertically, with men on the right side and women on the left side. Most masjids are divided horizontally, with men in front and women in the back, but I have been to some mosques where they divide it vertically so this was not a shock to me. The dome above my head was though. In the picture above, its the big white dome. It is 45 meters across (around 156 feet) and super ornate. Praying the sunset prayer in congregation felt amazing after having gone without praying in a large congregation for a couple of weeks.
For our last day in Jakarta, we decided to split up and do different things. Sam wanted to walk around the Business District and observe the city and Danica and I decided to go to a kite museum in the South. We had a bit of a hard time finding it because there were not many signs and it was very much “off the beaten track”. It was really cool. They had kites from all different regions of Indonesia as well as many from other parts of the world. Some of the kites were over 10 feet tall and others had wingspans of 15 feet and more! The tour guide spoke enough English (and we spoke enough Bahasa) that we were able to understand everything he said. He explained the different purposes and uses of kites (religious, cultural, and just for fun) and showed us kites from different international and national kite flying competitions. After our tour, we sat down and were given paper, glue, scissors and thin bamboo wood tied for us. We were going to make kites. It was a lot of fun, making and designing your own kites. Ready made memento to remind us of this great experience!
All in all, our weekend in Jakarta was awesome. I didn’t realize how much I missed simple things like hot water, showers, and sleeping with the AC and covers on. I will definitely not be taking those things for granted anymore!