COMPOSED of 17,000 islands, Indonesia is often referred to as the largest archipelago in the world with a population of over 200 million spread in eight major islands and island groups.
The population exhibits marked diversity in linguistic, culture, and religious traditions with 300 ethnic groups speaking 200 different languages and observing different religious traditions.
All these can be seen and experienced upon exploring Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. Situated in the northwest coast of Java, it is the most populated city and is considered the melting pot of representatives from various ethnic groups and the center of government, commerce and industry.
It is also a gateway to other tourist destinations.
Despite its modernization, Jakarta somehow managed to preserve its culture, traditions and even some structures that were built during the Dutch colonial era which now house some of the capital’s museums.
One of these is the Jakarta History Museum, located in the historic Old Jakarta Kota area, Taman Fatahillah square where the City Hall of Batavia, the former capital of the Dutch East Indies, used to be.
Jakarta History Museum has a vast collection of artefacts that show the history of the development of the City of Jakarta.
Inaugurated in March 1974, the museum became the center for collection, conservation and research.
Also located at Fatahillah Square is the Puppet Museum which houses a wide collection of Javanese puppetry, sculptures and masks which were sourced from Cirebon, Bali, and Center Java.
Some of the dolls and puppets were from other countries like Malaysia, Suriname, France, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Another site to visit while in Jakarta is the textile museum that is also a cultural educational institution that helps to conserve traditional textile of Indonesia.
The Textile Museum was founded in 1976 as the result of a concerted effort spearheaded by the Governor of Jakarta at that time, Ali Sadikin. The main building or display room houses a huge collection of textiles including various classic and contemporary Batik.
Textile has always been an important part of life in Indonesia. They constitute a very rich aspect of Indonesian culture and a testament of the degree of technological expertise and artistic skill attained by their maker.
Visitors can design their own Batik, a challenging work that requires patience and steady hands.
Exploring the entire country will take a lot of time and resources but those who want to have a glimpse of the whole archipelago in one day can visit the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII).
The park has the same concept as the Nayong Pilipino of the Philippines which displays miniature versions of the country’s top destinations and Filipino arts and culture.
But unlike Nayong Pilipino, Jakarta’s Miniature Park is bigger and has a wide array of
displays from Indonesia’s 27 provinces.
The theme park is situated in a 100-hectare property on the outskirts of Jakarta. Its centerpiece is a manmade lake where the miniature of the Indonesian archipelago can be seen.
The TMII, a brainchild of the late first lady Madam Tien Soeharto, has its own orchid garden where hundreds of Indonesian orchid varieties are grown; a bird park with a walk-in aviary, a fauna museum and recreational grounds with a swimming pool and restaurants.
Shopping and dining
Visitors can sample a variety of food choices from traditional street vendors and high-end restaurants and lounges.
Fresh seafood is not a problem in Jakarata and one of the best places to go is Bandar Jakarta Restaurant in Ancol, North Jakarta.
Like the famous “Dampa” along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City, Bandar Jakarta Restaurant also allows patrons to choose and fresh seafood that will be cooked.
Shopping for batik and other souvenirs is one of the easies things to do in Jakarta because of the number of bargain shops and markets in the city.
A tour of Jakarta is something that should not be skipped before exploring other places in Indonesia because it can give visitors an idea of what the country is all about.