Where can you expect that? A three day end-of-year trip with your colleagues somewhere on a three hour flight from Jakarta, in a five star hotel full of excursions and activities arranged by an event organizer. I did enjoy it a lot. The first activity, straight from the airport, was this amazing boat ride through a beautiful nature reserve.
It is a little bit awkward to visit Indonesia’s National Monument in the heart of Jakarta as a Dutchman. After all, the Dutch are the cause of this monument after more than three centuries of colonial occupation.
Halfway the seventies of last century the monument opened to the public. It is standing in the center of one of the largest city squares in the world: Merdeka square. It is worth a visit if you happen to be in Jakarta. The tower offers a great view of the city and in a museum underneath you learn about the freedom fight of the Indonesians and their independence in the late forties.
The surroundings are also great: the enormous square is a welcome escape from the busy city and there are often a lot of events happening and in the surrounding park there are plenty of warungs; little eateries to eat a snack or refresh yourself with a tropical drink.
In the West of Jakarta is a place where you can learn crafts. It is called Indoestri, where the process is seen more important than the end product, something I fully agree with. Like travelling: the road is more important than the destination. And same counts for awesome ice creams: the eating process – including that final bite of a chocolat tip cone – is way more important than finishing your snack.
The Jakarta Biennale is at different locations and the two main museums at Kota Tua – the Old Town – both have installations on exhibition. Ten at the Jakarta History Museum and the Museum Keramik, which is located in the former Court of Justice of colonial times. A beautiful building.
This was the day planning: arrive at ten, have a breakfast at Cafe Batavia with a view at Fatahillah square, then to Keramik museum followed by the Jakarta history museum.
In practise: due to circumstances I arrived with a headache at 1.30 pm, had a late lunch at Cafe Batavia, visited Keramik museum after which I arrived at closed doors at the other museum. Who siad it that life is what happens to you while making other plans?
Jiwa means soul, and that’s the theme of this years Jakarta Biennale. Most of the art are installations displayed in big locations like the Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem warehouses, the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics or the jakarta History museum.
My first atempt to find the Jiwa of art in Jakarta started in the Gudang Sarinah, where I met faces from paper and stone, arthouse films, unknow standing objects and here and there some sculptures, and paintings at the wall.
But it all started with a horrible traffic jam, on a weekend day. They can pop up anywhere unexpected. But traffic comes along with Jakarta, no escape, and I stopped already long time ago with complaining about it. Just go with the flow. Check your smart phone inside out till the battery is empty, but never leave home without a bottle of water, just in case you need to survive a night on the road.
The mission is only halfway cause the unexpected traffic jam blew up my schedule so I will complete this soul searching for my art feelings in a second video next week.
Now, if you made the text till here, how do you feel about the art at Jakarta Biennale (or just here in the video)?
During my flight from Jakarta to Surabaya I filmed a few scenes from the animated film ‘Battle of Surabaya’ and learned about the historic event of 19 September 1945 where the Dutch flag (red-white-blue) was taken down, ripped from the blue banner, and hang back as the red and whit flag of Indonesia.
A couple of days later I was awestruck when I unsuspecting walked into the Majapahit hotel in down town Surabaya and found out this event happened exactly there.
A day before that I climbed the Gunung Penanggungan, a holy mountain of the Majapahit Kingdom. Temple ruins of this middle age culture are everywhere on the sloops of this holy mountain. I finally reached the top and found a group of young Indonesian hikers who were planting the Indonesian flag on the puncak- the top – of the mountain.
Later I visited some other Majapahit monuments and learned from local visitors that this lost civilization already waved the red-white flag on the high seas of South-East Asia since the 13th century.
So in a couple of days I was exposed to three stories of the Indonesian flag, or bendera merah putih as the Indonesians call it. It seems that this vlog was destined to tell the story of this flag and that is how it comes quite often. You set out for a specific idea for a vlog, and you come back with a complete different story.
And I like it that way!
The flag of Indonesia has a philosophical meaning. Red means courage, white means holiness. Red symbolizes the human body, while the white symbolizes the human soul. The flag of the Republic of Indonesia, which is briefly called the State Flag, is Sang Saka Merah Putih, Merah Putih, or sometimes called the Dwiwarna (two colors).
Did Chinese admiral Zheng He discover America before Columbus and Vasco da Gama? I think he could. but more important, read how Zheng He’s travels can lead to a major conflict today…
During my visit to Malaysia I walked into a rememberance stone in the world heritage city center of Melaka and read about the visit of Zheng He in 1405. This visit was a first of seven voyages which he made between 1405 and 1430. He visited not only the countries of South East Asia, but went well beyond that: India, Sri Lanka, the Arabian peninsula and the east coast of Africa. Till so far the official reading.
Not much later I found the Cheng Ho museum which turned out to be a wonderful museum about the life and times of Zheng He. His fleet is build at scale in a diorama and then you start to think how impressive this must have been. The admiral build his biggest Treasure Ships measuring 120 meters long and over 50 meters wide each. Compare Columbus 30 by 10 meters ships. Columbus sailed out – 70 years later – with 3 small ships. Zheng He with close to 200 ships.
Now the Chinese emperor was not in a conquering mood, lucky world. They sailed to all the kings and sultans to show off their power and increase trade. Some researchers think have found prove that parts of the fleet sailed around Africa and hit the American continent. Direct prove has not yet been found, but one of the first appearences of Asia and parts of South America show up in 15 century maps in Italy (see Fra Mauro map) and Turkey (see the Piri Reis maps) and it could be very well possible that early travelers from Venice to the east might have encountered Chinese treasure ships and copied their sea charts. It is still indirect proof, but seems more reasonable then prehistoric Atlantis blah blah.
I bought myself a few books about this in the west so unknown explorer to enrich my collection of obscure history and cartography memorabilia , well hidden in a vault somewhere in Holland.
Today China expresses that “Chinese activities in the South China Sea date back over 2000 years ago” with China being “the first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea islands and the first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them.” For instance, Chinese sources claim that maps of the South China Sea islands were published throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, including in navigational charts drawn up by China’s fifteen-century admiral and explorer Zheng He. (source)
And so Zheng He is back in today’s politics, not only because of the South China sea rising conflict, but also as an example of China’s modern day silk road initiative called: One Belt One Road, where China is increasing its influence over the Eurasian world to build airports, railroads and seaports to connect China’s industrial areas over land and sea. For many poor countries a great opportunity, for the sceptic west another thread of the upcoming eastern powers.
As long as they handle in the spirit of Zheng He – collaborative with win-win trade benefits – it would be fine with me.
I was more than surprised when I arrived in the old town of Malacca, what a beautiful place this is. The old center of town is roughly divided in three parts: the Portuguese area with an old church and remains of a fortress. The Dutch part is at the east side of Malacca river, an old townhall, a church and a handful of redbrick buildings around a square. And at the west bank of the river the large Jonker street area, a labyrinth of small colonial streets filled with local shops, galleries and restaurants.
I went there without any expectations, and so the effect on me was great, such great architecture and so much to explore and discover. It reminded me of just a few cities, none of them comparable on how it looks, but they can describe the kind of mood that flows through the alleys: Cartagena des Indes, Cusco, Ubud, Glastonbury and Florence. I mean, the feeling that after each corner something wonderful will show up, and then it actually happens. Got it?
If you also know of such a surprising town or city, let me know in a comment below because I would definitely put it on my bucketlist and visit it!
For the first time I watched a Grand Prix live and lucky me, the one I supported did win as well. Even more lucky; he did his brilliant overtaking move on Lewis Hamilton right in front of our K1 stand at the first turn. To celebrate this, the board Turn 1 was taken by some supporters as a souvenir. After the race doors to the grid were opened and audience speeded over the circuit to the Grandstand where national anthems were played and Champaign bottles were opened. It was one big party and pretty sure I will add another GP on my bucket list soon.
And it was in a far corner of the Central Market where I found myself the perfect souvenir. A yoga sculpture, or at least, that is what I understood from Nathan, the owner of the antique shop, who gave me quite a lecture on the origins of the small statue.
Let me know that…