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.
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.
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!
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.
It was a long drive on the back of the motorbike of Bram, my city tourguide of the day. But we arrived in Kota Tua and visited the old buildings of the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie.
Funny, cause after the Maritime museum and the VOC Dockyard, I ended up in the Compagnie.id, a new coffee house in the Old Town. The barista’s invited me inside for a free coffee, as they celebrated their soft opening. Jakarta always surprises.
It is good to see that the city is renovating its heritage buildings, although more can be done and saved. Although I realise money can be only spend only once, and I more urgent causes are in need of support.
Finally I find an orange cap for my coming support of the Formula 1 races in Kuala Lumpur next week. Next will be a shirt and a flag. Really wondering if I will ever find that in time in Jakarta…
Indonesia in one day! That is the tagline used by ‘Beautiful and Miniature Indonesia’, a cultural park at the outskirts of Jakarta. Here you can explore all diversity the 29 provinces of the archipel in one single park.
As from the start I already understood this would be a Mission Impossible. The park measures one (1) square kilometer and contains countless traditional and religious houses, museums, parks, and an enormous map of the sea nation in a central lake over which cable cars ride.
My original plan was at least to vist each of the 16 museums. But that was just a plan. Once I walked around I got easily lost and missed several attractions. Secondly I underestimated the heat. A cloudless day in Jakarta gives the sun full opportunity to burn you down including all your plans. All you want is to escape the heat and run somewhere inside. Somehow there were not a lot of visitors in the park and so not a lot of people to interact with.
It was Benni from the Papua section who made my day. He was super friendly and explained a lot of his own culture, traditions and art. It changed my mind about this far away island in the east and I might visit it one day just to see the vast and wild nature in real life.
Gunung Kendang is one of the mountain tops surrounding the vast volcano area of Malabar, directly south of Bandung. In colonial times there was a once world famous radio transmitting station (Hello Bandung!) but only some crumbling stone walls are left. What is still there are valleys filled with tea plantations, as far as the eye can reach.
On the five hour drive from Jakarta to Malabar I started reading The Tea Lords (Heren van de Thee), from Hella Haasse. Its a historic novel of a family emigrating from Deventer to this area to start a kinine and tea plantation. A true life account based on letters from the family archive. Once I was reading further at the veranda of the guest house where once some of the key characters lived, I could dream away in the moody and gorgeous landscape. The last administrator of the plantage was RAK Bosscha, whose tomb is still to be viewed on a stone throw of the guesthouse.
The hike was great as well, but when descending gunung (mount) Kendang I slipped from the track twice, once because my eyes were filled with sweat and sunscrean and now way to flush it. As I was on the wrong road for a while and there was nobody around, I shared some frustration in the camera. No worries: the next trip is already scheduled!
Let me know that…