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.
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).
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…