Jakarta is a metropolis by any measure. Yet apart from several skyscrapers and monuments in and around the city centre, it is made up almost entirely of small one and two storey structures. Most have sprung up rather haphazardly over the past few decades: shop, offices and factories are found in residential districs; market gardens and makeshift kampung dwellings impart something of a village atmosphere to many back alleys, and the people live just about everywhere.
Partly as a resul, the city has not much of a reputation among tourist. In the words of one local wag. :Jakarta is a wonderful place to live but I wouldn’s want to visit.” Why the negative publicity? Partly, it’s the heat, the traffic and the overcrowding. But basically this is a big city and many visitors are not prepared for that.
Jakarta’s attractions, nonetheless, are abundant. Ask the locals. Those with an interest in Indonesian history and culture will tel you about Jakarta’s fine museums, her colonial architecture, her performing arts and her rich intellectual life. Advenutour types will probably regale you with tales of traditional temples and bustling markets in obscure corners of the city. Bon vivants will more likely speak of a favourite antique shop, an excellent seafood restaurant or an exciting discotheque. Most resident will also express a sense of being in the thick of thing, of living at the epicentre of the nation’s commercial, cultural and political life. And everyone will tell you about their friends: funny, funloving, irreverent, irrepresible – Jakartans are the city’s greatest asset. So give Jakarta a chance. Get to know her. Who knows, you may decide to leave Bali to the tourists
Queen City of The East: The mouth of the Ciliwung River where Jakarta is located has been settled cinse very ancient times; it developed into a major pepper port during the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1618, the architect of Dutch empire in the Indies, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, transferred his headquarters here. Coen subsequently attacked and rzed thw town of Jayakarta – the nme by which the port was then known and ordered construction of a new town, that was subsequently dubbed Batavia.
The fortunes of Batavia under the Dutch East India Company (VOC) (1602 – 1799) rose and then fell. Batavia grew rich throughout the 17th century on a entrepot trade in sugar, pepper, cloves, nutmegs, tea, textiles, porcelains, hardwoods and rise. But after 1700, a series of disasters befell her. Declining market prices, epidemics of malaria, cholera and typhoid, and an unfortunate massacre of the Batavia Chinese (1740), combined with the frequent wars and official corruption – that had plagued the VOC since its inception to cast a pall over the city that had once fancied herself “Queen of The East.”
At the beginning of the 19th century, Batavia received a much needed facelist under Governor General (“Iron Marshal”) Willem Daendels, a follower of Napoleon.
The old city was demolished to provide building materials for a new one to the south, around what are now Medan Merdeka and Lapangan Banteng. Two fashionable architectural styles of the period French Empire and Neo Classical blended with many tree lined boulevards and extensive gardens laid out bya Deandles to impart a certain grace and elegance to the city. And with the economic success of the exploitative Cultivation System on Java, the colony was once again extremely prosperous. By the turn of the century, Batavia’s homes, hotels and clubs were in no way inferior to those of Europe.
During the brief Japanese occupation (1942 – 5), Batavia was renamed Jakarta and dramatically transformed from a tidy Dutch colonial town of 200,000 to an Indonesia city of more than one million. Following independence, hundreds of thousands more Indonesia flooded in from the countryside and the outer islands, and Jakarta quickly outstripped all other Indonesia cities in size and importance to become what scholars term a “primate” city: the unrivalled political, cultural and economic centre of the new nation.
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