We already went beyond the beach in Bali, now let’s head deep into the island of Java and explore the hidden history of Jakarta.
And the app unlocking it all is, you guessed it, iDiscover City Walks. This nifty app lets users download a range of walking and cycling routes. It even comes with a set of corresponding maps designed by local artists. But it is definitely not your typical guided city tour. This is a handcrafted off-the beaten-track itinerary for only the most curious and adventurous travelers. Sound like you?
Abandoned spice warehouse in Kota Tua.
The sites are handpicked by locals in the know, namely, the friendly folks from Indonesian Heritage Trust (BPPI) and Sunda Kelapa Heritage (who are fighting their own battles to safeguard Jakarta’s heritage from those ubiquitous jackhammers) and the people of Konsorsium Kota Tua Jakarta, who are doing a marvellous job renovating some of Kota Tua’s crumbling buildings. They are transforming them into hip cafés and creative spaces, all while keeping the souls of the buildings alive and the spirit of the community intact.
We gave it a go and tested it out. So, what did iDiscover have to show us?
Cool cafes are breathing new life into old buildings.
App and map in hand, we rented two vintage bikes and matching sunhats at the square and pedalled away from the tourist crowds. (See ya later guys!) We quickly discovered that there has never been a more exciting time to explore Jakarta’s old town. For so many years, Kota Tua’s grand colonial buildings were left to rot, but thanks to the work of these passionate locals, edgy art galleries and cool cafés are now popping up on empty floors of old post offices, in the attics of monumental merchant mansions and in abandoned spice warehouses.
We rented old-school bikes, complete with sunhats, at Fatahillah Square.
Past the Stasiun Kota, the 18th century train station, hidden between Jakarta’s modernity we found Gedung OLVEH, a freshly painted art deco mansion where young Indonesian designers welcomed us to their newly opened Semasa concept store.
Pop-up art exhibition in the magnificent Cipta Niaga.
We sat and sipped fresh ground local coffee on the revamped floor of the old Van Vleuten department store. In yet another colonial gem, Cipta Niaga we stumbled upon some friendly local yogis with mats laid out on the tiled floors between grand columns. An almost surreal setting, but ‘Om Shanti Om’ never sounded so good.
Community street art in Kampung Tongkol.
Even further away from the crowds, the App led us on a boat to an old fishing village, where we met the locals who are staying put, despite redevelopment plans. We took a stroll in the colourful Kampung Tongkol along the Ciliwung River where we learned about grassroots upgrading and met some local graffiti artists. Finally, we cycled past the ruins of the old city wall to arrive in Jakarta’s old Sunda Kelapa harbour with hundreds pinisis, tall wooden traditional Indonesian two-masted sailing ships. An amazing sight that made us feel humbled by history.
Cycling among pinisis in the old Sunda Kelapa Harbour.
Whether you are cycling or walking, these routes are guaranteed to include eye-openers: Two routes are on offer: Jakarta’s old town Kota Tua and bustling Glodok, where passionate locals guide you on a tour of the best places to eat, drink, shop and wander in South East Asia’s largest Chinatown.
New creative energy is being injected into Jakarta’s old town
Coming soon are Java’s other heritage cities: Bandung, Yogyakarta, Magelang and Surabaya, all co-created by knowledgeable and enthusiastic locals. And what’s best, downloading the routes for just USD1.99 supports their work in saving Jakarta’s heritage.
iDiscover certainly took us by surprise. Little did we know, even for us, Jakarta holds hidden, beautiful treasures around every corner. But don’t simply take our word for it. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play, and find out for yourself!
Join iDiscover for the official Jakarta launch event on Saturday Feb. 4 and meet other like minded adventurers. In true iDiscover spirit, the event takes place on top of a pinisi ship in the Sunda Kelapa Harbour. Don’t miss this chance to experience another side of Jakarta!
When: Saturday, Feb. 4, 3pm–6pm
– 3pm–5pm Instameet
– 5pm–5:30pm Prize ceremony & launch
– 5:30pm–6pm Food, drinks & live music
Where: On top of a pinisi ship in the Sunda Kelapa Harbour
Free: Donations encouraged (RP 100,000 is suggested)
Partners: BPPI – Indonesian Heritage Trust and Sunda Kelapa Heritage