Kota Tua Jakarta
As the name suggests, Kota Tua - translated “Old Town” - is the original part of Batavia, which has since turned into the sprawling metropolis that is Jakarta today. During the Dutch colonisation, this was the hub of their Far East operation - the Dutch East Indies or the VOC. It was the administration and logistics centre, and a lot of investment went into building its infrastructure.
There used to be a large castle with surrounding tall walls and moat. The Dutch certainly loved their canals. Indeed, they brought the same architectural elements here. Unfortunately, the climate worked against them. As the water was stagnant, plus the hot weather all year round, these canals formed the breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests.
As the maintenance proved to be too expensive, the residents moved further south, away from the seafront. The administrative buildings remained, but as the Dutch started to scale back their operations in these parts of the world, the place fell into disrepair.
After decades of decline, they were plans over the decades to resurrect these part of Jakarta. Since the 90s, many projects were mooted. Some were implemented, some were not. As it is today, the central square - called Fatahillah Square formed the heart of Kota Tua. There were restorations to the surrounding old dwellings, turning them into shopping areas and museums. One of the old residences was turned into a restaurant, and now Cafe Batavia is a must-visit spot for drinks and music here.
On weekends - when I was there - the place was packed. The Dutch loved their bicycles, and indeed, this has seeped through the local culture. In the square, one could rent any of the colourful bikes, don hats and caps, and pose. A right spectacle for Kota Tua. Street vendors surround the outer parts of the squares. Getting in and out of the place was tricky, but luckily using Grab, I could hail a car to take me to any parts of town.
On Sunday Morning, many of the locals came there to do sketches and just chill out. The visitors with their camera - myself included - had their lens primed towards the building and the surroundings. Plenty to snap at. I felt safe around the square, something I could not say about certain parts of the city.
Kota Tua is a must-visit spot if you are exploring Jakarta. It certainly one of the better-known landmarks.