Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Beaten Path in Jakarta

This is not a tale of "off the beaten" track as most jaded travelers would write. This is a normal sight-seeing itinerary that any self-respecting tourist of any country would take before going into the path unknown.

The dearest one visited me in Jakarta for a week. I, of course, have the task to show him around. We are not the type who would explore off-the-beaten track. We are your typical tourists, wanting to bask in all the touristy stuffs.

A visit to a new place will not be complete without having one's photo taken with the country's landmark. Thus, in Jakarta, it was a requisite that we visit the National Monument or fondly called MONAS. (Indonesians are known for using short-cuts to long words, thus, Monas, is Monument National in long version.)

Monas is like an obelisk, a very tall torch-shaped concrete tower, with a gold flame at the top. It used to be the tallest building in Jakarta until all the new buildings especially near the business districts were constructed.

You need to enter a huge park going to the tower. You can't get in the tower directly, one needs to pass through an underground pathway, where you can purchase the tickets (7,500 Rp with insurance) to go inside the tower itself.Under the tower, is a dark basement, where the emblems of Indonesia were displayed. There is big Indonesian Map, the Flag, and the Golden Eagle, the official emblem. A fast-talking guide, whose voice is hoarse from too much talking, forced himself on us. Using a flashlight in the dark basement, we were given a run-through of the indonesian map and the meaning of the parts of the Golden Eagle (feathers means blah-blah provinces, etc. etc.) After which, he sold us pins bearing the golden eagle. Admittedly, we are suckers, for hardworking guides who volounteer their services. He said, his narration is free, but he's selling this souvenir. We paid 50,000 Rp for it. Imagine, 250pesos for a pin! Well, we justified it, that he needs the money. We are the only opportunity for him to earn a little extra for all his sacrifices in the name of promoting his country.

There is single elevator that took us to the top of Monas. The view from the top is fabulous. You can have 360degrees view of the city. There are legends where you can identify the major buildings of jakarta.

From Monas, we walked to Mesjid Istaqlal Mosque. It's the biggest mosque in SouthEast Asia. Even though the mosque looks near, its still a long walk from Monas. The muslims were very welcoming when we asked if we can go in and look around. There is a designated guide for visitors in the information center. Our guide is dressed for business, long-sleeves & necktie. He gave me a long-robe to wear on top of my short dress. We had to shed off our sandals.

The mosque is huge, seating capacity of 5,000 people. Very clean. There is a tall minaret beside it. There's also a huge drum that our guide said long ago, was used to call the religious for prayers. Its a huge drum made of cowskin. It must have been a huge cow!

Just across monas is the Catholic Cathedral, quite old, with its imposing spires. In Filipino standard, this cathedral is very small. More like a regular diocesean church. But for a country that's predominantly muslim, its big. The altar is beautiful, with its miniature saints. Outside there is a figure of Mother Mary. There is not a lot of huge statues like in the Philippines. The biggest they have is the Pieta near the doorway.

It was my second time to visit this Cathedral. During my 2nd sunday here, I wanted to go to church and I look it up in the internet. Originally, I was planning to go to another church called Theresian. But then, the Cathedral is better right, especially if you're a tourist and want something to look at anyway. The service was looooonnngg, and in bahasa. I left after about 25minutes.

From the church, the dear one and i went to Plaza Senayan. I wanted him to experience the most luxurious cinema in Indonesia. The Premier. We watched Dark Knight, but only in the regular theather. Still, the ambience in great. We had lunch in Sushi Tei, one of my favorites in Jakarta, well, next to Boplo Gado-gado.
Like me, Ted was amaze at the number of designer shops in jakarta. People are really buying high-end luxury items here. Unlike in Manila, very few can afford Louis Vittons, Christian Dior, Gucci. And its only in Makati that these stores can be found. But here in Indonesia, they have many high-end malls, with their own regular customers.

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