Seeing the real sights of our city
Posted March 31, 2009on:
Published by The Jakarta Post: Saturday, March 28, 2009.
How many times have you been to Kota Tua or the Museum Nasional? The chances are you haven’t been to those places once in your whole life. What about if I change the question: How many times have you been to Senayan City or Pondok Indah Mall? The answer is, undoubtedly, countless
But don’t be ashamed, because you are not alone. I believe almost all people living in Jakarta are part of that group, me included of course.
Some of us haven’t even been to Monas, Jakarta’s most famous landmark. And yes, that includes me too, although I have passed by the symbol of Jakarta so many times.
Some of us just don’t feel the importance of visiting those sights because we are too proud of our modern attractions. We are so proud of the fact that this city of ours is so famous for its fancy malls and shopping centers.
Every weekend these malls are packed with people thirsty for entertainment. Finding a parking space during this time is a frustrating experience.
I remember that when taking my foreign friend around Jakarta, one thing he was so amazed about our city was that our malls are so big and luxurious.
At first I thought that was a good thing and I was proud of that admiration. But a few months ago I realized that our love for malls and other modern attractions just seems to be too much.
What we forget is that this city does offer something else. What we don’t realize is that there are so many unique attractions out there that our young people need to see. Jakarta probably has the best cultural sites in Indonesia, as Jakarta has a long and rich history.
So I decided to visit the places I had never been to; I call them Jakarta’s unheard places. My first destination was Kota Tua and its Museum Sejarah. I felt stupid when I found out Kota Tua was actually crowded on a Sunday afternoon. It was a proof for me that there are actually people in this city who still respect our historic attractions.
Next destination was Gedung Arsip Nasional, located on Jalan Gajah Mada, Jakarta Pusat. I had seen the building from the outside a few times already, but I never had the chance to visit the place. I then decided to go there after knowing that Hillary Clinton had dinner there during her visit to Jakarta.
I really enjoyed visiting the building, although it was pretty sad to find out that I and my friend were the only ones there; where was everybody else? The weather was so hot that day, but I felt so peaceful being inside the location. I bet Hillary Clinton enjoyed having dinner at this lovely building of ours too.
I feel happy spending my weekends visiting some of our city’s historic sights. But, sadly, it is still a weird thing for most young people in Jakarta to visit a cultural site on a Saturday afternoon. The reaction from my closest friends when I told them I went to Gedung Arsip Nasional was: “Did you seriously go to that creepy place last Saturday?”
I proudly answered their curiousness: Yes, I did. The very important thing that I’d like to let my friends know is that Gedung Arsip Nasional is not creepy at all. To my surprise the building was amazingly beautiful and well maintained. Our local government seems to know how to take care of a historic location after all. But having one well maintained historic building is clearly not enough. What about other locations? I don’t think they are as well maintained as Gedung Arsip Nasional.
I personally blame our local government for not encouraging us to love our historic buildings and attractions. They keep letting businesspeople build malls and shopping centers, while Kota Tua and other historic sites are left dirty, polluted, and unorganized.
I took a walk around Kota Tua during my third visit and I had to literally pinch my nose shut because it was so polluted. I saw trash everywhere, as if this city were full of people who know nothing about trash management. Traditional food stalls, like always, were unorganized and gave visitors an unpleasant view.
It’s so embarrassing that we have five-star malls, hotels, and nightclubs everywhere in this city but we have the lousiest historic attractions.
We have to start changing our mindset in looking at our city. This city should be and can be more beautiful and friendly. We have all the potential. And I believe that renovating all our historic buildings and attractions is would be a sweet start. And I’m sure you all agree on that.