A morning stroll at Kota Tua Jakarta

old batavia

Kota Tua is loosely translated as “Old Town” and it’s the old part of Jakarta. It’s also known as Old Batavia and you can still see the scars of the 1998 riots here – burned buildings are still around and refurbishment hasn’t touched most of it yet.

kota tua

We were staying at a hotel just nearby and one morning, Jazz woke me up to experience the place. The streets were closed on that day, due to a function that’s happening on the square.

kota tua no vehicles

It was the event itself that caused the closure of the streets – it’s called Hari Bebas Kenderaan Bermotor Kawasan Kota Tua 2012 which translates to “(Motorized) Vehicle Free Day (in) Kota Tua Area 2012”. Heh.

kali besar

Kota Tua is bordered by a canal called Kali Besar which is famous for its overpowering stench. I could smell it, but it wasn’t anywhere as bad as I was told.


The beauty of Kota Tua Jakarta lies in its vibrant community of stalls and buskers – there were people playing various musical instruments and I even saw an improvised percussion system made of glass bottles nestled on a wood frame!

pos indonesia

This is one of the refurbished buildings – their post office. It’s part of their efforts at making this historical town into a UNESCO heritage site.

kota tua stalls

It is primarily a tourist attraction with it’s souvenir stalls – there’s also a theater called Museum Wayang there that plays traditional Indonesian Wayang Kulit (a shadow play with puppets).

museum wayang

Several vendors also offers rides on pimped up (or rather dolled up) bicycles for two, complete with flowery hats.

old jakarta bicycles

However, it’s definitely worth a visit – you can catch a local puppet show or grab a snack from a roadside stall. I had Otak Otak Ikan which is completely different from the soggy fish paste we get here.

otak otak indonesia

The Indonesian version of otak otak is crispy and eaten with a chilli paste. It’s cheap street food, I think I paid less than RM 1 for this.

indonesian otak otak

Kota Tua Jakarta has something for everyone. It’s called Old Jakarta for a reason – a lot of history and heritage can be found in this area. I’ll allocate at least half a day for a proper visit, and a full day if you want to pop into all the museums and catch a wayang kulit show.

kota tua indonesia

…or you can just sit at one of the cafes and watch the vibrant scenes – families at play, people collecting discarded cans for recycling money, old men chatting animatedly while standing around in loose circles.

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23 thoughts on “A morning stroll at Kota Tua Jakarta”

  1. Beautiful! I love old places…with a unique identity of its own, nothing of all those flamboyant and pretentious characteristics of places like Singapore. Love those old buildings. Wish I could be there too…

    • Yeah, me too, it certainly has a lot of character. 🙂

      There’s also the interesting history behind it, it was affected by the (political turned racial) riots in Jakarta and a lot of the looted and burned buildings are still there, after over a decade, without any repairs done.

      It’s interesting in a way, sociologically and politically, visited the predominantly Chinese area too, talked to some people, sentiments by local Indonesian Chinese are quite interesting. I like travel experiences like this. 😀

    • Yeah, despite Jakarta being a huge city, it has certain areas which has a rather tight knit community.

      It’s really quite interesting to see the income disparity and the cultural and sociological aspects of the country. 🙂

    • Hello Diana! 🙂

      I went to Jakarta about two months ago. Yeah, those are from the ’98 riots, quite amazing that the government has not fully repaired the damage in more than a decade.

    • Yup, it’s called Old Jakarta. 🙂

      It’s the historical and cultural core of the city and there’s skyscrapers just a short distance away with ultra high rise condominiums. A juxtaposition of the old and new.

    • Well, I don’t think it’s that bad. 🙂

      I’ve didn’t encounter any particularly racist people, in fact, I found a lot of the people in Jakarta to be remarkably helpful for such a huge city.

      …and I reckon the race riots was started by government agent provocateurs anyway.

    • Yeah, I thought it was some kind of keropok at first but that’s how their otak otak goes.

      Jakarta is a lot of fun – there’s literally something for everyone in a city this size. 🙂

    • Nope, it doesn’t taste like otak otak as we know it. 🙂

      It tastes more like keropok lekor but it’s not exactly like our keropok lekor too – it’s crispy but not crunchy if that makes sense – a firm bite into fried fish paste.

    • Eh wait, there’s 5 star hotels, cigars and fine wine in Jakarta too! 🙂

      I just didn’t go there. Haha!

      Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, and I think you’ll like Jakarta too, some places are really nice.

      Thanks Eiling! 🙂

  2. Was in Bali a few years back and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the tourist traps and all. Fine place to chill for a seaside getaway. Always wanted to visit Jakarta though. How safe is it for a solo trip?

    • Hello Glenn!

      Well, it should be pretty safe for a solo trip, of course every large city has hotbeds of crime, if you avoid those areas, you should be fine.

      I enjoyed Bali too, would love to go again on a different route instead of the usual Kuta/Seminyak destination. 🙂

      Enjoy your travels!

  3. Wah, I am an Indonesian but I’ve never eaten deep fried otak-otak before. Hahaha.. because normally the otak-otak is wrapped in banana leaves and grilled, not deep fried, and eaten with a kind of sambal made specially for otak-otak. So that is a unique one 🙂

    Seems that you enjoyed my home city. Glad if you like it! 😀

    • Hello Amelia! 🙂

      Wow, I didn’t know that, thanks for the clarification. Heh! Do you know why they do it that way in Jakarta or is it an isolated incident at Kota Tua?

      Yup, I love the place! I’ve been to several other places in Indonesia (Bali, Surabaya, bits of Kalimantan etc) but I like how Jakarta has something for everyone! 😀

      • I think it just happened the seller sold the deep fried ones. LOL! Never seen it before though *shifty eyes* :p

        You’ve been to Surabaya too! Awesome! I think the next one you can go to is Central Java, specifically maybe Solo and Jogjakarta. 😀

        Oh, and Lombok and Belitung if you like beaches. Personally I’ve never been to both places but my parents have and they said both were awesome

        • Yeah, I thought it was rather interesting that the otak otak the street vendor sold was crispy instead of the soft steamed ones that we have over here. 🙂

          Yup, I had a friend who lives in Surabaya when I was studying in Melbourne – went over to visit during summer break before going back home – that was before this blog was created though, it has gotta be 2000 or 1999 coz I was still in college in Clayton. I believe it’s ’99.

          I’m planning to go to Indonesia again too – so many islands and cultures, love your country for that. Thanks for the recommendation Amelia! 😀


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