There’s an old saying in Indonesia that hospitals are places you go to die, but be that as it may, the Cikini Hospital on Jalan Raden Saleh is well worth a quick visit if you happen to be in the area – perhaps after enjoying a meal in one of the Middle East themed nosh houses in the area like my favorite - the excellent Al-Jazeera restaurant which we had just visited.
From the front the hospital doesn’t look anything special, but if you walk through the main entrance you will find a wonderful old building constructed in the French neo-gothic and Moor architectural styles.
The old house as it was in 1890
As it stands 120 years later, photographed from almost the same spot. Not a lot has changed although – if you look carefully – you’ll notice the small cross on the top of the building has since been removed – a metaphor for today’s less tolerant times perhaps.
This grand old building was built in 1852 and is notable for being home to one of Indonesia’s greatest painters, Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman (1814-1880) and his wife.
They lived there until Raden Saleh was arrested by the Dutch colonial authorities on “subversion” charges and the house was then sold to Sayid Abdullah bin Alwi Alatas – the wealthy Arab landlord of Menteng – before it became a hospital in 1897.
The building certainly has that wonderful old world feel to it, a harkening to ages long gone, and I could have sworn I saw a couple of bandaged Dutch soldiers sitting forlornly at the end of the corridor, smoking rolled up cigarettes.
But when I rubbed my eyes they were gone. And so was I. Cos you know what they say about hospitals. Don’t overstay your welcome or you may never be going home yourself...