Jakarta has saved a select few of its old Dutch buildings - most notably the Jakarta History Museum - but many are in a state of terminal decline, literally crumbling into the ground for lack of a clear government plan on how to save them.
Not far from the historic Sunda Kelapa harbor are some ancient Dutch warehouses. These are more than 350 years old and – incredibly – still standing having been refurbished to be used as Jakarta’s Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari).
I’ve gone past the museum on many occasions in the past – on long cycle trips – but never actually gone inside. This time, however, I needed some respite from the blazing tropical sun and cycled up to the main entrance. A disinterested and sleepy security guard waved me through where I bought an entrance ticket for Rp5,000 from an equally sleepy ticket seller.
As expected, the museum was virtually deserted. Given its inaccessible location not many people make it up here – either foreigners or locals – although groups of school kids do apparently turn up in large numbers from time to time.
The museum is not particularly interesting and consists mostly of model boats and some old maritime items – anchors, steering wheels and the like.
But what is fascinating is the building itself. The warehouses are huge and splendid and, in their tranquil setting, really do create a very historic and timeless ambiance.
The warehouses were constructed between 1652–1771 and formerly used to store spices such as nutmeg and pepper as well as coffee, tea and cloths, before they were shipped to various ports in Asia and Europe.
In front of the museum is the last remaining part of the old city wall which once surrounded Batavia during the 17th and 18th centuries.
All in all, well worth a visit. A good way to reach the museum is to cycle from Fatahillah Square. While you are here, make sure to also visit the old Dutch watch-out tower (Menara Syahbandar) – which is only 50 meters away – and a bit further away, the old Sunda Kelapa port, where traditional Indonesian boats are still loaded and unloaded in the old way (without cranes).
Address: Jl. Pasar Ikan No.1, Jakarta Utara 14440
Phone: (021) 6693406
Open daily until 3pm; CLOSED on Monday