Tag Archives: History

Kuntskring Paleis

Suzie Wong Bar at Kuntskring Paleis, Jakarta

Ever since it underwent major interior makeover a couple of years ago, the restaurant, which is housed in a conserved building in Menteng – the Dutch remainings of urban housing complex with ecological concept arguably the maiden project of its time in Asia – quickly became one of the most celebrated culinary experience in town.

dscn7534Taking advantage of the characteristics of the vicinity is an apparent for the restaurant owner, the Tugu Group, to boost its existence in the culinary map.

But it is the mixture of elements inside that mainly draws the visitors both and the majority knowledge-thirst audience.

The preserved facade of what used to be a Dutch cultural center, now turned to an establishment.  

The 20th century new indies style cultural center by Netherlands-Indies architect and painter Pieter Adriaan Jacobus Mooyen opened in 1914 by the patronage called Fine Arts Circle whose initiatives brought exhibitions, musical show, and art lectures.

Now serving as an establishment, not only exhibiting souvenirs of colonial times, Kuntskring Paleis interior is decorated with the product of acculturation in early centuries, the epic Mahabarata.

A giant statue of Arjuna in the hall, for instance, forms an inseparable ornament to the wall across the hall.

Hence it entails the presence of Pandawa, consisting of five siblings in Indian mythology: Yudistira, Bima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sadewa.

If there is a time and place of historical value in Jakarta that can spur appetite, Kuntskring Paleis might just be the best in delivering such implosive effect.

In close vicinity, the management operates a number of restaurants that share similar aesthetics, notedly Dapur Babah Elite, Lara Djonggrang, Shanghai Blue 1920 and Samarra.

The end of creole in Southeast Asia


The Portuegese-based creole in Southeast Asia took its last breath as the last generation of passive speakers in Kampung Tugu, home-village of a small, local community of Portuegese descent down from 15th century Portuegese settlers in Indonesia called Mardijkers, were gone without passing the specific language ability to the surviving generation.

Considered the degenerate version of the language of origin, most creoles that used to flourish in the newly discovered lands during the European age of discovery have become extincted one another.

Apart from the diminutive status in the now widely independent nations, the shrinking numbers of the community compared to the indigenous peopulation have naturally forced them to utilize localities, as such in the official language of a particular educational system.

Following the extinction of the recorded creole usages in Indonesia, such as in Flores – a chain of islands whose name derived from Portuguese in the Cape of Flower – the descendants of freed VOC slaves or armies in Kampung Tugu, one of the oldest villages in Jakarta, is in an imminent stage to a complete assimilation with Indonesian population.

A foreign report from 1980s even claimed the creoles in Southeast Asia had extincted.

In regard of geography and history, ethnic diversity forms the genesis of Indonesia. Although the goal of a sovereign state around the world is based on the creation of common grounds, such as shared ideology, commitment to human rights, or, the most practical one, lingua franca, the flourishing idea in peace time arguably promotes the value of diversity.

Anthropologist Abdul Rachman Patji lamented that the extinction of Portuguese creole in Indonesia undermines national identity in respect of multi-ethnicity.

However, the unification of national educational system, particularly in the way of practicing Bahasa Indonesia as national language, besides the notable indoctrination of Pancasila as national ideology following the national independence in mid 50s, has defined the national identity among today’s 230 million population and counting up.

On why decreolization does not occur in Indonesia like in Haiti, or English-based creole in Jamaica, to an extent that there is a distinguishing term “bad English” among the lower class people, perhaps the answer is not simply the domination factor in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Politics of language

Creole was a practical solution in bridging communication gap between people of different origins. It might have evolved from pidgin as another tool of communication in trade, used more frequently in daily lives for a century or so out of spontaneity but cut out and withered away because it lacked formal structure.

Nevertheless, the imposed official language by colony master likewise lost almost all of its lexical form in Indonesia.

Perhaps it is too naive to say that politics influences the demise of a language.

Gereja Tugu
Standing at the center of Tugu Village, Gereja Tugu, built in 1676, was and still has been a meeting point for the residents’ activities. The Portuegese ancestors, to which the Dutch imposed Protestantism, had managed to pass on non-tangible tradition Rabo-Rabo or Christmas in English, a religious celebration by a third of world population but with distinction in the way they dance the whole night through playing Keroncong Tugu, blending Western and Malayan band instruments.

The old port


Sunda Kelapa

Sunda Kelapa Port is still functioning as it had been since seven hundred years ago. It now accommodates only the wooden Phinisi ships, due to the relocation of the main harbor to Tanjung Priok, which was built in 19th century to keep up with the Suez Canal-induced maritime trade increase.

It was this limitation that made the old port a relic of the past.

But the faces of the hopefuls and hopeless are intertwined on the decks of these typically archaic ship models.

Their wooden hulls left an impression that these ships are unable to stand the test of time, nor able to handle the burden with which the modernity carries.

sunda kelapaThe exasperation on the ship crews faces reflected the atmosphere at the old port of Sunda Kelapa.

The people and the ships have been overwhelmed by the manual work, even though the work load shows only a small fraction to that of the modern port activities.

Nevertheless, the old ways of seafaring and trade refuse to surrender to the surge of time in this north-end of Jakarta’s old section.


Sunda kelapa

Highlander’s palace of Central Java


Inosensius Guido RH is an art and design aficionado. He views art as an optical tool to observe an object or phenomenon. He favors using that angle to set his viewpoints on the world around him. He lives in Jakarta and working as a designer. He is fond of photography and eager to capture amazing moment he encounters in every day life. Salam Jepret!

Candi Baka 4
The King Baka’s Palace contained a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism influences. It was built on the 8th century, during Buddhist reign, and taken over by Hinduist Mataram Kingdom.

The site is called Candi Ratu Baka, meaning the King Baka’s Temple, on the contrary with the presumption that this is a shrine in honor of a queen or venerated female figure, as the word ratu means queen.

The name comes from the Karatuan, or Kraton in today’s Javanese language refers to kingdom. Candi Ratu Baka is a unique Hindu site in Java island for its debatable history.

Although this site is largely considered a temple, historians argued that this was actually a palace which had a fortification system, although no one challenged that this was once a temple.

The findings of stone walls and trenches arond the site supported this opinion. Constructed over 200 meters above sea level, this site was arguably a formidable defensive post which had taken the advantage of higher land.

Candi Baka 3
Discovered by Dutch archeologist HJ de Graaf in the 17th century, most of the structure were already in ruin, but some part remained intact, like this folk creature statue.

It took one hundred years after the first documentation by Van Boeckholzt in 1790 to delve into a possibility that Candi Ratu Boko was a palace and a fortress.

In his findings titled Keraton van Ratoe Boko, FDK Bosch made the first critical assesment about this as he inspected the elements that interestingly formed this site.

Not only shrines, altars and even a well spring, there were also found evidence on the total size of 25 hectares of historical site that this holy complex was also the ruins of a palace, such as residing places, water reservoir, and fortress.

While visiting Yogyakarta, Central Java, a prominent cultural city in Indonesia, Candi Ratu Baka offers an alternative ancient site besides the already a global name Candi Prambanan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, two kilometers apart.

Candi Baka 5
Staircase to a worship altar, which suggested the remaining element of a temple, before it was transformed to a fortified palace.

A tale of the past


Mia P. Tanujaya, a full time dreamer and reader, is currently working as a marketer in Vietnam. She is fond of teaching and always believes in Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” It is her dream to travel around the world and write a book about it.

The Japanese Covered Bridge that connected 2 parts of town
The Japanese Bridge is Hoi An’s signature landmark used widely as an emblem of the town. It was built by Japanese merchants in the 16th century. The bridge was originally constructed to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarter separated by a small stream of water, a symbolic gesture of peace.

Hoi An, an enchanting ancient town located in Quang Nam province, central Vietnam, was once a major trading port of Southeast Asia in the 16th century. It was previously known by various names—Fayfo, Haifo, Kaifo, Faifoo, Faicfo, Hoai Pho—meaning “peaceful meeting place”.

With the total area of 60 square kilometers, Hoi An has plenty distinct Chinese architecture with low tile-roofed houses and narrow streets, some of the first built ones remained almost intact. This little town is nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich cultural heritage.The entrance to Tan Ky HouseMost of the town’s grand heritage listed buildings date back to French colonial times in the late 19th and early 20th century. The oldest houses have passed four at least 5 generations, and are quite distinct from those of the colonial era. A handful of these older merchant houses are open for visitors. The three top houses to visit are Duc An, Tan Ky and Phung Hung.

Group of Tourist marching the streetHoi An’s old streets are packed with houses dating back to its emergence as an important Asian trading port in the 18th century.

The houses reflect the architectural styles of the major trading partners of the time—China, Japan, as well as the former European occupying force in Indo China, France.

You will be greeted by old yellow buildings with their Chinese-ornamented windows and doors neatly lined up along the small street. Hoi An is not big.

It only consists of a few blocks. But it is also one of so many factors that makes tourists feel immensely satisfied roaming the streets and eager to explore every hidden corner in this small town . Motorists are not allowed to enter the streets in the main area except at certain hours, which makes it a very tourist-friendly place.

The Street at dawnThere is something inexplicable about this little town, something that induces a feeling of longing that chants ” I’m coming…here I am”.

Nostalgic is probably the closest word to describe the feeling. Even if it is the first time you set foot there, you will stop for a moment to take a breath and say to yourself, “I’m home”. You could feel that every wall and corner sing a tale of the past.

The windblow  from the sidelines between a small alley seem to try to gush, “I witnessed a lot of tales from time to time”.

Peking Man Site

Peking Men Site

For generations the locals named it Chicken Bone Hill or Dragon Bone Hill until Swedish archeologist Johann Gunnar Andersson discovered circa 1920s that the vast hilly terrains stored valuable evolutionary tracks dating back to Pleistocene era.

The archeological site bears fossils which belonged to prehistoric humans that once dwelled the cave system beneath the hills.

Peking Men cave
Homo erectus pekinensis cave-home

Here was once home to the 700,000 years old prehistoric society of Asia, homo erectus pekinensis, popularly called Peking Man. Thus the site is referred to as Peking Man Site.

But long before that, the way the locals had agreed to give the place such names suggested that their ancestors used the fossils as edible parts.

Historical literature accounted surrounding residents collected the fossil to be made soup.

In a culture that cultivates a veneration to dragon as a divinely creature, the locals consumed the fossils in a hope to gain strength and reach the state of divinity.

This caused a great loss to paleontologists all around the world, not to mention a sum of the remainings looted or destroyed during World War II.

Throughout the long period of excavation, multinational paleontologists had only managed to retrieve one complete set of bone fragments to construct a handful of skulls from the site. For all it is left with, UNESCO declares the area and the surrounding hills a world heritage site.

Statue at Peking Men Site
Peking Men Statue at Peking Men excavation site

The sugar workers


DSC_0127 125 years ago, the Dutch Empire began shipping Javanese laborers from its East India colony to work in sugarcane plantations in Suriname, owned largely by British and Dutch businesses.

The abolition of slavery in Suriname in 1863 and the pre-existing slaves uprising coming from the British-possessed India led to the workforce scarcity and the frantic search of cheap laborers.

These paid replacements from nearby continent, albeit with a meagre salary and much similar poor living condition, were sent in their maiden voyage in 1890. From 100 people in the first transport, the number of immigrants arriving in Paramaribo, Suriname gradually rose, averaging 700 people annualy up to 1916.

When most of Indian plantation workers left Suriname in 1916, and as the freed slaves, both natives and foreigners, left for better jobs in the city, the Javanese replacements grew in number tremendously.

Workers cut the sugar canes during harvest season in a plantation. The biggest sugar cane plantation in Suriname was Marienburg.

Waged around 60 cents for men and even smaller for the women, the Javanese plantation workers signed a five year contract with sugar companies across the region.

The state policy at the time gave advantage to the plantation owners with a privilege to enact a set of law with serious legal consequences for the laborers, such as fine or imprisonment.

This was known as de poenale sanctie, subjected to those who committed misconduct at work or missed the expected work output at a given target period.

Women workers picked cotton in one of the cotton plantations in Suriname.

The large numbers of Javanese laborers among the native Surinamese had naturally brought together the distinctive culture and the mass identity by ethnicity or religion, later manifested into one of the country’s recognised communities.

After the gruesome five-year contract, the government, acting as the consituents of the Netherlands until their independence in 1975, gave the laborers an option to stay and be granted 100 gulden with a piece of cultivation land, but must answer to requirement working in the plantation on regular planting and harvesting dates, or else, the freedom to go home on the Surinamese government expenses.

At the onset of World War II in 1939, over 7600 Javanese laborers out of the total 33,000 working in Suriname opted for home. The last of such return policy was made in 1947 where 769 people boarded passenger ship Tabian heading for Java.

A Javanese immigrant and the children stood in front of the house, suggesting a poor living standard among the community. Poverty caused many to return home.

1814 Borobudur revisited



1814 was the year of rediscovery of Borobudur Temple amid volcanic ash and resurging jungle, ten centuries since its date of build. British governor for Java administration Thomas Stamford Raffles was largely credited for it with the publication of History of Java.

But he could not do it without the Dutchman HC Cornelis, whom he instructed to excavate the site for over a month, involving some two hundred workers.

Construction began in 824 under Syailendra dynasty, and completed during the reign of Samaratungga. It served as the center of religious activity, but started to lose significance when Mataram capital was moved to East Java, and went into oblivion in the 14th century.

Read the excerpts by Erwin Supandi of his selected pictures during his visit to Borobudur Temple, Magelang, Central Java.


With just a little know-how in doing landscape photography in Borobudur Temple, Central Java, from the higher surrounding platform, I left the nearby hotel at 03:45 AM. I got lost and finally able to overcome the situation by asking the local motorcycle taxi driver for an escort. The extra expense proved to be worthwhile with the spectacular view that slowly reveals as the sun began to rise.

This photo was cropped to clarify the detail of the temple. Most commonly people use telephoto lens—at least 70-200 mm—to get a perfect result. However, seeing the remarkable crop result proves that mirrorless camera does an excellent job in reproducing noise-less details. It is taken with Fujifilm X-E1 paired with 18-55 mm kit lens.


This photograph proves how capable the mirrorless camera—some said mirrorless DSLR in making a competition with the already established DSLR cameras. This was taken while the photographer was driving. The left hand held the steering wheel while the other hand held the camera. The action is surely a tough call for DSLR users.


The Golden Pavilion

Born in 1984 and living in Osaka, Japan, Shinya Kagomoto has a specialty in the approach to architecture photography, among other subjects. He moved to Beijing, China, as an exchange student from 2008 to 2010 and befriended many Indonesians. He mainly speaks Japanese, but at work he also speaks Chinese and English. Kagomoto-san looks forward to seeing the blooming international relation between Japan and any other countries. He hopes that many more people will come to Japan to feel the country’s spirit of modenisation with traditional wisdom.

Golden pavilion 1

I like to travel in autumn. It has good temperature (not too hot, not too cold), leaf color is changing to yellow and red. Kinkaku Temple, or also called the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan, was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1994. I want to go there to see gold contrast against autumn color this time around.

This gold temple is in north of Kyoto. There is no train station near this temple. The best way is by bus, which means that it is inconvenience for us to go there. But many foreigners still visit this gold structure. Ginkgo leaf changes to yellow.

Maple leaf changes to red in autumn. Japan has a lot of mountains. So, we can feel that autumn is coming when these trees change their colors to yellow and red everywhere.

The Golden Pavilion
See more images in think archipelago V5 Feb 2014. Click picture to subscribe.