Monday, 20 June 2011

Review: Café Batavia, Jakarta, Java, Indonesia

This café named after the Dutch colonised Old Jakarta ‘Batavia’ takes its customers back in time.  The restored 19th Century building and its famous upstairs Churchill Bar are situated on the Fatahillah Square, overlooking the old City hall in the area now named ‘Kota’ which is the old part of Jakarta.

Batavia, once known as the ‘Queen of the East’ and the ‘Jewel of Asia’ (in the 16th Century) was once the central commercial hub in the whole continent due to its strategic location and the abundant resources available.

A walk through the old town will certainly give you the sense of a grand colonial powerful city, left to decay and now home to some of the city’s poorest communities.  It is quite enchanting though to meander through the roads and lanes where the bustling markets are and to see the mighty old port.

However it is also a shocking area of the city – the world’s 10th largest city and the most populous in South-East Asia, as the poverty and sheer contrast to the high-rise towers and extravagant shopping malls of the CBD area of the city.  It is also one of the area’s of Jakarta where you can actually walk around as the majority of the modern city is much more catered to cars and taxis with few choosing to walk around.

So a visit to this famous café really is a must see for those interested in the history of this fascinating sprawling city.  Walking in you can immediately imagine how business was conducted back in the colonial days and it conjures a similar feeling to some of the colonial buildings in the large Indian cities also.  The picture-covered walls display just how many notorious characters have been inside those walls over the years and the sense of nostalgia really oozes.

Today Café Batavia hosts a whole range of customers and events such as product launches, theme nights, fashion shows, afternoon tea parties and weddings.  It is popular with both tourists and the ex-pat community living in Jakarta.  A great place for a traveller to loose a couple of hours reading a book and learning about the history of this global city and enjoying a (pricey but nice!) cocktail.


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