Our final stop in Indonesia is Jakarta, where friends have warned us of horrific traffic and smog, so we arrived by train, found a hotel close to the Gambir train station (there are several stations) and left (albeit by airport transfer bus) from the same place.
Here in Jakarta, there were just a few places on our list.
First the National Monument – MONAS – quite pretty during the day, but stunning at night.
This 132m high National Monument (Monumen Nasional in Indonesian) – or MONAS is in the centre of Merdeka Square – near Gambir Station. It commemorates the Indonesian struggle and fight for independence.
We navigated around a demonstration – and while we think it was a demonstration of teachers demonstrating about salaries and education, it might also have been a demonstration of police and local law enforcement might. Either way, its a regular occurrence here in Jakarta and those in the know get regular updates on which roads will be closed and when disruption will be rife.
Then, there was the National Museum, a thoroughly confusing and definitely hot and sweaty couple of new and old buildings across from MONAS , where we wiled away a couple of hours.
Then we headed to the old Jakarta – destination, Jarkarta’s number one thing to do – the Banking Museum. I’m a veteran of many money and banking museums world wide, so finding this was the number one attraction in Jakarta was exciting (even if you do find that strange..). Sadly it was a huge disappointment. Sure there are lots of display items and dioramas.
What to Read in Indonesia
There’s lots of flashing lights, flat screens and random videos, but there is little cohesive story (the storyboards jump from 1880 to the Japanese occupation in the 1940’s…).
It’s all flash and little substance – it fails to track the history of banking and money in Indonesia, which would seem to be a basic of this type of museum, historic items – like the old offices which give annoyingly little detail of the age, the date of the equipment and furniture or when and why it was used.
It’s also no longer free – albeit cheap, its now now 5,000 IDR. Luckily we’d arrived just after 1330, so the audio guide was no longer available if the storyboards and videos were anything to go by, we’d swerved a bullet.
Yes, gluttons for punishment here were two banking “museums” right next door to each other.
It felt somewhat surreal – my previous work in Financial Services has seen us visiting banking museums throughout Asia and writing about Financial Services worldwide. Now we had the opportunity to visit two competing museums.
When we travelled there was very little online booking available for buses, trains and ferries in Indonesia and South East Asia – the folks at Easybook have now remedied that – check timetables and book tickets online now – its WAY easier!
The Mandir Banking museum is a glorious old building.
And that’s about it.
There’s no signage in English, virtually none in Indonesian, but there is a lot of dust and many random objects though, which make for an interesting poke around for an hour or so.
You can almost imagine the splendor of the old banking hall, and the lower level safety deposit boxes are interesting to see.
The mannequins will likely give you nightmares, most of them are missing vital items. Like hands. But are posed in “horror movie comes to life” stances, looking like they’ve been through a car accident or attack.
The collection of old IT and computer equipment is interesting and sad together. One hopes that the disks have been removed or wiped, but at least they can be used as door stops now.
So there was another 5,000 IDR that we’ll never get back – now a little luxury in the Cafe Batavia, where we wiled away an hour in front of a portable Air Con unit slurping tea and listening to 1940’s music while sitting on an old leather sofa. Bliss. The upstairs “Churchill’s Bar” was once named as a top bar in the world by Newsweek.
We dined that night with friends we’d met on the trip to Komodo island and then took the scariest taxi we’ve taken for a long time back to the Citi M Hotel . . Sure he didn’t know where we going and didn’t speak any English, that’s why we brought the business card for the hotel. Only he couldn’t see the card. Or it appeared, the road signs, other vehicles or pedestrians. We navigated home by google maps and by yelling “go, go. stop, stop” with left and right hand signals and thanked our lucky stars that no one was killed in the making of this blog.
And, that was Indonesia. Our Damri bus from Gambir Station to the airport was easy. In fat each trip we took in Jakarta, (three taxi rides and this bus ride) was uncomplicated (barring the death ride on our last night), the traffic was light, the people friendly and it was a good end of this our 19th country.
Don’t forget to book your buses, ferries and trains – and confirm your travel. Easybook have the largest network in South East Asia!