It was Chinese New Year and I had joined a walking tour around China Town. The smell of the incense hung heavy in the air of the temple. People crowded around the shrines making silent offerings.
Yet for many it was just another day of the city. It’s a shame, because Jakarta has a lot to offer tourists if you take the time to discover its charms.
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A small piece of the memories of my trip to Laos rang back when I joined a group tour and visited Petak Sembilan, China town, in Jakarta on the day of the celebration of Chinese New Year 2566 (Imlek).
I fell in love with the small alleys that we explored from Museum Bank Mandiri towards Petak Sembilan. There are so many buildings influened by Chinese culture. There are a few buildings that look like they are stuck in time while other have a more modern design.
I ended up taking a lot of pictures in front of beautiful fences, or unique walls or windows/doors. It was so much fun. There were quite a lot of people packed in the Petak Sembilan area for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Besides walking around Petak Sembilan and seeing the buildings and streets with Chinese influence (I’ll tell you my favourite building later on), we also went to the monastery (Vihara) Toasebio and Vihara Dharma Bakti. We also visited Santa Maria de Fatima – a very unique church. The architecture reminds me of a Buddhist temple. You wouldn’t have thought that Santa Maria de Fatima church is a church from the outside.
Speaking about Vihara, to be honest I don’t enjoy my time in the Vihara. In my opinion, I felt a little guilty being there, especially seeing people aggressively taking photos of people praying, something I think should be quite personal. I always tried my best to take pictures from a respectable distance.
Vihara is indeed an interesting sight, but I think 5-10 minutes is enough to see everything. Another reason why I think five minutes is enough is the smoke. The burning incense (hio) made my eyes hurt.
My favourite discovery that day was the Souw family house in Perniagaan street. It is one of the very few Chinese building with swallow’s tail (or swallow-tail) style roof. Souw family was one of the richest families in Jakarta (Batavia).
The guide said that you can see the class of the ethnic Chinese in Batavia from the design of the roof of the houses. Lower middle class Chinese ethnic houses have rooftops in the form of a horse saddle, meanwhile the upper-middle-class has the swallow’s tail style.
Btw, if you have a chance to explore Petak Sembilan area, don’t miss Souw family house. The roof is very interesting. The eaves of the curved roof sweeps outwards like a swallow’s tail. It looks very elegant. The house contrasts (different) with the surrounding buildings and it is HUGE! You can’t see the end of the house.