Saturday, 28 April 2012

A place for prayer

Like most people, one of the very first things I do when I visit or stay in a multistory building, like my new apartment block, is throw open the curtains to see what I can see. From my first morning here in Jakarta, nearly a fortnight ago now, I was captivated by the sight of a lovely cream and bronze mosque in the distance. Last weekend I got the chance for a closer look, and it lived up to its promise.

Despite being dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers, this elegant beauty more than holds its own.

Below is the view from my apartment. The building behind the mosque, Pacific Place, is a high-end shopping centre that I was interested in visiting. From my window, it seemed that there was a road leading directly to both destinations, but even from a distance, I should have twigged that no road in Jakarta has so little traffic. As I approached after crossing over the busy main road via a pedestrian overpass, I discovered that it was a private road carving straight through the centre of the huge police compound.

This mosque, like the pretty teal blue one in the grounds of the Tax Office that I posted previously, is a workplace mosque, in this case for the police.

The mosque is heavily ornamented, but because of the restrained colour palette, the overall effect remains classic and serene. And the sympathetic landscaping complements, without competing.

Look at the layers of decoration surrounding this stained glass window and its elaborate frame, starting from the ground up: a crazy paving/mosaic of slate(?), pink marble, geometric pattern, more marble, an arabesque design, more marble, brickwork, embossed marble and raised geometric design. 

Dracena draco

Phoenix roebelenii, Pygmy Date Palm


One of the locals taking advantage of the cool marble veranda in the afternoon heat, under what looks like the hugest drum.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sunda Kelapa

I think there must be a long tradition of old sea dogs in my ancestry, especially on my Dad's side. Both my brother and I (and most of my cousins) are obsessed with the sea, whether that obsession takes the form of  lighthouses, sailing or surfing.

It seems that whenever I visit somewhere new one of the first places I head for is the harbour. Today I made my way to Sunda Kelapa, the old port to Jakarta when it was still known as Batavia.  Many of the surrounding warehouses date back to the mid 1600's and the time of the Dutch East Indies company or VOC.

There is something especially magical about old ships. These are Makassar schooners, and they are being loaded and worked on just as they would have been centuries ago. I found myself humming Old Man River on my return trip.

You and me we sweat and strain 
Bodies all achin' and racked with pain
Tote that barge and lift that bale
Ya get a little drunk and you land in jail.

These guys were keen on taking me for a row. I swear, if you fell into this water, the flesh would dissolve from your bones, so I graciously declined.

First impressions

Today marks the end of my first week living and working in Jakarta. I arrived on Sunday evening and started work at 8 the next morning, so yesterday was my first chance for a bit of a wander.

Love this painting of traditional dancers in the hotel lobby.

First impressions? Jakarta is huge: the city's population is 10m plus, with more than 28m in the greater metropolitan area. It is very spread out, and the traffic is insane. As you would expect, it is pretty warm and very humid, so it can become quite uncomfortable walking for long. I am glad most of the clothing I brought over is made from natural fibres: cotton, linen and cotton-silk blends. A bit more ironing involved, but much more comfortable. There are shopping malls everywhere, catering to every kind of budget.

It's about a km walk to my office, D-G Tax, but generally a couple of us share a cab in the morning, so we arrive with a semblance of freshness (and it's only about $1.40 between us). As it is home to a large government department, the office has its own mosque on the grounds, which is a particularly pretty one with a teal and yellow tiled dome. Sadly, my photos don't do it justice.

Love the hot colours of the heliconias against the blue.

There is a small market opposite the office with food stalls at the back, so I have a wander across with the local staff for lunch. I'm trying to have something different each day. Here I am with Etha, Nantya, Galuh and our team leader Gary. The food is great -  I will post more on this later.

Everyone in the office is incredibly helpful and friendly. Apparently, there is an established pattern as far as office dress goes, for the men at least.  Monday is white shirt or blue shirt (usually senior), Tuesday – business shirt or Batik (long sleeved), Wednesday & Thursday – Business shirt, and Friday – short sleeved Batik shirt. On Fridays, there is a small food market within the grounds of D-G Tax, where the wives of tax office employees bring in their home cooking.

My fare from the Friday market:  jackfruit, a spicy potato cake, green chilli relish, and chicken. Delicious!

Although the wet season is drawing to a close, there are afternoon storms more often than not like this approaching storm snapped from the office.

As you can see, even though there are skyscrapers in every direction, there is also plenty of green. My new home is an apartment, but fortunately we have lovely gardens, so I can still have my daily ramble to check out what's in bloom.


This looks like some kind of variegated ginger

Crinum with palms and Mother-in laws tongues Sansevieria

There were some lovely pots used in the landscaping, here with variegated Liriope or Ophiopogon , Spathiphyllum, and Alocasia

Mussaenda phillippica

So that is my initial report from downtown Jakarta, and there is still so much more to discover.


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