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Discovering Jakarta’s Chinese cultural sites

Most of the Chinese cultural sites are located around Glodok, also known as Jakarta’s Chinatown. The area is now one of the busiest business districts in the capital.

Amid the hustle and bustle of business activities, lie some sites that resemble the Chinese’s long existence in the city. Some of them are still functioning well, while others are just shabby buildings abandoned by the owners.

Here are five Chinese cultural sites that you can enjoy around Glodok.

1. Candra Naya

Candra Naya was the house of Major Khouw Kim An, a leader of Chinese society during the Netherlands’ colonization in Batavia in 1910-1916. There is no certainty about who built the building and the architect of the house.

Some said Khouw Kim An’s father Khouw Theng Tjoan built the house, but others said his grandfather Khouw Tian Sek did it. Candra Naya is the easiest object to reach compared to other Chinese tourism sites in Jakarta.

The building is located on Jl Gajah Mada No. 188, West Jakarta, inside the Novotel Gajah Mada complex. This Chinese building is flanked by the high buildings of the hotel.

There are three buildings inside Candra Naya. During the colonization, the place was used to accommodate social gatherings for the Chinese Indonesian community.

Today, people can visit Candra Naya for free.

2. Vihara Dharma Bakti

From Candra Naya, you can walk to Jl. Kemenangan III, which is also popular as a Petak Sembilan area, to find Vihara Dharma Bakti.

Despite its status as a religious site, Vihara Dharma Bakti, also known as Vihara Jin De Yuan or Vihara Petak Sembilan, is a popular tourism site in Jakarta. When Chinese New Year celebrations fall every year, the vihara is always packed with dozens of photographers who want to capture lion dance performances or prayer rituals.

Around Petak Sembilan, you can find other Chinese constructions with lanterns hung between the walls. Many of them are owned by the local Chinese and function as stores. You can buy traditional Chinese medicine, food and worship equipment in these shops.

3. Lautan Mas Shop

Lautan Mas shop provides scuba diving and fishing equipment. It’s the architecture of the building that makes the shop special.

This old Chinese building on Jl. Toko Tiga is believed to be the house of Oey Tambahsia, a wealthy Chinese trader that lived in Batavia in 1830.

Some residents around the building confirmed this, even though the current shop owner was unsure about it.

“The owner of this shop bought this building around the 1990s. He doesn't know who built it,” shopkeeper Yayang said.

4. The house of the Souw Family

Moving from the Petak Sembilan area, I crossed the river and walked to Jl. Perniagaan. There are two traditional Chinese houses next to Pusat Grosir Perniagaan. The bigger house with a high fence in front of its main door is known as the Souw family house.

The busy and crowded Jl. Perniagaan has somewhat hid the greatness of the house, which was built by Souw family. However, the house’s swallowtail roof catches everyone’s attention.

The roof shows the Souw family was wealthy. The Souw brothers, Souw Siauw Tjong and Souw Siauw Keng, were known as rich and philanthropic men. They built the schools for the local Boemiputra people on their land and helped disadvantaged people.

As a reward for their generosity, Tjong received the honor of being Luitenant Titulair from the Dutch East Indies government in May 1877, while Keng received the honor of Luitenant der Chineezen in Tangerang in 1884.

5. Es Kopi Tak Kie

Tak Kie ice coffee, popularly known as Es Kopi Tak Kie, is a perfect place to take a rest in the Chinatown area. Located on Jl. Pintu Besar Selatan III, Tak Kie is believed to be the oldest coffee shop in Jakarta that still operated to date.

Latif Yulus said his grandfather Tak Kie opened the modest coffee stall back in 1927. Business grew well and Tak Kie ended up owning a building to be used as his coffee shop.

Latif represents the third generation of his family to run the business. The place now serves various coffee beverages and offers mixed rice with pork - locals call it as nasi campur - as the signature dish. Here, you can see the traditional style of a Chinese coffee shop from the old wooden chair decorations.

“For a long time, this coffee shop has been a place for traders to have breakfast and lunch. We open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 2:00 p.m. because the traders always finish their activities before evening,” Latif said.

Read also:

Five recommended 24-hour restaurants in Jakarta

Touring Jakarta, one train station at a time

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