Since the publication of our book 250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA we have been approached by many people from all over the world who, after reading the book, wanted to share their experiences and their childhood stories in Tanah Abang. Some only have vague memories, others know all facts and have photos to prove too. @Zaky Awab from Jakarta kindly shared with us a photo of his late father Awab Al Kuddeh (1934-1984) who is praying with many others as part of Idul Fitri in front of one of the 18th century two-storey houses on Tanah Abang Bukit (formerly Tanah Abang Heuvel). Pak Awab was married to the daughter of Tanah Abang Kebon Dalam resident and landowner Ali Al Djawas.
Behind him we see the western wing of the former estate that was built by Governor General Van Imhoff in the 1740s. It was subsequently in possession of the Van Riemsdijk family (late 18th and early 19th century) and the Bik family (mid 19th century to first half 20th century). From 1954 these houses were part of the headquarters of Indonesia’s Air Force (AURI) and from 1969 till 1978 the Air Force Museum (Museum AURI). This photo dates from the 1970s but it is not exactly known from what year.
The historic photo shows the same house from nearly the same angle in the year 1900 and was taken by the German biologist K. Giesenhagen who was the guest of German consul Von Syburg, who lived in this house from 1899 till 1903. The two houses were demolished shortly after 1983 and the site is now occupied by concrete ‘ruko’ (rumah toko) blocks of Pasar Tanah Abang Blok E.
We have obtained a rare train ticket for the trip from Pandjang (or Paroeng Pandjang, now Parung Panjang in West Java) to Tanah Abang in Batavia/Jakarta. It is not known from what year exactly but comparing the tariff for this trip with those from before World War II, and the ones in the Indonesian language from the early 1950s, it suggests this train ticket must be from the late 1940s. During the 1930s prices of train tickets were much lower as a result of the financial crisis. Train tickets we have seen from the early 1950s are in exactly the same design but then obviously in the Indonesian language and in Rupiahs rather than Guilders. However if any readers recognise such train tickets from their travel experiences in the past and be able to date this more precisely, we would love to hear that.
Tickets bought via K.P.M.
Parung Panjang was an important train stop on the line between Rangkasbetoeng/Rangkasbitung and Batavia/Jakarta. This ticket, with the option to travel first class for the full rate or second class for half rate, has been issued aboard one of the vessels of the Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) and suggests that passengers, who travelled between the islands of the Indies/Indonesia, had the opportunity to purchase train tickets before arrival, which probably would have saved them the hassle of queuing in front of the counters on the train stations, so they could go straight to the train platforms. It is surprising that such ordinary and everyday items like train tickets have become so rare. We can only assume because they were usually disposed of after usage.
The floods of 1872 were one of the most destructive in Batavia/Jakarta. The Ciliwung River had swollen so much that even opening of the sluice gates proved insufficient. The river followed the original loop and flooded the entire lower part of the city, and in Weltevreden (Jakarta Pusat) the areas around Rijswijk (Jalan Veteran), Noordwijk (Jalan Juanda) and Molenvliet (Jalan Gajah Mada, Jalan Hayam Wuruk) were affected. Even Tanah Abang was not spared. The northern section of Tanah Abang West (Jalan Abdul Muis) was entirely flooded, including the Petodjo (Petojo) kampung and the Tanah Abang cemetery (Taman Prasasti).
Thick layer of mud
When the water had subsided most of Tanah Abang was covered in a thick layer of mud. This is a dramatic picture of the banjir (flood) in Jakarta, from 148 years ago. The photo with the title “The flood in Batavia from 24 to 27 January 1872” has been taken on the road Tanah Abang West (Jalan Abdul Muis), looking south, just before the turnoff to Kerkhoflaan (Jalan Tanah Abang 1). Taman Prasasti is around 200 meters to the right of this picture. The photo was taken by a photographer of the studio of Petz & Co. Floods are still happening in Jakarta these days, and if you’re hit by the current 2020 floods, please take care and make sure you are safe!
By the early 1970s the largest textile market of Indonesia was still housed in a single storey building that dated back to 1927. The market was too small and many sellers used the surrounding streets to set up their textile stalls. There was usually non-stop traffic chaos around Pasar Tanah Abang during the day. In 1973 Jakarta’s Governor Ali Sadikin (1927-2008) gave the green light to demolish the old pasar and to build a new four storey concrete market complex with a parking deck on the roof.
Nightmare for market traders
The two years between the demolition and the re-opening of the new pasar were a real nightmare for the market traders. As there was no alternative space, the city council had approved that textile sellers could set up their kiosks in the surrounding streets, with the result that Jalan Wahid Hasyim and Jalan Fachrudin were two open air markets for nearly two years. When the new Pasar Tanah Abang opened in 1975 it had room for more than 4,300 kiosks.
The new Tanah Abang market complex suffered from serious fires on several occasions. One block of the pasar complex burnt down on 30 December 1978, a second block went up in flames on 13 August 1979. In both cases the sections were able to be rebuilt, but a destructive fire in 2003 meant the end of the four-storey market building. Between 2005 and 2010 the two new 18-floors Blok A and Blok B were constructed, and Pasar Tanah Abang is now the largest textile market in southeast Asia. On this photo from 1973, taken by Kartono Ryadi for Kompas, the demolition of the 1927 pasar has commenced.
Very soon we will publish the book 250 YEARS IN OLD JAKARTA. It will tell the story of more than two centuries of Bik family in Jakarta, as well as the fascinating history of Tanah Abang, one of the oldest districts in Jakarta, dating back to 1628.
One entire chapter in the 336 page book will be dedicated to the Tanah Abang cemetery, now Taman Prasasti. It opened in 1797 and was fortunately saved from full destruction by the legendary Jakarta Governor Ali Sadikin. In 1976 Bang Ali decided to transform 1/5th of the original cemetery into a park with the most memorable monuments and tombstones. In this video, author Sven Verbeek Wolthuys tells about the history of some of the Bik tombstones still present in today’s Jakarta.
The video was kindly created by the team of Adventure Documentary Festival (ADF).