Impressionistic history of Indonesia

So what in the world ever happened in the the history-rich capital city of the world’s 4th largest country, Jakarta AKA Batavia? Well, Indonesian history — at least my impression — has pretty much been one crazy party after another.  For the first 1000 years or so — honestly, there’s a thin line between story and history in Indonesia — the locals were so thoroughly enthralled with pre-Bollywood India that they converted religiously from Cannibalism, to Hinduism and then Buddhism — one after another like trance dancers.

And then Islam, after an enlightenment-era Egyptian descendant of the Prophet married Nyai Rara Santang, a famous dangdut dancer from Cirebon. This is what led to — and here I paraphrase a description of  Other Wives, Slaves, and Concubines : A History of the Female Underclass in Dutch Asia by Eric Jones — an “increasingly operational dichotomy of slave and free supplanted an otherwise fluid system of reciprocal bondedness.”

Anyway, the mixed results of that marriage included Sunan Gunung Jati, one of the Nine Apostles who, in 1524 together with the armies of Demak Sultanate, seized the port of Banten from the Sunda kingdom and established The Sultanate of Banten, whose Grand Mosque vaguely resembled President Sukarno’s Monumen Nasional. Our beloved “Monas”  is a “towering monument encapsulat[ing] the philosophy of [the male] Lingga and [the female] Yoni.”

Jakarta National Monument, by Paten @

It’s located down the streets from the Sharehouse and here are the reviews from Virtual Tourist. Sukarno’s daughter — Megawati Sukarnoputri (which means Sukarno’s daughter) — was played by Ecuadorian Carlo Alban (a man) in the Comedy Centralized Strangers With Candy, although this will not likely help you a lot in terms of the history of Indonesia, which is pretty unreal no matter how you look at it.

To this day no one really knows the exact sequence of events that began in 1965 , least of all me. What I do remember is that they began about nine years after Sukarno — who had approximately as many wives as Larry King — was photographed with Marilyn Monroe. That was 1956. Which means the Year of Living Dangerously would have come almost exactly 150 years after Sir Raffles fled to Singapore amidst accusations of corruption and “instant expatriotism.” He had managed to popularize coffee worldwide (and convinced the Dutch not to abandon slavery), but was otherwise a miserable failure here in Java.

We could be off by a year or two as regards one or more of these parties. But it has been a riot here in Jakarta with all these FOB’s strolling around like they own the place.

We hope you enjoy the blog : )

MONAS, by the way, was completed in 1966,  the same year as US President Barack Obama moved to Menteng. At night Monas used to light up green, violet, orange – – like that. I heard the manufacturer retired to Bali after he sold that little light bulb — for some 2 million USD. Must have burned out and there’s  no replacement. Highly doubt any of it’s true.



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