Monday, May 26, 2003

The Spirit of Oude Tamarindelaan

The Hotel where I've been staying for the past one-and-a-half years (!) is called Ibis Tamarin. Ibis, owned by the Accor Group is a popular chain of hotels in the Jakarta City. There's an Ibis Slipi and Ibis Mangga Dua and right opposite the same road where Ibis Tamarin is located - Jalan Wahid Hasyim - is another Ibis-branded hotel called Ibis Arcadia.

Ibis Tamarin is mainly frequented by local businessmen, civil servants and budget travellers. Situated within walking distance from the popular Sarinah departmental store and Hard Rock Cafe, it is very conveniently located within the heart of Jakarta City.

While Ibis is the well-known brand name for the hotel chain, not many people though know why the one located along Jalan Wahid Hasyim is called "Ibis Tamarin". Many think "Tamarin" is a corruption of "Thamrin" - Jalan Thamrin being the closest main road in front of Sarinah.

It was from perusing books about Old Jakarta, that I stumbled upon the former name for Jalan Wahid Hasyim: Oude Tamarindelaan. And the area there is known locally as Asem Lama. Immediately one sees the obvious connection: Oude Tamarindelaan is just the literal Dutch translation of Asem Lama.

Many of the old Dutch road names have already been replaced by Indonesian ones, usually named after local heroes or leaders. Many of the old historical Dutch buildings were torn down in the frenzied aftermath of Independence. This is very sad because Jakarta is very rich in history. It is even sadder because I find many Jakartans quite unaware of their historical heritage.

But I take comfort in the fact that, the hotel where I'm staying at, though not very old - merely 6 or 7 years - still retains a small connection to the past, at least in its name. I have been happy staying in this area so far though asem trees and the romance of Old Batavia are not evident anymore. But the industriousness and bustling spirit of the Betawi people still lives on, evident in the incessant buzz of bajajs preying on bule backpackers and the smoky throng of street pedlars selling gorengan, sate kambing, soto betawi and other gastronomic delights. Yes, I feel very at home indeed in Asem Lama.

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