The tour with my very first UAE guests.

Crossing the Fatahillah Sq, in front of the Stadhuis, a building that was built for the city centre in 1707.

Crossing the Fatahillah Sq, in front of the Stadhuis, a building that was built for the city centre in 1707.

Excited. Worried. Thrilled. Anxiety.

Those what I felt when I was on my way to pick up my very first guests from United Arab Emirates. Why? Because first experience is always thrilling, and they will be my very first UAE guests. I really want to leave a good impression.

It’s a family. A couple, Glen and Neethi, who’s been married for almost 2 years now, and Glen’s parents. All my worries disappeared as I looked at their smiles while shaking my hands while I said my name, Farid.

Ready for Jakarta tour with your good guide?

They stayed in one of the nice hotels in Kemang (South Jakarta) and our first stop is the National Monument. In order to get there, we passed Jakarta’s main streets (Sudirman and Thamrin) which were (surprisingly) friendly without any congestions, as friendly as this family. I loved how they talked about their hometown, Dubai, and how it’s been developing for the past years.

But, the friendly weather was not as friendly as the conversation, it suddenly got a bit dark and drizzled. As a guide, I didn’t panic. (I took a deep breath and prayed instead. No, I actually panicked. But they didn’t see).

We passed the Bung Karno Stadium (our national stadium), Semanggi flyover (Semanggi = clover, it looks like clover leaf from above), and some important buildings ’til we reached the National Monument or we, the locals, like to call it, Monas (Monumen Nasional).

Ah, God answered my prayer. The drizzle stopped, so let’s take a picture before going into the monument.

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Me (on the very left), Glen’s mom, Neethi, Glen, Glen’s dad.

We were lucky (again, after the rain stopped) that the queue to go up to the observation deck was not long. With the new elevator (no, it didn’t reach the top faster nor it has more capacity. So, what’s new? (only) the new shiny steel), we went up. And the view was great and the wind was (as always) hard.

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Istiqlal Mosque from the observation deck

Well, like getting up, we had to queue to get down as well. Anyway, the capacity of the National Monument elevator was only 11 persons, so, always be prepared to queue, especially if you go there on weekends. My suggestion is : Don’t go up on weekends. Please, just don’t.

Having finished our tour in the National Monument, we went to the biggest mosque in South East Asia, Istiqlal Mosque. When we finished our tour inside the grand mosque, we crossed the street and went into Jakarta’s Cathedral. Yes, it’s located just across the street. Our first president, Mr. Sukarno wanted to show how Indonesian people live in harmony and tolerance by building the grand mosque across the Cathedral that was built in 1901.

The cathedral was quiet and peaceful and we directly got permission to go in. Neethi and her family went to pray and I just stood there, was still wowed by the architecture and peaceful inside it.
Well, the cathedral is located in the city centre but what can you hear inside the building? Birds chirping. I swear I didn’t hear any cars honking, or the busy traffic and all, just birds chirping. A perfect place to pray and talk to your Maker.

Inside Jakarta’s Cathedral. Peaceful and quiet.

Next stop is the Old Town of Batavia.

Molded in Macau, this was a Portuguese canon but taken to Batavia by the Dutch after they captured Malacca from Portuguese.

Molded in Macau, this was a Portuguese canon but taken to Batavia by the Dutch after they captured Malacca from Portuguese.

Still in the area of the old town, Neethi knew exactly what she wanted. Lunch at the most impressive restaurant in the area, Cafe Batavia. It is impressive because the building itself has a story and inside you can feel a different ambiance from Jakarta and yet connected to the past.

Here, surprisingly they asked me to have lunch together with them. Ah, it was an honor. I enjoyed my lunch very much, not because of the food, but the warmth of the conversation in the family. They told me how they met, how they didn’t have time to have a honeymoon, and how they communicate despite their own business in daily life. Neethi works for Emirates Airlines, and Glen works to attend a lot exhibitions so vendors would want to do exhibitions in Dubai (more or less, I think. Please forgive me Glen if I got you wrong).

When the lunch was over, we headed back to hotel, but the traffic was a different story for this family. Well, I had so much fun guiding them that I didn’t realize it took longer time than it was supposed to be. So we went back to hotel just when people got out of the offices to head home. It was rush hour (read: nightmare). It took 2 hours to get to the hotel. I was terribly sorry about this, but I told them that at least, they experienced what the locals do. Traffic in Jakarta is not myth.

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