Welcoming the Year of Metal Rat
Updated: Jul 13
Like every other major city around the globe, Jakarta also has a Chinatown, which famously called as Petak Sembilan (nine swath) area. Located in Glodok administrative village, West Jakarta (even though I always thought it's part of North Jakarta municipality), Petak Sembilan is known for the temples, the market, and the food that surprisingly I rarely found in other parts of Jakarta.
Historically, this Chinatown area has been around since the 17th century, where this area became the residential area for Chinese traders and immigrants. A bleak history that rarely known by a lot of Jakartan was the 1740 Chinese massacre in Batavia, which burnt down the area and killed approximately 10.000 Chinese ethnicities in then Batavia (the old name of Jakarta). Nevertheless, the area with its culture survived, and the legacy can be seen until now.
One of the famous landmarks that survived is Jin De Yuan/Kim Tek Le temple, the oldest temple in Jakarta. This temple, along with other historical landmarks (Toa Se Bio temple, Church of Santa Maria de Fatima to name a few), became the reminder of the quite long history of Jakarta.
If you are a photographer living in Jakarta, there is a 99% chance you've been to Petak Sembilan. People LOVE to go to this area because it just feels different to other parts of Jakarta. The ambiance, the smell, the color, the people, it's just something that pretty distinct. And with Chinese New Year looming, you know that the Petak Sembilan will burst with color and actions.
I visited the area a week before the celebration. Since I was there with my cousins, I didn't really focus on taking shots, but we enjoy looking at all the activities happening there. The market was full of people wanted to buy some new year celebration attributes such as clothes, envelopes, fake money, and others. Temples are full of people praying, cleaning, and get prepared for the big day.
The view during the day was pretty different from the view at night. Together with my photography community, we visited the area at night two days before the Chinese new year. The temple was pretty quiet, and the stalls were closed, pretty different from the scene that we saw a few days before. We also saw some people unloading the giant candles which could weigh up to 300kg to the temples. These special candles were lighted on the new year and could last for 8-9 months.
To sum up, Petak Sembilan might be too touristy and over-photographed, but it has its charm, and I enjoy it very much.
Read more about Petak Sembilan and Chinese New Year celebration in Jakarta: