Kalibesar: the Large Canal

On the west and east banks of the Ciliwung was the commercial area known as Kalibesar, or in Dutch colonial days known as Grootegracht, or the Large Canal. Until today this is still a busy trading district, also known as Jakarta’s Chinatown. The Red Shop or Toko Merah from the 18th century used to be the Standard Chartered Bank.


Close by stands a typical Dutch drawbridge, the only one left in Jakarta, that was once called the Engelse Brug or the English Bridge, connecting the Dutch fort with the British Fort.

Facing the sea is an old look-out tower to watch incoming and outbound vessels. The tower is surrounded by a fortress. Today the tower is called Menara Syahbandar or the tower of the harbor master.

Nearby is the Maritime Museum that was once large warehouses where lucritive spices were stored to be further shipped and sold in far away Europe. 



In the neighbourhood is the Fish market, known as Pasar Ikan, and at the mouth of the Ciliwung river is the Sunda Kelapa Harbour, which until today still serves as Jakarta’s traditional inter-island shipping. The Sunda Kelapa harbour is a favourite haunt for tourists to take photographs of the many traditional phinisi schooners tied along the pier.




Historic Places Around Kalibesar Area

National Archives Building

The elegant red brick National Archives Museum - known as Museum Arsip Nasional, is located on busy Jalan Gajah Mada. It once housed the Dutch colonial Archives, and was originally built in the 18th century as residence of the Dutch East Indies Company’s (VOC) Governor General Reinier de Klerk.

Today, however, it has become a museum which is open to the public and can be used for romantic gala dinners or wedding receptions in exclusive heritage setting.

When the site was about to be demolished, a group of Dutch businessmen founded the Stichting Cadeau Indonesia (Society for the Gift to Indonesia) to collect funds to restore the building as a museum to donate this to the Indonesian government on the country’s 50th Independence Day in 1995. Restoration was however, completed only in 1998.

The main red brick bulding has two floors with a high roof. It has a wide ground floor. Its main door is beautifully carved and has holes for ventilation. Here was the main drawing room of the governor general. Today there are still a collection of antique furniture and an arsenal of guns.

On the ground floor can still be seen ceramic tiles similar to those found in the Palace of the Kasepuhan in Cirebon, depicting stories from the Bible. A staircase leads to the private quarters on the upper floor where offices and a dining room are (where Hillary Clinton was hosted a dinner during one of her visits to Jakarta). Here one can see old maps of Batavia, and the bedroom of Governor General Reinier de Klerk.

In 2001 the National Archives museum received the UNESCO Award of Excellence 2001.