Being a bycicle tour guide in historical Kota Tua and showing people the colonial buildings and the stories behind them, makes me proud. I am Pak Sumari, a bicycle tourist guide. I am sad that the old beautiful buildings are going to ruin. I believe that one day, this part of Jakarta will be the pearl of the city. If we invest in it. Never to be flooded again.
No Prayers In The Mosque
This is the worst time to visit my place! It’s flooded. I am sorry about this! The water doesn’t really get into my room, but it’s in the surrounding area anyway, so I can’t really go anywhere easily. That’s the way disasters work I suppose.
You should’ve seen the 2013 floods! All the favorite spots for tour guiding were flooded. 10 days! How can I make a living that way? What about you? Did it affect you? Well, you certainly couldn’t go on one my tours, that’s for sure! And when you see the state of the Mosque you cannot go to do your Fridays prayers.
How to fix a bike?
Every week I go the bicycle workshop. There as Onthel Tourist Bicycle Group we have all our tools and we can repair and fix our bicycles. You would think that because of all the dirt in the streets, the bicycles often have a flat tyre.
Luckily that does not happen too often. Only 3 times this year. I do all the repairs myself. I am quite proud of my bicycle which I brought with me from East Java 20 years ago. It is old but not yet antique. I have one at home, an original Kaptein from Holland. It is safe in my house in Jepara, East Java. Antique bicycles are worth a lot of money and you cannot use them for tourists. Some of them do not know how to ride a bicycle.
Smile, you are on camera
Tourists like to take pictures and I like to take pictures of tourists. I have always my camera with me. The whole day I take photo’s which I can show to my wife and family when I go see them every 6 weeks. On Fatahilla Square there is always something happening: music performance and theater, people eating and chatting. There are no cars and a lot of the buildings are renovated. Young people are doing photo shoots around the square and restaurants like Djakarté, a nice place. If I was not a tourist guide, I would like to be a photographer.
They all want my picture
I am 52 years old, but often I feel I am much younger because everybody wants to have my picture. Like I am a movie star or a famous singer. Tourists ask me to take their picture. I enjoy doing that. Then they want to take one with me in it as well. As a memory of the tour. They must be happy with my stories. So I am quite popular far outside Jakarta, ha ha.
Cycling makes you hungry
When it is busy I have some times 4 tours per day. My breakfast is little, tea with a lot of sugar and maybe porridge, bubur. Every evening I eat at the same stall on my way from Fatahillah square to my home.
The owner is family of my wife. Before I had a mobile phone, I would use their landline to call home to my wife. But I still eat their every evening. My favorite food is chicken with rice and glass of ice cold lemonade. Yes, it tastes so good. It is true, cycling make you hungry.
Keeping the old town young
See all these people coming to Fatahillah, most of them are young. I like talking to young people. It makes me feel young, too. Please pray that I will be healthy and I will keep working here at Fatahilla Square, so that more people will learn about the stories and beautiful places in Kota Tua.
Hopefully, Kota Tua will be cleaner and safer from floods, and it will stay young, even though it’s an old town. Do come here again, and say hi. You know where to find me!
Why are bikes pink?
Look at the pictures of the tourists on the bicycles. Lovely aren’t they. Specially the ladies. A pink bicycle or a blue or white one are nicer in a photo than a black one. So we painted the ones for the ladies in different colors. With matching hats too. For an extra touch. For both men and women. That is something we decided as Onthel, Tourist Bicycle Group. Mine is black, because it’s a bike for men. Each week we wash them to make them look bright and shiny. Tell me that you want to jump on them right now!
I am my own boss and you are the king
Fatahilla Square is my office and your library. Every day you can find me on the same spot, in front of the Bank Mandiri Archive. It is the big building next to the Wajang Museum. In the weekends we have a stand with tourist information and a section with books. You can sit here quietly and read and look at the pictures of old Jakarta. Maps, history books and books for children. We always have a lot of visitors, of all ages. And did you know that I am my own boss. A tour on a bike lasts as long as YOU want. For the same price. Because the customer is the king.
Keep Kota Tua clean!
I really don’t like people littering just because they can’t be bothered to look for a bin. It’s already clear what damage littering can do, right, but they still do it!
Tsk tsk. Once I told a school kid, ‘Do you actually go to school? Why don’t you know the rules?’ And for the older visitors, I simply pick up the garbage myself, so that they will be embarrassed. Hehe! I wonder if I have done that to any of you? Look at Fatahillah, how much garbage do you think these people leave behind? Do you have ideas how to keep Kota Tua clean and more beautiful?
Never too old to learn
As a tourist guide you have to search for new stories all the time. For example about the Jakarta Historical Museum. It used to be called Stadhuis, and it was a prison. The prison was always inundated so the prisoners had to stand up all the time. Tsk,tsk. That’s really sadistic! And there are filthy stories too. Apparently, every morning the Dutch used to dump their human waste in wooden buckets to Kali Besar, the one West of Fatahillah square. Must have been really smelly in those days. In the evening I read in books about old Batavia; the history of the city, its buildings and how people were living in those days. I like to share my knowledge when I show tourists around. There are so many things to see in Kota Tua. The Toko Merah in Kalibesar is said to have been the governor’s house once, and a store belonging to a Chinese at another time. There’s also the Syahbandar Tower in Pasar Ikan. But I have my own favorite: The Pekojan area in Tambora. Why? Because there are plenty of heritage leftover from the early Indian and Arab migrants. There’s the Arab district, and the Al Anshor Mosque, which was built in the 1600s. That’s a long time ago, right? That’s why I like that area. In the harbor Sunda Kelapa or along the old canals. You are never too old to gain knowledge and learn about culture and customs.
Bikes do not like rain
Nobody likes rain. Tourist will not come. They do’ nt want to cycle on wet streets and have their clothes get wet. The stay away and the square stays empty. When it is the rainy season, I sleep a lot, that is about the only thing you can do when it is raining. My bicycle also does not like rain. In wet conditions it starts to get rusty and break down. Usually Fatahilah square at the end of the day or in the evening is too busy. The place is taken over by all types of sellers. But look at me, I look like a wet puppy.
Me and my Buddy’s
My real family, my wife and children live in East Java. Once in every six week I try to go home and see them. My ‘other’ family are my colleagues from Onthel Bicycle Group. We are a close community of tourist guides. Every day we work together and are good friends. We share a lot together, laugh and have a smoke. At Onthel Bicycle Tourist Group we have meetings every month at the old building of Bank Mandiri. We have agreed to wear uniforms, which show where we are from. We all come from different regions of Indonesia. So on Monday for example we wear a Batik shirt from Bali, on Tuesday our Onthel vest. Every day a different one. That’s makes us recognizable for tourists. We also agreed not to have more than 3 bikes. Otherwise that would not be fair. When I have more than 2 people to cycle around, I hire a bike from a colleague whom I pay. In the future we even want to share our profits.