The history of world-famous Central Jakarta's Jl. Jaksa|
Lenah Susianty, The Jakarta Post, 02 August 1994
Jl. Jaksa is quite popular for its cheap but good hotels
especially among backpackers. In the first part of two articles,
The Jakarta Post reporter Lenah Susianty interviews visitors and
also Nathanael Lawalata, the man who first developed a hotel for
budget tourists, to gain insight on how the street earned
JAKARTA (JP): If you ask for Jl. Jaksa, taxi drivers will take
you to Wisma Delima Youth Hostel, states a guide book published
in the 1980s by The Lonely Planet.
Today Wisma Delima is not the only hotel located on the street
which provides the cheapest accommodation for backpackers in the
city. Many establishments have sprung up in the area joining in
on the lucrative business. However, it is Wisma Delima which
brought the narrow street to the attention of foreign backpackers
and gave Jl. Jaksa a place in history.
Jl. Jaksa became a tourist center by serving International
Youth Hostel Federation members. Indonesia is no longer a member
of the Federation because the Federation rules that its members
must be from the private circle, not the government.
The street was named Jl. Jaksa because it was where students
of the Rechts Hogeschool (the Law College), which was located
near the National Museum during colonial times, lived. Jaksa,
listed in every guide book of Indonesia, means attorney.
"I know of this street from this book," said Ivan, a Czech,
pointing to South-East Asia on shoe-string, a guide book
published by Lonely Planet.
"It is o.k. for me, although my room is noisy, but it is
cheap," he added.
Last year, the street was visited by 57,201 people who spent
US$5 to $15 per day for accommodation and food on the street.
It is estimated that Jl. Jaksa, which is 400 meters long,
earns about $572,000 annually because the accommodation business
has brought other related businesses such as restaurants, money
changers, and laundries to the area.
Started in 1968 by Nathanael Lawalata, now 82, Wisma Delima
first opened its doors to 40 Australian tourists. Little did the
owner know that this first step would make him famous.
"We were not yet prepared to accept guests in our house, but
they said they did not need anything luxurious and they could
sleep anywhere because they had sleeping bags," Lawalata said in
a recent interview.
He said his house was converted into a hotel because he was
the secretary general of the Association of Indonesian Youth
Hostels in 1968.
"It is a funny story. We were listed as a member of the
International Youth Hostel Federation which was based in London
even though we only had one youth hostel with two big rooms
managed by the National Police," Lawalata recalled.
The hotel was called Hotel Polisi or the Police Hotel and was
located on Jl. Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta, where PT Bimantara,
Indonesia was listed with the International Youth Hostel
Federation on the suggestion of T. Kaneko, a Japanese officer who
was a good friend of Indonesia's first president Soekarno.
Kaneko, an admirer of the country's beauty, thought it was a
pity that tourists coming from Europe and traveling in Asia could
not stop here on their way to Australia simply because there was
no cheap accommodation.
"The National Police were appointed to be in charge of the
youth hostel. However, it did not stay in business long because
the hostel was not well kept, it was not clean and tourists did
not like because it was not comfortable or cozy," said Lawalata,
who speaks English and Dutch well and understands French and
"At that time, I worked for the Bhayangkara travel bureau,
also by the National Police. When they closed the hostel, they
decided to move it to my house because I lived in the center of
Jakarta, not far from tourist sites like the National Monument
(Monas) and the National Museum -- more popular as Museum gajah
(elephant), Gambir railway station and the Lapangan Banteng area,
which was a bus terminal," said the father of three children.
The Lawalata family then decided to enter the accommodation
business by building rooms for tourists around the main house
where they still live.
Wisma Delima, now managed by Lawalata's son Yahya -- nicknamed
Boyke -- has 11 rooms and can accommodate 43 people in its
double, triple and dormitory rooms.
The hotel remains one of the cheapest on the street where 26
other hotels exist. Prices begin at Rp 5,000 (around US$2.30) per
night per person in the dormitory.
"I am content that our rooms are always full although we have
to compete not only with the 26 other hotels but also with
residents in this area who also offer rooms for tourists,"
Lawalata said, adding that his family earns around Rp 6 million
to Rp 7 million ($2,768 to $3,230) per month from the business.
He commented that his guests come from all corners of the
world, including Australia, the United States, Nigeria, India and