A Sunny Saturday at Museum di Tengah Kebun Kemang

Museums have always been on my itinerary since I could travel by myself. I don’t remember my very first museum, but during my junior high years, I was a regular to Museum Bank Mandiri in Kota Tua Jakarta. I was between 13 to 15 years old, taking a 2 hour ride of commuter train from Bogor to Jakarta, to spend about 3 hours in Museum Bank Mandiri’s public library and its small garden, to then take another 2 hour ride back to Bogor, sometimes under the pouring afternoon rain. Time inefficient, but that journey enriches my teenage soul.

So when I was looking for somewhere to visit for my empty weekend, it’s only natural that I go back searching for museums. The thing is, Jakarta’s great museums like Museum MACAN, Art:1, and MOJA have become too contemporary for me. Call me a geezer or fake elitist, but I want a serene ambiance when I go to museums. I want to be on a quiet crowd getting awed together by paintings or statues we couldn’t solve the meanings of. I don’t want to be in a middle of a crowd too busy searching for the right angle of photos on every corner of the place to then post them on Instagram. I’m not hating, it’s just not my cup of tea, not my moshing pit.

Then I found “Museum di Tengah Kebun” on Google Maps. I have heard about this place before, but its system of ‘by reservation only’ used to make me reluctant to schedule a visit. But since I really didn’t have a better idea on how to spend my Saturday, I finally sent that reservation form.

The scheduling was simple and straightforward. You just have to fill a form at bit.ly/ReservasiMuseumdiTengahKebun, and wait until someone (in my case it’s Novi) message you by Whatsapp to re-confirm your plan. The place can only be visited on Saturdays and Sundays, with 2 sessions for each day: morning (09:15-11:30) and afternoon (12:15-14:30). Sometimes they may have to reschedule either your session or the visit date, and they will also communicate that through Whatsapp. I was originally booked for Saturday morning, but since they said they have a guest visiting, I then agreed to be moved to the afternoon session.

From the main street, you would only see a high wooden fence in front of the museum gateway. At first, during my research, I was confused on how I will notify the guard/ guide that I have arrived to take the tour. Would I need to knock the hard wood? Or is it another thing I should communicate through Whatsapp? Turns out, behind a wooden pillar on the right side of the wood fence, there’s a sign for the bell, which is not visible from the front view, so you really have to be there to find it. So I pushed the button, and a friendly guard opened the door, asked if I already registered and took my name, then allowed me to enter and wait at the main pavilion.

Entering the area itself is like you’re stepping out of Kemang into some lush villa in Puncak. It’s very green and very well-maintained. Understandable, since the museum was a residence of the late billionaire advertising businessman since the 1980s, Pak Sjahrial Djalil.

Novi herself was our guide for my visit. Our as in there were other people too so we’re in a group of 5. She first explained the new rules for museum visitors, including mandatory mask wearing, 12 years olds and above only, footwear to be changed with provided sandals from start to finish of the tour, and that photos could only be taken in the outdoor areas. For the last one, Novi said it was because there was a case of fake listings of museum items on some marketplaces. To prevent similar issue to happen again, the management implements a stern prohibition of asset picture-takings.

My personal favorite room from the residence is Pak Djalil’s main bathroom. It’s HUGE. About twice the size of my rented room :’) It was complete with a bathtub, two showers, two sets of wall-height closets (Pak Djalil was awarded as Pria Berbusana Terbaik 1979/1980 so there isn’t really a surprise here), and even a small aviary garden on the back so he could take a bath while listening to birds singing.

The backyard itself was the main highlight of the tour for me. After 1.5 hour of the indoors, we got some free time (like 20 minutes) at the garden to take pictures, videos, or just relax enjoying the view. After that, there’s still a couple more artefacts to see, and then Novi wrapped our visit with a group photo.

In summary, Museum di Tengah Kebun is really a hidden gem in the hurly-burly Kemang. Plus, it’s easy to reach, very well-maintained, well-staffed, and it’s totally free!

By the style of The Anthropocene Reviewed, I give Museum di Tengah Kebun four and a half stars.

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