Ingloriously dubbed ‘Sukarno’s final erection’, this 132m-high national monument, towering over Merdeka Sq, is both Jakarta’s principal landmark and the most famous architectural extravagance of the former president. Begun in 1961, this typically masculine column was not completed until 1975, when it was officially opened by Suharto. The monument is constructed from Italian marble, and is topped with a sculpted flame, gilded with 35kg of gold leaf.
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Facing the Catholic Cathedral is Jakarta's principal place of Muslim worship, the modernistic Mesjid Istiqlal, which was constructed under Soekarno and is reputedly the largest mosque in Southeast Asia.
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Gedung Pancasila is an imposing neoclassical building built in 1830 as the Dutch army commander’s residence. It later became the meeting hall of the Volksraad (People’s Council), but is best known as the place where Sukarno made his famous Pancasila speech in 1945, laying the foundation for Indonesia’s constitution.
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Just east of Merdeka Sq, in front of the Hotel Borobudur Jakarta, Lapangan Banteng was laid out by the Dutch in the 19th century, and the area has some of Jakarta’s best colonial architecture.
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On the western side of Merdeka Sq, the Museum Nasional, built in 1862, is the best of its kind in Indonesia and one of the finest in Southeast Asia. It has an enormous collection of cultural objects of the various ethnic groups around the country - costumes, musical instruments, model houses and so on - and numerous fine bronzes from the Hindu-Javanese period, as well as many interesting stone pieces salvaged from the Central Javanese and other temples.
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