Ngopi Jakarta or NgoJak (which translates to ‘drinking coffee in Jakarta’) was founded in 2011 as a blog about the history of Jakarta. It first compiled stories about daily life in the city, stories about book sellers, coffee sellers, dangdut street singers, etc, from various angles. Essentially, it provided a snap shot of the city beyond the familiar landmarks, Monas and Kota Tua.

Jakarta based organisation Ngopi Jakarta invites tourists –and residents—to explore the city’s hidden gems on foot and share their experiences. Photo courtesy of Ngopi Jakarta/NOW!JAKARTA

In 2016, inspired by the Aleut community in Bandung which holds a literature class every Saturday, the founders shifted it offline. In August that year, they started a system whereby people, through mouth-to-mouth and social media, could learn about, and explore the city’s unfamiliar destinations by walking down the city’s streets.

“We invited people to explore Condet in East Jakarta because the literature about that place is still rare. We did a survey first and found the elders as our information sources about the place, then determined the time of the trip,” said Ali Zainal, one of the founders of NgoJak.

Initially, they just explored historical places, but over time they created the unique sides of the trip by tracing the tracks along the Ciliwung river, one of the 13 rivers in Jakarta that divides the heart of the city. According to co-founder Novi Anggraini, the stories of many of the big cities in the world cannot be separated from the water sources whether they’re rivers or lakes.

“It’s very interesting to learn about Jakarta from the Ciliwung, the river that divides the city rightly in the heart, and it must keep the story inside, like the evolution of people of Jakarta who live in the riverbank.” said Novi.

Since operating the offline version, NgoJak has reached 14 series of the trip with various places, such as to Karadenan in Bogor, Kwitang, Kuningan and the farthest Condet-Cawang-Cililitan-Kramat Jati 11 kilometers, all of which have connections to the Ciliwung river.

The community explore certain area in the city which has strong story.

“Trips in NgoJak have five philosophies; sun, walk down, white water and if they get good information sources to make the trip perfect. And in the end, drinking coffee together and discussing their experience. Finally, we ask them to write on our website with their own style, so other people can read and get information. So, it’s not only the trip and it’s the way we thank to the city.” explained Achmad Sofiyan, a member of NgoJak.

Sofiyan notes that many participants join NgoJak’s trips to satisfy their curiosity about various places and more pay attention to some of Jakarta’s interesting places. This is in addition to learning more about the city, raising awareness and interacting with local people, something that wouldn’t be possible when using transport.

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Sari Widiati

Sari Widiati

Sari has been an arts and culture enthusiast for many years. She has written extensively on the arts, travel, and social issues as Features Writer at NOW! Jakarta.