The National Museum, built in 1862, is the best of its kind in Indonesia and an essential visit. The enormous collection begins around an open courtyard stacked with magnificent millennia old statuary including a colossal 4.5m stone image of a Bhairawa king from Rambahan in Sumatra, who is shown trampling on human skulls. The ethnology section is superb, with Dayak puppets and wooden statues from Nias sporting beards (a sign of wisdom) plus some fascinating textiles.
Over in the spacious new wing there are four floors with sections devoted to the origin of mankind in Indonesia, including a model of the Flores ‘hobbit’. There’s also a superb display of gold treasures from Candi Brahu in Central Java: glittering necklaces, armbands and a bowl depicting scenes from the Ramayana.
The Indonesian Heritage Society organises free English tours of the National Museum, at 10.30am on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays at 10.30am and 1.30pm. Tours are also available in French, Japanese and Korean and at other times; consult the website for the latest schedule.