Exploring the Thousand Doors

By Agustian Hermanto on October 7, 2009

Before I go on and explain why Lawang Sewu is one of the hidden gems to visit in Indonesia, I want to attest that this article is NOT a hate article against either the Japanese or the Dutch. Facts are presented to support the main conclusion.

How long does it take to explore a historical building with a thousand doors?

I guess it would take long enough to make you realize that you are already lost in the maze of doors. Well, that is not the case with Lawang Sewu, or Thousand Doors if you translate it directly, because you don’t want to get lost here.

I want to start this article with a little bit of history:

Originally called Nederlands-Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij or NIS, Lawang Sewu served as the head office for the Dutch train company during the colonial eras. The building was built in 1903 by Prof. Jacob F. Klinkhamer and B.J Queendag, Dutch architects, and completed in 1907. It also served as a function hall for the Dutch. It is located between Jalan Pemuda and Jalan Pandanaran facing to the west exactly in the east of Tugu Muda monument.

Now, what’s so interesting about Lawang Sewu, which has become a popular destination for the locals? It seems to be an ordinary historical office building, but it’s not!

In 1942, Lawang Sewu became a torture camp during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. They captured, kept and tortured locals in that building to gain information regarding the Indonesian nationalist movement against the Japanese. Underground tunnel became underground prison and it’s not like any ordinary prison. The prisoners were kept standing or crouching continuously until their death.

Lawang Sewu has now become one of the most haunted places in Indonesia. Check out this video and fast forward to minute 4:22 (This video is in Bahasa Indonesia. Don’t Worry, you don’t have to understand Bahasa Indonesia to understand what I mean).

So if you want to know whether I have visited Lawang Sewu or not?

I have! And in my personal opinion, it’s one of the most exhilarating travel experiences I’ve ever had. I still clearly remember how our guide knocked on doors before entering rooms, as if he was asking for permission, and how we took other routes because something didn’t feel right.

Like I said, this is one of the places that you don’t want get lost. Hire a guide for your convenience (gratuity based) and there’s an extra charge to bring your camera with you. So, be ready with local currency because they accept cash only.

Lawang Sewu Entrance Fee: Rp. 5,000

***Quick Note: Lawang Sewu doesn’t actually have a thousand doors.

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Exploring the Thousand Doors

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  • Hey Lia!

    Thanks for pointing that out... I did see a shadow crossing over on mins 7:08..
    Didn't see that before..

    That is correct, the underground tunnel is closed between 5 - 7pm because they're having a break and maybe it's got something to do with the Muslim prayer time..

    Much appreciated for your comment.
  • Angelia
    actually watch the video when 7.08 there's a transparent shadow crossing the stair from right to left. very quick... this episode make Dunia Lain (the title of the TV show) won an Indonesian Television Awards. It's pretty famous back then.
  • Angelia
    it is an unforgettable experience! i'd love to do the night tour, it'd be awesomely creepy, haha. get ready for the camera, u might capture something that's not coming from this world :D
    ps. if you planning to visit the underground prison (yes, it is open for public) don't come between 5-7 pm, they're close. I think it's connected with maghrib time in muslim believe.

    a very recommended travel spot
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