Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his family arrived Friday in his childhood home of Jakarta on the last leg of a 10-day vacation in Indonesia, where they visited ancient temples and went whitewater rafting.
Local television news channels broadcast live coverage of the family’s arrival in the capital.
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo later met Obama at the Bogor Palace in West Java. The grand Dutch colonial building about 55 kilometers (35 miles) south of Jakarta is famous for its botanical gardens and a herd of spotted deer that roam the grounds.
The two jumped into a golf cart with Jokowi at the wheel and headed off to a cafe nestled inside the lush gardens. Many Indonesians have drawn comparisons between Jokowi and Obama, who were both highly popular during their election campaigns.
After Obama became president, many here viewed him as a native son and saw him as a symbol of hope and religious tolerance because of his years living in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
A statue of the boy still remembered as “Barry” by childhood friends was erected outside the elementary school he once attended in the capital’s upscale, leafy neighborhood of Menteng.
“This is the last opportunity for us to meet with Barry, our childhood friend who has made us so proud,” said Widianto Cahyono, who sat next to Obama in the fourth grade and is hopeful the former president will visit his old neighborhood. “We have long waited for a reunion with him.”
Obama also retains a soft spot for Indonesia, where he lived from age 6 to 10. He moved to Jakarta in 1967 after his mother split up with his father and remarried an Indonesian man. They had his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is traveling with the family.
After her second marriage failed, Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, stayed on in Indonesia and Obama returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparents.
During a 2010 presidential visit, he delighted onlookers by proclaiming in Bahasa Indonesia that bakso, a savory meatball soup, and nasi goreng, flavorful fried rice, are delicious. They are two of the country’s signature dishes.
Prior to arriving in Jakarta, Obama, his wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia visited the resort island of Bali where they stayed in the tranquil mountain enclave of Ubud, touring sweeping terraced rice paddies and rafting the Ayung river. They then traveled to the island of Java to the historic city of Yogyakarta, where Obama’s mother did anthropology research. They visited Borobudur, a ninth century Buddhist temple complex, as well as the ancient Prambanan Hindu temple compound.
Obama is scheduled to speak at an Indonesian Diaspora Congress in Jakarta on Saturday.