Sunda Kelapa is Jakarta’s old port located along the Ciliwung River. This port was built in the early 1600s when the Portuguese established a trading post with the reigning Hindu Pajajaran Kingdom. If you’re not interested in seeing an old bridge, old buildings and a dirty river.. this is not a place for you. This place will only be appreciated by people who love photography and able to appreciate the remnants of the past of Jakarta. There are vendors as you walk along the port. The port is just near the Fatahillah Square, Wayang Museum.
A simple wooden boat able to navigate the sea of the Indian Ocean which is known to have large waves. Bugis fishermen in Makassar, South Sulawesi, large seas using a wooden boat called Phinisi (Pinisi). For hundreds of years they brought trade between Indonesia to Madagascar, Africa. This sturdy ship in waves penetrate thousands of kilometers.
We can see this ship in Sunda Kelapa harbor.
Literally, it is the fish market, but to visit the market when it is busy, you have to come in the morning; in the hot afternoon, there are not anymore fishes on the stalls (there is no ice as well, . . . . . . :) But the area around the big hall is busy all day and you can find in the shops, stalls, around the old colonial buildings everything you find elsewhere in Indonesian markets; lots of fruits, of course (picture 1), with here in the foreground the salak fruits, (zalacca palm fruit, with its typical snake skin), more modest stalls with the rambutan (picture 2), you can buy in small bunches and eat on the spot; they are wonderful, juicy, kill the thirst, easy to peel and eat while walking. On the market are also nice bright smiling vendors (picture 3). On picture 4 is a more general view of the busy streets around the market and on picture 5, just the busy street next to an old VOC warehouse, and in the background, the watchtower above the harbour, we will visit soon.
When you walk on the pontoons, in the small alleys between the houses, you are very close to people, and even being in a public place, I did not feel fully comfortable, having the feeling to be an intruder here. (picture 1); you are very close to people, and people live very close, (picture 2), you walk by the dining room (picture 3). . . . It is a bit strange to walk there, but people here are either interested or welcoming the foreigner, and at the worst, they just did not notice me. I could walk a while, before reaching firm ground and Pasar Ikan itself, passing by the small mosque and a few bridges. . . .
Pasar Ikan: Fish Market; there is a fish market close to the harbour which gives its name to a district and reaching it with a small boat starting from Sunda Kelapa takes you for a trip in the very populous area of this district. The high minaret (first picture) dominating the district looks more Turkish than Indonesian, but the wooden houses on stilts, covered by plastic sheets or corrugated iron are typical here; these are not slums! It is not rich, but not miserable for Indonesian standards, just a very popular place. This man (picture 2) took me on the other side of the harbour, and we soon reached Pasar Ikan, where the kids are not afraid to swim and play in the . . . not exactly clean waters (picture 3). The arrival of the foreigner is well noticed and watched. . . . (picture 4). Boats, houses, small mosque on stilts, and in the background, old Dutch warehouses from the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, Dutch East Indies Company), you are almost 100 years ago here. . . (picture 5); but you notice also, a few flags, with different colours. . . . democracy is making its way in the deep heart of Jakarta. . . . (separate tip).
Muslim in general and Indonesian in particular love cats, and you may see a few cats on the boats or not far from there; does this help against rats? Well, I like these animals here, sorts of real cats, not apartment pussies or stupid degenerated animals sleeping with their masters/mistresses, independent animals, not relying on the canned food they receive in porcelain plates. . . etc. . You understand, I do not like when animals are like toys or replace children. . . . . Here, these are real cats, independent, slim, meagre, like real travellers. . . . . Their life is hard, but it is real life, not degenerating in some apartment, on bed sheets. . . .
This sailor on the first picture looks very proud! Three colours (picture 2) (female! Of course!) looking around, in the shade of the cranes.
Picture 3: I have to go to ground, like the sailors, I use the gangplank! (Ah most Indonesian cats have short tails. . . , it is not an accident)
In Pasar Ikan, next to the harbour, the young generation (picture 4) experiences hard life before embarking may be one day. . . . Aaaah! I feel so small here with the terrestrial human, I want to go on a boat one day. . . . (picture 5).
It was Sunday and it was quiet in the harbour, few boats were active loading or unloading. . . . So, some take advantage of quiet time to do some painting work on their dhows; not only for the nice colours but also because the salted Java sea is very corrosive, and the sailors love their boats. Other give a call (picture 2), who knows where. . . in the past, sailors were really far from their beloved ones. . . other kill time, looking at the few tourists passing by, sitting on the gangplank (picture 3); some dockworkers work however, unloading cement sacks from the deep belly of the dhows, and their rest for a while, with a cigarette is really deserved (picture 4). But in general, the harbour is quiet on Sundays. . . . (picture 5); walking along the harbour is really enjoyable, this gives travel ideas, makes dream, and sailors are nice people.
If you do not suffer vertigo, or just are not afraid to fall from the narrow and steep gangplanks (picture 1), it is possible to visit the boats, when a sailor is there and invites you to have a look on the deck; from there you can see the harbour and the boats from a unusual perspective, see the back of the boats, a bit the living quarters, feel a bit like a sailor; these are private areas, so be respectful, be sure you do not disturb people, or just go on places where you are not welcome; but generally, the sailors welcome you on their boats.
Sunda Kelapa is the old harbour of Jakarta, at the mouth of the Ciliwung River; here is a bit of the flavour of old Batavia, the old city where the spices were shipped to Europe, where the boats arrived from the islands before leaving on the Java sea and pass the Sunda Strait. . . . . Today, we do not see anymore schooners, Dutch three masters, heavy barges. . . the only ships here, are beautiful dhows, big “fat” dhows, with a big belly carrying goods from Jakarta to Kalimantan, Sulawesi, mainly in Java Sea; they have masts for a sail, but also a Diesel engine. Whatever, walking on the one kilometre long quay in Sunda Kelapa, you will see tens and tens of these boats (first picture), lots of activity on working days, . . . . meet sailors and dockworkers. . . If you like travels, you will dream, as I do, every time I visit this place; bows and masts silhouettes in the sky, the sailors standing proudly in front. . . . And the minaret (picture 5) reminding you should not be surprised when you hear the muezzin calling for prayer. . . . . It is just nice to spend a few hours here. . . . and dream. . . .
Excellent, informal walking tour of Luar Batang, the old fishing village next to the Pasar Ikan and Kota. The guide, Ronny Poluan, speaks English and Indonesian, and has lived in Jakarta for 40 years. He seems to know everyone or if he doesn't soon becomes friends. Consquently, this tour is a dream of unexpected meetings with ordinary people feeding their babies, working in shops or little factories, digging holes or whatever. As well as meeting people casually, you get to visit the family of Pak Maskun, the guardian of the Old Batavia Tower, who live in a tiny house and are very poor. It's a sobering eye-opener listening to their stories of survival. This is a must for any Jakarta newcomer or resident who never gets beyond the shopping malls.
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