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Sunda Kelapa Port: Jakarta, West Java

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and the financial hub of the country. Although a modern city, it harbours historical places from the times of the Dutch occupation of Indonesia and that of the Dutch East India Company. Like a lot of major cities in the world, Jakarta is growing at an incredible rate. However, the city still takes pride in its history. Sunda Kelapa also known as Pasar Ikan or Fish Market. Sunda Kelapa is at present a kind of ‘fisherman’s wharf’ and also an inter-island port. Tall masted Bugis schooners from South Sulawesi anchor there and offer one of the finest sights on offer in Jakarta.

Nearby Sunda Kelapa are remnants of Kasteel Batavia, an old fort and trading post of the Dutch East Indies Company. Here is a small article from the Jakarta Post about this fascinating port:

Sunda Kelapa is the city’s most historical port, renowned for phinisi schooners, the traditional vessels of the Bugis people of Sulawesi, still used to deliver goods around the archipelago. The phinisi ships at Sunda Kelapa are wooden vessels around 40 meters long and 15 meters wide, with two main masts with seven sails each. The boats have diesel engines they can use alternately with the sails. They can carry up to 950 tons of cargo, which varies from cement and timber, to electronic devices and appliances.

The schooners transport goods across the archipelago, but mainly to Batam island or Pontianak in Kalimantan. The journey takes up to three full days. Some may return laden with timber from Kalimantan but most return empty to Sunda Kelapa to reload.

Sunda Kelapa’s history dates back to the 12th century, when it was the most important harbor of the Pajajaran Kingdom (the area now known as West Java), with trading ships from China, southern India, Japan and the Middle East. In the 15th century it became the source of a conflict. The port was conquered by Fatahillah on June 22, 1527, marking the birth of Jakarta.

Tanjung Priok, a far more modern harbor not far from Sunda Kelapa, was constructed by the Dutch in 1873 and became one of the most prominent seaports in the country, but Sunda Kelapa maintains activity.

For something different, tourists can take a boat ride across the Dutch-made canal.

Despite being popular among foreign visitors, Sunda Kelapa is not a favorite tourist destination for locals, who prefer modern entertainment centers and shopping malls.

As part of Jakarta’s old city, the harbor attracts both locals and foreigners with its schooners, but lacks tourism infrastructure. Attended parking is available for cars but not for motorcycles.

Tourists are permitted onto schooners to get a look at the old sturdy wooden decks or a feel for the seafaring atmosphere, but first must climb a one-meter high concrete dock curb before reaching the ship.

Sunda Kelapa may serve as a loading and storage facility, but it is not tourist friendly.

Except for warehouses and a stock piling area there’s not much more for tourists to see on the dock, which is poorly maintained and partly flooded with seawater.

There are no proper restaurants at Sunda Kelapa either, only street vendors selling cigarettes, peanuts and drinks. Toilets, another vital facility, are nowhere to be found.