Sunda Kelapa
Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta, 2011-10-24 12:00 by Laerke
On a hot Saturday morning we ventured out to see Sunda Kelapa - the old port of Jakarta. "Sunda Kalapa" (which in Sundanese mean "Coconut of Sunda") is the original name, and it was the main port of the Sunda Kingdom of Pajajaran. Today the old port only accommodates pinisi ships, traditional two masted wooden sailing ships serving inter-island freight service in the vast Indonesian archipelago. Although it is now only a minor port, the city of Jakarta actually had its origins in Sunda Kelapa and the port has played a significant role in the city's development. So of course we had to see the place that is responsible for this monstrous city.
The port is a very busy place, the dock is completely lined with these large wooden ships, laying side by side. Lots of small trucks arrive filled with goods to be loaded onto the ships, men then walk on wooden planks balancing over the water with all the goods.

As you can see not all of the loading seems to be carried out in the most systematic manner.

A very eager guy waved us over, and asked if we would a like to take a little sail around in his sampan, after agreeing on a price we ventured out into the harbor. The tiny sampan was dwarfed by the big wooden ships all around us. As it was midday it was not only hot but the light was also very bright, so we squinted against the sun as we waved back to all the guys on the boats that tried to get our attention, a few called out asking me to take their photo. After a sail around looking at all the big ships we sailed over to what our captain said was a small fishing village. Here much smaller boat, many of them painted in bright colours, was bopping around. Small houses on stilts with tarps as roofs were lining the edge of the village, our boat man pointed his out, a not yet finished bamboo construction – he told me he was saving up for a roof. A few kids waved to us, and a couple of men were mending their nets. Cute enough little place, but there was so much garbage in the murky brown water, I really wonder where they do their fishing?

We hiked up into an old watchtower; the tower was only about 4 stories high but still afforded a nice view, as there are not many high buildings in this part of Jakarta to obstruct the view. There was an Indonesian family enjoying the view at the same time as us, and suddenly the women shouted “Buaya!” (which means crocodile) and pointed down at the canal, we of course scrambled over to their side to have a look but saw nothing. I doubt there are crocodiles in the canals, she probably just saw a big monitor lizard.
The Dutch envisioned Jakarta as a bit of a clone of Amsterdam, and they constructed many canals along which they build grand houses from themselves, what they hadn’t thought of is that in Indonesia’s tropical climate the canals were an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes (carrying malaria and dengue) as well as many bacteria – and many Dutch died as a result hereof.

Notice the VOC logo on the warehouse, VOC is the name of the old East-Indies trading company.

The people of Jakarta are in general a very friendly bunch, and on a day like this we get waved to, smiled at, talked to and photographed by the locals. We feel free to walk around and take photos as we please, taxis to take you from A to B are plentiful and cheap, and somebody selling cold water is always nearby – much needed! Jakarta is not as bad as it is often made out to be :)