Being a really difficult place to get to, very few people make it to the Sunda Kelapa Harbor in North Jakarta. The problem is that the port is located a long way from the center of the city and unless you ask the taxi driver to take the toll road, you will probably be driven up Jakarta’s main thoroughfare and through Chinatown on one of Indonesia’s – and no doubt the world’s – most congested streets. Not much fun at all.
Perhaps the best way to reach the harbor then is to use the busway – which starts in Blok M – and follows the long route north until its last stop at Taman Fatahillah where Jakarta’s oldest building, now a museum, is located.
From here you can either walk – or take a ride on a bicycle taxi (a truly unique experience) or in a more comfortable bajaj (a three-wheeled motor vehicle with a seat behind the driver) – to the harbor which is about 2 kms to the north. On the way you will pass the Jalan Kali Besar Street, now rather dilapidated but once – well 250 years ago – a swank residential area for the Dutch well to do. Stop for drinks at the now renovated “Company’s Shipyard” which dates from the early 17th century.
Entry to the harbor is not free but a ticket will not exactly break the bank – Rp1,000 (10 US cents) for people entering on foot and Rp5,000 (50 US cents) for taxis and cars!
Dating from the 12th century – although there are no visible signs that this is so - traditional sailing vessels from all over the Indonesian archipelago dock here. Most famous are the Bugis Pinisi from South Sulawesi, which are made from tough “iron wood”.
Modern port regulations do not apply and there are no cranes whatsoever: all cargoes are loaded and unloaded by coolies who do the backbreaking work under the hot tropical sun.
And to add to the fun, little kids from the nearby kampong will entertain you by jumping from high up on the boats and into Jakarta’s murky seawaters. Just for a small tip of course!
All in all, an interesting experience. And if you are feeling really adventurous you might like to know that it is not that difficult to negotiate a trip on one of these boats back to its homeport. Just don’t forget to bring your lifejacket!