Sunda Kelapa, better known as Pasar Ikan (meaning fish market) is located at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. The fish catch of the day was auctioned in the early morning at the old fish market. The street leading to it was lined with shops selling all sorts of shells, dehydrated turtles, lobsters and mostly everything the seafarer might need. This 500-year-old harbor area was a vital link to markets of the outside world for the 15th century kingdom of Pajajaran. It was formerly the harbor town of Sunda Kelapa where the Portuguese traded with the Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran in the early 16th century. Since than this port has belonged to the portuguese and Dutch.
Dutch domination of Jakarta and the rest of Indonesia began from this area, whereas the remnants of Kasteel Batavia, an old fort and trading post of the Dutch East Indies Company can still be seen now. Sunda Kelapa is at present a fisherman's wharf and an inter island port. Tall-misted Bugis schooners from South Sulawesi anchoring there offer a picturesque scene. They belong to one of the last-fleets of sailboats in the world and still ply the seas between the islands, as they did centuries ago, carrying merchandise.
Tough little remains of bustling old Sunda Kelapa except the name, the harbor is still one of the most important calls for sailing vessels from all over Indonesia. The magnificent and brightly painted Makassar schooner called Pinisi is still an important means of transporting goods to and from the outer islands. This is one of the finest sights in Jakarta.
Wander around the old Sunda Kelapa port, watching gangs of sinew-stretched coolies smoking pungent clove-laced cigarettes unload cargos of timber, coal and spices from stunning wooden schooners. Hire a dugout canoe and paddlers and enjoy the waterside scenery. The boats also go to the nearby old fish market, which can be reached easily by foot from the port and is free to enter. Work starts here at 3am and it's essential to arrive by 6am to see the best of the action.
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