Sunda Kelapa was a major sea port for hundreds of years, dating back to the Sunda Kingdom. It eventually became the gateway to Batavia – the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company.
Today, it is a minor port used by Phinisi – traditional wooden schooners that transport freight throughout Indonesia. Wondering around Sunda Kelapa, watching the sailors walking on and off the ships via very narrow planks, as they manually load and unload cargo, is a bit like stepping back in time.
Near the entrance you’ll find the Maritime Museum. The museum is in a former Dutch East India Company warehouse that was built over 300 years ago. It houses a collection of traditional boats, antique maritime equipment, old weapons, photographs, a variety of scale models, and other objects that reflect Indonesia’s maritime heritage. It’s open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.
The watchtower is near the museum. It was built around 200 years ago to direct traffic in the busy harbor. There are no posted opening hours, but it is open from time to time.
A little farther on is an old shack with a hand painted sign reading, “Tourist Information.” The only information available is from the proprietor who takes tourists on guided tours. There really isn’t much you need a guide for – you’re free to walk around all you want to. Just looking at the schooners, and watching the activity is the most interesting thing.
I did talk one guy up on his offer to take me out on his small boat for a tour, which was worth doing to get a different view. I also had several invitations from sailors to board their ships, which was great fun. The sailors seemed to like hosting visitors, and talking about their schooners.
Sunda Kelapa is located at 1 Jalan Pasar Ikan, North Jakarta (Kota)