Having been a key gateway to global markets during the Pajajaran Kingdom in the 15th century the harbour town of Sunda Kelapa still remains one of the most significant stopovers for sea vessels sailing in and around Indonesia. Scenic and breathtaking as it was in its heyday this quaint fishing community with a Dutch and Portuguese heritage also lays claim to a seafaring legacy that dates back 500 years. Picturesquely located at the opening of Ciliwung River, Sunda Kelapa or Pasar Ikan as it is locally known is a historic town with a booming fishing industry and a harbour that is still one of the busiest in the country.
A must-see point of interest within the hamlet is the ruins of its old fort Kasteel Batavia which served as the main trading venue for the Dutch East India Company during colonial times. As a functioning inter-island harbour and a fisherman’s wharf Sunda Kelapa is also littered with South Sulawesi Bugis schooners that anchor along its captivating port. As one of the last fleets on the globe to travel between islands transporting goods the sailboats still traverse the old routes as they did centuries ago carrying produce from island to island.
The vibrantly painted Makassar schooners dubbed Pinisi are also visible along the harbour as the ancient vessels are still being employed for transferring merchandise between islands. Visitors can stroll along the breezy environs of the port and witness hard working coolies unload shipments of aromatic spices, timber and coal from beautifully crafted wooden boats or simply rent a dugout canoe with paddlers and take a tour of the bay’s stunning landscapes.
The infamous fish market can also be accessed from the port on foot or via boat. Beginning its daily business at the crack of dawn tourists must reach the fish market at least by 6am if they are to witness this bustling marketplace at its most exhilarating hours. The catch of the day is sold and auctioned here with lobsters, all varieties of shellfish and dehydrated turtles among the hot-pick items.
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