On Saturday, we had an interesting outing to the old harbor, Sunda Kelapa, in North Jakarta. This was the original port that was used by the Dutch, however the waterways are too shallow and narrow for today’s larger boats. So a new port has been established nearby for tankers while the old port is still used by traditional, wooden trading schooners. For a mere ten cents, you can walk out by all of these gigantic boats lined up so close to one another that they are touching their neighbors (we were hoping we’d get to see one moving in or out but didn’t). Everything is unloaded by hand here, and the lack of machinery gave us some good photo ops (I’ll post the photos soon). In order to get from the boat to the shore, guys would throw down a narrow plank, generally the size of a tree trunk, and walk up and down carefully. The main cargo we saw was lumber, and the men would hoist long, heavy planks on their shoulder and make their way down this narrow plank in flip flops over and over. Who knows what other cargo they might be carrying (or concealing) within! A bunch of the guys wanted to show us the insides of the boats and kept inviting us on board, probably looking for some money. We decided that, although tempting, getting on some random Indonesian’s boat and being at their mercy was a pretty stupid idea, so we tried to ignore them and kept walking.
Around the corner is the Maritime Museum which is also really interesting. It’s housed in an old Dutch spice warehouse built in 1652, and later used by the Japanese as a "war logistic depot" (whatever that means). Their collection consists of both models and actual boats from all around Indonesia, many of which are somewhat crude but beautiful, with carvings and paintings all over them. There were also lots of other exhibits of shells and marine life, information about trade routes, and best of all, pictures and paintings from these routes. The old paintings of the original Dutch port there were amazing in that they show completely empty land around the few existing buildings. This, of course, is now crowded Jakarta with its 9.5 millions people (plus probably a million more who move around and can’t be accurately counted). There were also some amazing photographs from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s along the trading route, including some of the Suez canal when it first opened. Again, our pictures will follow shortly.
The Museum is located on "Fish Market Road", and because we were there at midday on the weekend, there were no fish. But it was a neat little market anyway, selling everything from piles of anchors (which looked like they were made out of twisted rebar) and cables to pots and pans. Because it was not too crowded it was fun to walk around without having to worry about getting run over by motorcycles, bikes, and people and accidentally stepping on small children and cats. This is the usual state of affairs at the markets we’ve seen here, and it’s hard to look around when walking takes all of your effort. We hear that there is indeed a fish market here, but that it’s over by 6am. We did see a ridiculous number of cats, which makes sense. I mean, if I were a street cat here, I’d rather eat fish than leftover fried noodles and rice from a street vendor!