This is the name of the original Hindu spice trading post that was conquered and converted to Islam more than four and a half centuries ago. The flavour of ancient times is today preserved in the form of traditional wooden pinisi – sailing vessels that continue to play a vital role in the commerce of modern day Indonesia. Each day some 70 or 80 of these Buginese craft arrive laden with sawn timber from Kalimantan (Borneo), which is of loaded at a 2 km (1.2 mile) long wharf that has been in continuous use since 1817. A brisk morning walk amidst this nautical bustle to the sea, to witness mammoth sails unfurling to the wind, is one of the unforgettable experiences of Jakarta.
The area around Sunda Kelapa is rich in history, directly across the river stands a 19th century Dutch lookout tower (the Uitkijk), constructed upon the site of the original custom house (Pabean) of Jayakarta. This is where traders once redered their gifts and atribute to the native ruler in return for the privilege of trading here. The tower is sometimes open and offers a panoramic view of the city and the coast.
Behind the lookout stands a long, two storey structure dating from VOC times, now the Museum Bahari. This warehouse was erected by the Dutchn in 1652 and used for many years to store coffee, tea and Indian cloth. Inside are displays of traditional sailing craft from all corners of the Indonesia archipelago, as well as some old maps of Batavia. Down a narrow lane and around a corner behind the museum lies the fish market (Pasar Ikan), beyond numerous stalls selling nautical gear.
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