It was a muggy day in the middle of July when we decided to explore the northern harbor of Jakarta sans kids. I had heard from many friends that this place was totally worth a visit if not for the shopping in the traditional markets at least for an unforgettable experience of immersing ourselves in a fisherman’s village in North Jakarta.
When preparing to go to North Jakarta I had mistakenly assumed that we were going to the Ancol area, where Sea World is. Although Sunda Kelapa is nearby it is not necessary to enter the Ancol park to visit it.
We arrived to the Sunda Kelapa area early in the morning and started exploring our surroundings. At first glance it looked a bit cleaner and certainly ready to cater to the many tourists visiting Jakarta. Our first Stop was at the Maritime Museum, I will be sharing more about that on a later post. The museum was great and it has certainly been added to my “visit with the kiddos” list.
By the entrance to the Maritime Museum Square lies an observation deck. We went up the three stories only to find out that this place was crooked and leaned slightly. This is no Italy so I am not sure how safe it was for a big group of us to be in this leaning tower at the same time. Fears aside, we enjoyed the view and got to see as far as the muggy skies allowed us. I was a bit disappointed to see heaps of trash in an area that was probably covered with water previously. The smells were not very pleasant either and at times reminded me of our visit to Glodok, Jakarta’s China Town.
As we set foot deeper and deeper in the Kampung we were excited to see a very lively market very appropriately called fish market due to its location but indubitably not due to the goods you could purchase on site. Vegetables, souvenirs, cleaning supplies, cellphones, beautifully crafted instruments, seashells, rice in bulk, everything and anything you could imagine was to be found in one of the many lively stalls lining the street. But still, no fish.
We walked further into the kampung and we finally found some fish. I hesitated and thought about buying some but decided against it. We still had a long way to go in this excursion. The minute we stepped into the real kampung we stepped into another realm. Everything slowed down and we were no longer the observers, but the observees. Little kids giggled as they saw us walk thru their familiar streets while we looked as unfamiliar as a fish out of the water could. We soon made acquaintances and were joined by some joyful little youngsters and continued our trek thru the narrow alleys, over bridges and avoiding as many puddles as we could.
As we ebbed out of the kampung, one by one, on the fragile wooden bridges, we arrived in a small harbor sprinkled in small fishing boats. We decided to try our luck and ride on them up to the big harbor. This experience was thrilling and frightful and as we prayed our little boat didn’t flip over, I decided to ignore the rocking boat and the smells and enjoy the sights. Hundreds of fishing boats of all shapes and sizes contoured the murky waters. People were either preparing their fishing nets or taking a break from their day job and enjoying the breeze in makeshift hammocks in the middle of their boats.
We soon realized that some people actually live on board and you could see evidence of their liveliness on every corner of their vessel. Colors, decoration, and sweet names became testimony of lives taking place in the midst of the sea. I thought maybe these men and women had to leave their families for weeks at a time to provide for their loved ones enough to live by for the next few weeks. Smiles abounded as we sailed by on our small wooden vessels with an even smaller motor that could barely handle the ride.
We had arrived, the Sunda Kelapa harbor housed majestic looking boats as well as smaller fishing boats. This harbor was everything I expected and more. It was the perfect oxymoron of old and new, modern and time-worn. The many shipping containers inspired capitalism and modern trade while the small fishing boats displayed the most basic primal needs of hunting for survival. Once again, living in Jakarta teaches me a lesson. It is possible to progress and move forward, but the urge to call a place home and have a family to go to makes life really worthwhile.
I wish I had taken more pictures of this harbor but I stopped looking thru the lens and started really observing with my heart and left the camera aside. Moments like this, places like this one are the ones I will really miss when we leave Jakarta in a few months. In the meantime, I am going to my home harbor for the next month. We are taking a much needed vacation and plan to spend some precious time with our family. I hope to be able to keep you updated often but I am unsure if this will be possible. We will probably be to busy watching the kids eating tacos and enjoying some quality time with our loved ones. Once again, our home, for a month, will be where our suitcase is.