[words and photograph © Mark Eveleigh]
Jakarta’s Sunda Kelapa harbour is the perfect place for a first introduction to the span and diversity of Indonesia, one of the world’s most exciting countries.
At this bustling Asian port you can see statuesque Bugis schooners, fresh from the spice ports of Sulawesi, and steep-bowed trading brigs transporting fine textiles from Flores. Rickety boardwalks swarm with deckhands carrying rolls of fine-woven ikat cloth and scented baskets of clove and nutmeg. Tattooed Dayak sailors from Borneo and swarthy Acehnese from the jungle towns of northern Sumatra offload endless cargos of hewn wood. Amid a cloud of clove-scented cigarette smoke and a clatter of voices, in just a few of Indonesia’s three hundred languages, your mind baulks at the attempt to comprehend the variety of this archipeago of 13,677 islands, stretching three thousand miles from the tip of Sumatra to the border of Papua New Guinea.
Sunda Kelapa harbour, the first settlement in the sprawling metropolis that is now Jakarta, is where this world of cultures collides.