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Borneo Day 3: Sunday, July 23, 2017

First approach

Approaching the floating market at Lok Baintan. Ladies in traditional clothing paddling long boats converged on our water taxi to sell fruit, vegetables, and souvenirs.

The sun rose up over the Martapura River as we reached the floating market of Lok Baintan. Ladies in traditional clothing were paddling small boats around the many water taxis, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to donuts and a sort of green gelatin. People in the taxis were paying money directly to the ladies for what they wanted and a brisk trade was going on, but mostly people were taking photos. I’ve never seen so many selfie sticks! There was even a drone flying overhead videotaping the market.

Floating market

The Lok Baintan floating market near Banjarmasin on the Martapura River. I love the stacks of oranges!

The early morning sun, which had just risen, shone brightly on the colorful boats loaded with wares. It was all good fun and quite picturesque. I enjoyed the carefully stacked oranges and soursop fruit, the small sweet bananas grown locally. A lady was cutting slices of mango to wrap in plastic for a customer, another selling huge shallots, a man and wife selling small souvenir recreations of the very boat they were in.

Lady in traditional hat

Lay in a traditional banana leaf hat selling wares from her boat at the Lok Baintan floating market.

All of these boats were weaving in and out of the water taxis crowded with tourists, who had climbed onto their roofs for a better look. I did the same – the slippery roof of our boat had dried enough that I could do so without too much danger.

Fruit to sell

Fruit and vegetables to sell. Notice the stubby bananas that are common here – they are much sweeter and have a slightly peachy flavor compared with the bananas we are used to.

After watching the selling proceed for about 45 minutes, our boat backed away from the others and turned about to head back down the river. There was another foreigner staying at the Swiss Belhotel who was on the boat with us. He is from Austria and is in Indonesia setting up an online training program for the Indonesian government.

Two ladies in boats

Ladies selling fruit and vegetables from their long boats at the Lok Baintan floating market on the Martapura River.

On our journey back to Banjarmasin we passed houses on both sides of the river with their back porches actually acting as docks into the river. The Banjar people are traditionally river people, living their lives on and making their livelihood from the river itself. Mothers and wives and grandmothers sat on the docks washing clothes or dishes, children splashed and swam, older gentlemen with bare chests were pulling up buckets of water to splash on themselves while vigorously scrubbing; this is how they shower. Women were doing the same, while remaining clothed in sarongs. Shops and stores lined the river and people were buying goods. Fishermen checked their nets; goods were transported up and down the river. I saw a man pass us with a load of coconuts.

Laughing lady with shallots

The Lady of Shallots. If you understand that reference, you win the Grand Sweepstakes for obscure literature quotes.

As we approached the city, the mosques (masjid) became more common, their domes and minarets shining in the early light. Near one, several water taxis were unloading people at what appeared to be an open-air restaurant based on the smoke from grills. It looked quite popular.

Craig-David-Nazar at market

Craig Hendrick, David Black, Muhammad Nazaruddin, and his wife at the Lok Baintan market.

I enjoyed the bright colors of the houses and mosques. The Banjar people seem to like things brightly painted. Not all of the houses were in good shape – some were leaning, some were sagging, some were in poor repair or abandoned. It must be difficult to build and maintain houses built on stilts along a river that can flood at times. Nazar told us that Banjarmasin doesn’t have many tall buildings because the ground is too unstable and swampy; with its thousand rivers, and the boat traffic and water taxis, it is definitely the Venice of Indonesia.

David at floating market

David Black at the Lok Baintan floating market on the Martapura River near Banjarmasin.

What had been a comfortable if humid morning had become hot in the bright sun as we approached the city. It was a Sunday morning, which is like Saturday for us, and many people were out riding water taxis, walking along the pier at Siring, dancing in the spray from the mouth of the giant spitting monkey statue, and generally enjoying the morning.

Along the river

Shopping at a small market along the Martapura River.

We arrived back at our hotel at 8:30. Nazar and his wife needed to go to the funeral of a neighbor, so Craig and I took the opportunity to have breakfast at the hotel and take naps. As we entered the hotel lobby there was a four-piece band playing traditional Indonesian music, dressed in beautiful costumes. I recorded them playing for a few minutes; now I have a soundtrack for my video. I took so many videos on the river that it required three tries and moving files to my hard drive before I could upload everything from my camera.

Morning swim

Taking a swim in the Martapura River. The people who live here bathe, wash dishes, drink, fish, and transport their goods all on this river.

Purple tower mosque

Purple mosque and colorful waterfront on the Martapura River near Banjarmasin.

Early morning mosque 2

SIlver-domed mosque along the Martapura River in the early morning light.

Green tower mosque

A mosque with a green minaret along the Martapura River near Banjarmasin.

Soto bang amat from river

Several water taxis were unloading passengers here. Based on the smoke from the barbeques, it must be a popular restaurant. Notice the traditional Banjarese roofs.

Coconuts in boat

Transporting a load of coconuts up the river. Notice the water taxis docked at the house in the background.

Water taxi

Another water taxi as we neared the dock in Banjarmasin. This was Sunday, which to people here is like Saturday for us – a day to enjoy the river and the morning.

Colorful waterfront

Colorful houses along the Martapura River as we approach Banjarmasin.

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Borneo Day 3: Sunday, July 23, 2017

First light on Martapura RIver

Early morning light on the Martapura River as we travel to Lok Baintan and the floating market. The trees are coconuts and bananas, not tangerines, but close enough.

I woke up at 4:50, thankfully – the front desk forgot my 4:30 wake up call. I jumped in the shower and got dressed in the clothes I had laundered in the sink the day before. They were almost dry. I met Craig, Nazar, and his wife in the lobby at 5:20 just as they were ready to leave. We walked to the parking lot and to a dock on the river and boarded a water taxi. The early morning dew made the top wet and slippery in the predawn darkness, so I crawled under to the back seats as other people loaded in.

Orion and Venus

The relative positions of Orion and Venus at 5:30 am on July 23, 2017

We pushed off from the dock and began our journey up the river to the floating market. The stars were bright this morning, and Orion was rising in the east, much further north than I am used to. I had it upside down, and thought the bright star nearby was Sirius until we got far enough away from the city lights for me to see Orion’s sword. Then I could see that it had to be a planet. At first, I thought it was Jupiter, based on its color, but it was too bright and I remembered Jupiter is in Virgo near Spica right now. It was Venus, much higher in the sky than I have seen it before.

While I was thinking the planet might be Jupiter, a song came to mind that fit the occasion perfectly. It was “Lucy in the Sky, with Diamonds.” Now I know what this song has reference to, but that’s not what came to mind. There was an article written with this same name by an astronomer about how Jupiter may have a core of diamond, since carbon would rain down from the atmospheric methane and the pressure and heat in Jupiter are more than enough to convert it to diamond. Arthur C. Clarke used this idea in his book 2061: Odyssey Three, how people traveled to Europa to mine diamonds after Jupiter was converted into a star in 2010: Odyssey Two by Dave Bowman and the star people.

Pre-dawn mosque

A mosque along the Martapura River in the pre-dawn light.

Of course, it reminded me of the time when I got to personally ask Clarke a question. It was at a teacher conference in Cocoa Beach, Florida for the launch of the Mars 2001 Odyssey spacecraft. David Seidel arranged to call Clarke up in Sri Lanka and ask questions we’d already written on index cards. My question was: Do you ever see your dream of a space elevator coming true? He answered that there were two factors preventing it. The first was technology – we don’t have the materials to build a space elevator yet, although that is probably a matter of time. The other is more difficult: we don’t have any place to go. No destinations in space that would require a space elevator to reach, nor the will to build one.

Since then, we have discovered white dwarf stars with cores of diamond. One of them is in Centaurus, of all places. Here’s a link about it:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles /2004/02/17/1076779973101.html

As the eastern sky lightened I thought of these things and the words of the song echoed in my mind:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees, and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly:
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head;
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds . . .

Boats converging

Boats converging on the Martapura River to sell their wares at the Lok Baintan floating market. The skies turned a marmalade orange color just before sunrise.

Orion and eventually Venus faded as the sky grew brighter in the east. People were beginning to stir from their houses on the river, walking out to the front porch to dip out buckets of water to wash themselves and cook breakfast. Fishermen were out on the river in boats tending their nets as our taxi meandered around the bends.

Sunrise on Martapura

Marmalade skies over the Martapura River as we near Lok Baintan and the floating market.

The water and skies turned a marmalade gold color that complimented the brilliant greens of banana trees on the banks (not tangerine trees, but close enough) as we approached the floating market. The morning call for prayer rang out from the many large and small mosques (masjid) that we passed. Boats converged from all around. We reached the market just as the sun was rising.

 

Fishing nets

Fishing on the Martapura River. The Banjarese people that live along the river do everything here – live, bathe, drink, wash, fish, and transport.

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