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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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Borneo Day 2: Saturday, July 22, 2017

Panning for diamonds

Panning for diamonds at the Cempaka diamond mine. The pans are very similar to panning for gold in California, but instead of flat bottoms they have conical bottoms.

After visiting the haunted house on the hill, we drove further toward Martapura on the Trans Kalimantan Highway. We needed to meet up with a colleague of Nazar’s, whose father works in the diamond mines, so we stopped at a convenience store called Indomaret. There are many of these throughout the country. I was getting hungry and thirsty, so I bought some Minute Maid Pulpy tropical punch and a Hungry Cow ice cream bar, which was really good.

Trisakti monument

A monument to the famous (and lost) Trisakti Diamond, found near this location.

Nazar’s friend arrived and he climbed into the car with us. We traveled a short distance further on the road, then turned off onto a smaller road leading into an open area with rice fields and swampy ground. On one side of the road was a monument in the shape of a large diamond: the famous Trisakti diamond discovered near here. Its whereabouts is not known.

Digging mud

Digging in the mud. The first step is to dig out the mud and stones at the proper level where the diamonds are located, about 30 feet down from the mean ground level. This area has been reworked so many times that it has all been mixed up.

Spraying mud

The first step is to dig mud and rocks from the side of the hill and shovel down to the bottom of the pit, where water is pumped and sprayed to remove the larger stones. The smaller stones and mud are sucked up a pipe to a sluice box above.

We parked by the side of the road and I took a few moments to spray myself with insect repellent, figuring I would need it here if anywhere. We walked along a narrow path through small hillocks to where the ground opened up into a large pit. Like everywhere in Indonesia, bright green vegetation grows everywhere, but underneath the soil is an orangish tan color. A group of men were working at the edge of this depression in a freshly dug pit. One man at the top was shoveling muddy soil down to the bottom and two men at the bottom were spraying the soil with water to wash out the larger rocks, then sucking it all up into a pipe under pressure. This pipe delivered the mud and gravel to a large wooden sluice box, where a man removes medium sized pieces.

Leaky sluices

Sluice boxes. The mud slurry is pumped from the pit and washing down the rills where the larger stones are separated.

The smaller stuff and mud is carried by hand in a conical washing pan (just like the gold pans in California except with a pointed instead of flat bottom) to a walled-in area filled with water. Several men inside the water pit were sloshing the water around in the pans, gradually separating out the small gravel from the mud and searching through it for any diamonds.

Sluice

A sluice box. Larger stones are separated out by hand in the sluice and the mud and smallest stones are dropped into a filter box.

An older gentleman showed us a plastic bag with several small diamonds in it, about 1/10 carat each. He said they find quite a few of these each day, but larger diamonds are much more rare.

Looking for diamonds in pan

Searching for diamonds in the pan. The small stones, still with some mud mixed in, are carried to this walled pit filled with water where the slurry is swished around with water and the smaller stones settle to the bottom. The panner searches for a glint of light that indicates a diamond. The remaining pebbles are placed to the side and eventually worked again to look for gold and platinum.

In my research on this area, I found out that it has been worked and reworked for almost a thousand years; certainly the pits and hummocks look like they have been dug through many times. In years past, the pits had to be dug about 30 feet down to reach the diamond bearing gravels, and they would flood because this is a swamp, so wood was used to barricade the pits, tamped with grass to prevent the water from oozing in. Even so, they would often collapse. Now they have created a dam to wall off the swamp water so that the large pit doesn’t flood, but the soil is still very muddy.

Small diamonds

A bag with small diamonds found at the Cempaka mine. Although very small, at bout 1/10 carat, these diamonds are discovered fairly frequently here. Most of the larger stones have been discovered after a thousand years of digging.

It took some jumping over streams and hoses and climbing around to get to the panning pit. I was worried about getting mud on my new camera, but I did manage to get good photos and video of the whole process. Nazar’s friend told us that the miners are superstitious and that we should avoid doing certain things, or we would scare away the diamonds. One was to swear or use bad language. Another was to stand with our hands on our hips like a boss. I was trying not to do this, but in the photos taken of me, there I am with my hands on my hips. I hope I didn’t scare away the diamonds.

David at diamond mine

David Black standing like a boss at the Cempaka diamond mine. This is supposed to be bad luck to stand like this, with hands on hips, and will scare the diamonds away. Oops!

Before coming to Indonesia I researched this mine and discovered that the diamonds came from kimberlite deposits in the Meratus Mountains. They were washed here in rivers during the Cretaceous Period, when sea levels were higher. This area was at sea level and formed a delta into the ocean. In the over 66 million years since then, there hasn’t been much tectonic change in Borneo (unlike Java and Sumatra) and this area has remained largely intact, except that as sea levels dropped during the ice ages, the delta was subsequently buried under further sediment washed from the mountains. So now the miners have to dig down through 30 feet of mud. The gravel layer also has small deposits of gold and platinum in it. We could see the foothills of the Meratus Mountains in the distance. I wondered if there were any diamonds still in them thar hills. I don’t think the mother lode was ever found, just as the mother lode in California was never found.

Diamond geology-Kalimantan

The source of the Cempaka diamonds is the Bobaris Ophiolite, which contains kimberlite deposits. Kimberlite is a volcanic vent that lifts the diamonds from deep in the earth (where pressure and heat are great enough to form them) to the surface. The diamonds were then eroded out of the kimberlite and deposited in a Cretaceous delta in what is now the Barito River basin.

There were several groups of men digging in separate locations along the walls in the larger pit, using diesel powered pumps belching smoke to pump the water and mud from the holes onto the wooden sluices. Other than diesel power, their techniques have remained largely unchanged over a thousand years. This mine may be the second oldest diamond mine in the world, after the famous Golconda mines in India. It hasn’t produced as many famous stones, but from time to time larger stones are still found. About ten years ago, a rare three-carat blue diamond was discovered here. This is just one pit of many in the general area, and they still find small diamonds. I know some commercial groups have studied areas near here and say there is quite a bit of potential even now.

Diamond and kimberlite diagram

The geology of Borneo during the Cretaceous Period was just right for diamond formation and uplift. Subduction along the proto-Indonesian margins carried graphite deep, where it formed into diamond. The volcanic activity produced large cratons and calderas with mantle plumes that lifted the diamonds toward the surface. Now Borneo is stable without volcanoes, compared with the rest of Indonesia.

From here the diamonds are sold to buyers in Martapura who polish and set the stones into jewelry. We were to visit that part of the process next.

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Borneo Day 2: Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bark hats

Hats made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree, I couldn’t find one that fit, or I would have bought one.

Our first full day in Borneo was a Saturday, so we were going sightseeing. Craig and I met for breakfast in the buffet downstairs from the lobby. The food was pretty good, but not as extensive as the Le Meridién. The orange juice (jus jeruk) was delicious, and they had fresh pineapple and the small Indonesian bananas that are sweeter than what we get in America. They have an omelet bar where we could get scrambled eggs, and small waffles with honey. There were also some Indonesian and Italian foods, such as penne pasta, that were good but not exactly what I wanted for breakfast.

Nazar picked us up at 8:15 along with his wife and oldest daughter. We drove out of town on the Jalan A. Yani back toward the airport. The road was busy with early morning traffic – people heading to work or to market. We passed motorcycles laden with ducks and chickens, bundles of noodles, or other items to sell. The morning markets were obvious as there would be hundreds of parked motorcycles and many stalls by the roadway. We traveled on through the roundabout by the airport and continued on past it toward the city of Banjarbaru.

Bark britches

A bark shirt and britches, made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree.

Our first stop was the Lambung Mangkurat Museum, about 36 km from Banjarmasin. This is a museum of Banjarese and South Kalimantan history and culture, built for the Ministry of Education in the 1970s. The central building is shaped like a stylized Banjarese house with a red roof. We first went into a side building that showed Banjarese art, including weaving and the sasirangan that is Kalimantan’s equivalent to batik. It is more like tie-dye and doesn’t use a wax resist process. It also displayed clothing such as loincloths, trousers, shirts, and hats made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree, which is pounded until soft and formed into clothing.

Bark clothing

Clothing made from breadfruit bark at the Kalminantan culture museum. This type of clothing is still made for ceremonial purposes by the Dayak people of Kalimantan.

Sasirangan patterns

Here is a description of the different types of patterns produced by sasirangan techniques.

Next door was a display of pottery, including some local wares and jars that dated back quite a long time to the Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms of the 8th Century and from the Dutch colonies in the 17th through 19th Centuries. Some of the pieces shown were brought here from China from the Sung and Ming Dynasties. Quite valuable! Who knew I would see them here?

Sasirangan red stripes

Sasirangan is Borneo’s answer to batik and is more like tie dye (actually, I believe tie dye probably started as sasirangan). Here is a nice shirt with a wavy pattern.

The main building housed a variety of historic displays, including bones from the indigenous pygmy elephants that used to live here. A subspecies of Asian elephants still lives in a small area of northern Kalimantan. There were tools from primitive cultures going back to Java man. They had royal costumes and Dutch cannons, gamelon orchestra instruments and recreations of thrones and other artifacts. They had displays about Pengaran Antasari, a hero who led a revolt against the Dutch.

Sung dynasty bowls

Bowls and vases traded to Banjar rulers by Chinese merchants. These pieces are of Sung Dynasty age and origin.

Outside the main building in a shaded area under the stairs was a model of Borobudur. It is a giant Buddhist temple shaped like a mandala near Yogyakarta. I will be visiting there on my five-day extension trip in two weeks.

Kalimantan pottery

Native pottery from Kalimantan.

We got back in the car and continued on.

Piring bowl

A large Ming Dynasty bowl, or piring.

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Borneo Day 1: Friday, July 21, 2017

Central mosque with bougainvillea

Sabilal Muhtadin mosque with Bougainvillea

After we had rested for an hour or so, we walked to the lobby and met Nazar and his wife, who wanted to show us parts of the city. We drove over the Martapura River on the bridge by the hotel, then traveled a short distance to a large mosque on the opposite bank of the river. This is the Sabilal Muhtadin Grand Mosque, built in the 1980s and having a more modern style than many other mosques I’ve seen. It is the largest mosque in the city. We parked in the lot behind and walked around. Afternoon prayers were taking place, and as this is Friday, many people were in the mosque and the lot was almost full.

David by central mosque

David Black in front of the Sabilal Muhtadin Mosque in Banjarmasin.

There is a nice park surrounding the mosque with beautiful trees and planters with multicolored bougainvillea. We walked to the river and continued north along it for a hundred yards to a large sign labeled as the 0 Km location – the center of the city. We took some photos by the sign. Across the river was the Siring Watch Tower, an iconic landmark next to an ironwood house that was once one of the oldest in the city, although it has been rebuilt. Along the walkway were beds of white rocks cemented into the sidewalk with their rounded ends pointing up. It is supposed to provide a massage for the feet. I didn’t try it, as I am the proverbial tenderfoot, but Craig gave it a try in his stockings but couldn’t stay on it longer than a few seconds.

Banjarmasin trees

Trees in the park near the Sabilal Muhtadin Mosque in Banjarmasin. Everything was brilliantly green.

We turned around and walked back to the main bridge and across it. There were quite a few bicycles, pedicabs, food and other hand carts, and other non-motorized vehicles. As we crossed the bridge I could see what appeared to be a large Chinese temple on the other side; there is an appreciable China town in Banjarmasin.

We walked back north on the opposite bank past the docks where all the water taxis were pulled up. We climbed onto the dock and Nazar negotiated with one of the boat owners to take us on a trip down the river.

Bougainvillea colors

I love bougainvillea, especially its ability to have multiple colors on one plant, as seen here.

These boats are long and narrow, with an inner open compartment with rugs where people can sit and look out, covered by a tin roof. At the very back next to the motor are some seats that are open to the sky. Instead of crawling through the interior, Nazar, Craig, and I walked across the roof (it is built to handle this and people do it all the time) to the back seats. Nazar’s wife climbed through under the roof. It was just the four of us, no other passengers; the driver cast off and we headed down the river.

Foot massage 1

Craig tries out the foot massage. It doesn’t look very comfortable!

I was hoping to travel on the river at some point, but didn’t expect to do so on our first day here. We passed under the main bridge and headed around a bend. On the left side was a large statue of a proboscis monkey (bekantan) that was shooting a spout of water out of its mouth as children played in the stream. Nazar said it was the mascot of the city.

0 km Siring Park sign

David Black, Craig Hendrick, and Muhammad Nazaruddin at the 0 km marker along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin, South Kalminantan.

We passed under another bridge and then the bridge by our hotel and could see it on our left. There were small mosques by the river, as well as wharfs and businesses and houses. A lot of small boats like ours were traveling up and down, but no large barges. We went down the river about two kilometers before turning around and heading back.

Crossing bridge

Walking across the bridge over the Martapura River. A Chinese temple lies on the other side.

All the houses along the river have their back porches as docks, and children were out playing on the docks and swimming in the river. One lady was doing laundry while her children swam nearby. The Banjar are river people, and this river is a major artery of travel, commerce, and livelihood.

Clouds had been gathering as we traveled, and it began to drizzle. It had been a very humid and hot day, and the warm rain felt good. As we passed back under the bridges past the giant spitting monkey statue, the rain began to intensify. It actually was refreshing, and we stayed out in it. I was mostly concerned with keeping my camera dry. We traveled further north past the taxi docks up to the bridge north of the Siring tower, then turned around and came back to the docks. It was about a 40-minute ride altogether, and a lot of fun.

Water taxis close up

Water taxis and the Martapura RIver bridge near Siring Watchtower in Banjarmasin.

We clambered back over the water taxi’s roof and tfdsanked the boatman. The rain was getting worse and we took shelter under a pavilion next to the river near the boat docks to wait it out while a group of men played a card game. The sun was about to set beyond the Sabilal Muhtadin mosque and the entire sky and river turned golden as the rain fell. I took some nice photos.

Giant spitting monkey

A statue of a proboscis monkey, or bekantan. It spits a fountain of water out of its mouth. This is the mascot of Banjarmasin.

The rain let up after about 30 minutes and we walked back across the bridge, past the mosque, to the parking lot and the car as the sun set. The air was very humid but the rain had cooled it down a bit; it was rather refreshing. It was only about 6:00, but sunset and dusk come early in the tropics. In Banjarmasin, I was only 3° south of the equator.

Nazar-Craig-wife on river

Nazar, his wife, and Craig on board a water taxi on the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

Nazar drove us over the main bridge past the Chinese temple (the Klenteng Soetji Nurani) and we took a side road that brought us back to Jalan Pangeran Antasari, where our hotel is located.

Tall tree

A beautiful pine tree as seen from the Martapura River.

Mosque on the river

A small mosque on the Martapura RIver.

Swiss Belhotel from river

The Swiss Belhotel as seen from the Martapura RIver. This is the hotel we were staying at. Notice the wings at the corners of the traditional Banjarese roof.

Swimming in the river

Children swimming in the Martapura River while parents shop and work along its banks.

Wharves on the river

Wharves along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin. A great deal of shipping and commerce occurs on this river.

Siring tower and oldest house

Siring watchtower and the oldest house in Banjarmasin, made from ironwood.

On the Barito River

On the Martapura RIver in central Banjarmasin. This river is the lifeblood of the Banjar people, who live along it, drink and wash from it, fish, and transport on it.

Water taxi driver

Our water taxi driver. It is beginning to rain as we exit the boat.

Craig and Nazar

Nazar and Criag waiting out the rain storm.

Dominos

Playing dominos in a pavilion while waiting out the rain.

Rain on the river

Rain falling on water taxis, the Grand Mosque, and the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

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Borneo Day 1: Friday, July 21, 2017

Jakarta airport terminal 3

Terminal 3 at the Soeharto Hatta International Airport, waiting for our flight to Banjarmasin.

Our flight to Borneo was about 9:20, so we had time to eat breakfast at the hotel and meet our taxi to the airport. Other teams had already left. Most were flying, one team was driving for eight hours, and one team was staying here in Jakarta but moving to a hotel closer to their school (MAN 4 Jakarta that we had visited on Tuesday).

Waiting in Jakarta airport

Craig Hendrick waiting in the Soeharto Hatta airport.

The taxi delivered Craig and I to the Soeharta Hatta airport at the upper deck of Terminal 3 and we unloaded the trunk. I found a baggage cart and we rolled up to the front door to go through the first security check. Once inside, we walked to the Garuda Indonesia counter and waited in line. Once my two bags were weighed, I found that they were about ten kilograms over the allotted 20 kg total, so had to pay about $35 to check my second bag. They gave me a payment form to take to the service desk, then with the receipt I was able to get my boarding pass.

Garuda flight

Preparing to board our airplane to Banjarmasin.

We passed through the final security check. With my two bags checked I only had my carry-on computer bag and camera, but it was still a long walk to our gate. We had over an hour to wait for our flight, so Craig found a place to plug in his phone while I wrote up blog posts.

Jakarta Garuda plane

A Garuda Indonesia airplane at the Jakarta airport.

We boarded the airport sat on row 21 on the right side behind the first bulkhead. We had to wait a few minutes, then taxied out to the runway and took off. We flew out of Jakarta over the ocean and headed northeast toward Borneo. I listened to the best of Bread on the music channels and dozed a bit.

Thousand Rivers

View of Kalimantan from the air. You can see why this is called the land of a thousand rivers, all of which is the estuary of the Barito River, the largest river in Kalimantan.

As we descended toward the Banjarmasin airport, we crossed over the coast of Borneo. We could see yellow and green rice paddies below with frequent rivers winding and joining into larger rivers, lined with green trees. There were a few roads, lined with buildings, stretching through the countryside. I took some photos as we dropped toward the airport.

Borneo rice fields

Rice fields as we approach Banjarmasin from the air. Notice how houses and businesses cluster around the roads, with the fields beyond.

We landed and deplaned, walking off a mobile stairway the way we used to before jetways and boarded a bus to the terminal. We walked into the terminal, grabbed a baggage cart, and waited for the bags to arrive from the airplane. A music group collected their instruments, and our bags came through.

About to land

Approaching the Banjarmasin airport.

As we walked out of the terminal, we were met by our host teacher, Muhammad Nazaruddin and his wife. I had seen his photograph from the e-mails he had sent, and of course, we were fairly obvious. He likes to be called Nazar, and was an ILEP alumnus at Kent State in 2010. He teaches English at SMAN 1 Mandastana, our host school, which is about ten miles north of Banjarmasin in a country area with rice fields.

We loaded our bags into the trunk of his car and drove out of the small parking lot onto a the road leading to the airport. After a short distance we turned around a traffic circle with an airplane on a stick and headed onto the main road to Banjarmasin.

Landing approach

Final approach to the airport near Banjarbaru.

The airport is located about 26 km from the city, nearer to Martapura and Banjarbaru, and the main road is called Jalan Ahmad Yani or the Trans Kalimantan Highway. As we drove toward the city, I looked at the businesses, houses, and mosques that lined the road. There was only one fairly tall building, the Aston Hotel, which at ten stories is the tallest in southern Kalimantan. That is because the ground here is swampy and won’t support tall buildings without extensive piles being driven into the ground. The Aston is on one of the more solid areas. I took some photos of the many Wong Solo places along the way, including a Wong Solo delivery truck, so that I could put them in the shared group folder because of the running joke we had the other day.

Welcome to Banjarmasin

Welcome to Banjarmasin (selemat datang di Banjarmasin). Craig Hendrick about to enter the Banjarmasin airport terminal building.

Nazar wondered why I was taking these photos. His English is excellent, as he had gotten his masters degree in Australia and spent six months in the U.S. with ILEP at Kent State. His wife (he said her name but I didn’t quite catch it) is also a teacher at the same school, and they are both from families with parents who are teachers or college professors, so a well-educated family.

Wong Solo delivers

Wong Solo delivers. And he is guaranteed to be discrete, or at least halal.

Along the road I could see that houses and buildings have a different style of architecture than Java. Roofs are steep in the center with a high ridgeline, but then change slope and become more shallow at the bottom. The closest equivalent in America is the style of roofs for Pizza Hut restaurants. In fact, the Pizza Hut logo looks a lot like a Barjarese house. The corners of the roofs are adorned with symbolic wings that stretch up further.

Provincial school

A provincial school built in a traditional Banjarese style. The corners of the steep part of the roof often have crossing timbers decorated as wings.

Our first choices of hotels had been the Hotel Mercure Banjarmasin or the Golden Tulip Galaxy near the Duta Mall, but Mercure requires walking through the mall itself to get to the entrance, and the Golden Tulip didn’t have rooms for the nine days that we will be here, so we booked rooms at the Swiss Belhotel Banjarmasin instead. This wound up being an excellent choice, as it is located in a good position next to a bridge along the Martapura River in the heart of the city. It even has a dock onto the river and free trips to the Lok Baintan floating market.

Green-yellow mosque

Large yellow and green mosque on the road to Banjarmasin.

Nazar dropped us off at the hotel and we checked in at the main desk. They have us in adjoining rooms in the newer section of the hotel, where the air conditioning is better. The concierge put our bags on a standard hotel luggage cart and walked with us to our rooms, which are through a long hallway in the older section, around a corner and up a small ramp. I am in Room 243.

The room is set up so that one must insert the room key into an electronic receptacle in order to turn on the lights or air conditioning in the room. It will be tricky not to walk out without the key card. The room was muggy, so I cranked up the AC and turned down the thermostat as I laid out my bags. My room has a nice view down to the pool, but the drapes are a bit hard to open. Overall it is pretty nice, and one of the better hotels in the city. This will be my home for the next nine days.

I took off my shoes, socks, and the concealed leg holder for my passport and credit cards that my sister had loaned me. I laid down on the bed for awhile to rest.

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