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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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