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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sasirangan hanging up

Sasirangan patterns hanging up to dry at the factory along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

After resting for a couple of hours, we met Nazar, his wife, and his older daughter in the lobby. He was taking us to see how sasirangan, the Banjarese form of tie-dye, is done. As we drove across the river the clouds that had been gathering all day were turning dark black and rain was immanent.

Threatening clouds

Threatening storm clouds over Banjarmasin. This is supposed to be the dry season.

We crossed the Martapura and traveled along a series of ever smaller roads leading us along the west bank. The dyeing process requires a lot of water, so the factories are located inside some of the Banjar style houses along the river we had seen on our trip to Lok Baintan. As we drove along the roadway just to the west of the river, the skies opened up and the rain began. Nazar commented that this wasn’t normal for the dry season. It came down in torrents and buckets, and before long it was impossible to tell where the rainflow ended and the river began – it was all just one sheet of water. We parked under and overhang at the factory outlet and watched the rain for a minute. I took some photos and video.

Rainstorm on river

The rain begins – it came down so fast it became hard to tell where the runoff ended and the river began.

This was quite a storm, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been through the edge of a typhoon in Taiwan, and I was once in a downpour in Minneapolis in April 1986 that was beyond belief. The rain there came down so fast that the drainage system couldn’t handle it, even though the city is along the Mississippi River. The pressure in the drains was so great that manhole covers were being blown into the air and fountains of water eight feet high were geysering out of the holes. On my way to the airport a short time later, my shuttle van drove through what looked like a shallow puddle that wound up being five feet deep. The engine got wet and stalled. They had to call another shuttle van to come get us – it drove more carefully into the “puddle” and I had to climb out the window and over to the second van with my suitcase so they could take me on to the airport.

Sasirangan choices

Sasirangan samples in the factory showroom. You can find all types of colors and patterns.

As we were looking at samples in the sasirangan store, a load thunderclap and lightning stroke boomed out and the power went out. I was able to use my flash for photos, but not for video. Craig got his cell phone out and set it to flashlight mode so that I would have some light. We crossed the road to the dye factory on the other side along the river. A man showed us how they use stencils to trace the traditional patterns onto white cloth. The cloth is then tied tightly with small ties to follow the pattern of the stencils. Parts that aren’t to be dyed in the first color are covered in plastic bags.

Tied green cloth

Died green cloth with the ties in place. Where the ties gather in the cloth, the dye won’t penetrate and will leave white places, just like western tie dye. This may be the origin of tie dye.

Next door were the dye vats. Since dye works better in hot water, the room was like a sauna with steaming vats of various colors. My camera wanted to fog up, but I did get some good photos and video. The men there were wearing gloves and dipping the cloth repeatedly into various colors. The bags are moved to the previously dyed areas so that other colors can be applied where the bags had been. The cloth is then rinsed and hung up to dry on railings between the two buildings, something a bit hard to do in this rain.

Plastic covered parts

Dyeing the sasirangan cloth. The dye area was a sauna bath from the steaming hot dye vats. To protect color in areas, plastic bags are tied on to prevent the second color from reaching the first color.

The rain soon let up, and we returned to the outlet store. We looked through the colors; there were many beautiful combinations, and I bought two different bolts of cloth. One was purples and magentas, the other oranges and brick red. These will be for gifts for my sister and daughter.

Dye vats 2

The dyers used rubber globes to repeatedly dip the fabric into the dye vats. The power was knocked out by a lightning strike nearby in the storm. Between the humidity from the rain and the steaming dye baths, this room was like a sauna. They had many types of dye powders and could do any combination of colors and patterns.

Now that the rain was ending, we got back in the car and drove through winding streets to find a restaurant for supper. Nazar knew an excellent place for bakso nearby, and we drove past alleyways and along narrow roads to get there. The late afternoon light after the storm provided a silvery golden cast to everything as it reflected off the wet pavement along the alleyways. It was extremely humid after the rain, but the air was cooler and quite comfortable, so I rolled down my window to get better photos. We passed a cemetery, including the memorial to a local hero. After a few minutes, we reached the restaurant. Nazar’s son rode a Gojek to the restaurant and met us there. I had beef bakso and chilled bottled water for supper, and it was excellent. I like bakso a great deal, and have had some good stuff, but this was the best I had anywhere in Indonesia.

Alley near bakso place

Alleyway near bakso kitchen after the rainstorm.

Bakso kitchen

Bakso kitchen in Banjarmasin where we ate after visiting the sasirangan factory.

Bakso soup

The best bakso in Banjarmasin.

Road after rain

Traveling through the narrow streets of northern Banjarmasin after the rainstorm.

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