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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 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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