Indonesia: Kalimantan

Martapura: The Friday Market

South Kalimantan

Frankly, I don’t know what to expect.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.  And my sense is that in the remote areas of the archipelago, Islam tends to be practiced in a more conservative manner than in the areas near Jakarta, the capital.  

For example, the area of Aceh on the tip of the western island of Sumatra has a reputation for strict Islam.   Sulawesi, far to the east has the same reputation.  So, what will I find here in remote Kalimantan, the Indonesian area on the island of Borneo?

Banjarmasin: The Floating Market

Banjarmasin (pop 611,000)

South Kalimantan



Salamat Pagi – Good Morning

Before dawn, I am picked up by motorbike and delivered to a dock where an awaiting boat transports me up river.  The river is black.  The sky is black.  The shoreline, barely visible.

The delta city of Banjarmasin is known as the “Venice of the East.”  Four major rivers are interconnected by numerous canals.  The name of my river?  I haven’t a clue.

A thin daylight begins to illuminate the river’s mist.  And as the mist disperses, we encounter our morning goal.  

Banjarmasin: The Canal Tour

South Kalimantan

Who needs to travel to the jungle to watch the orangutans?  The antics of young children are much more entertaining!

My quiet City Tour begins with a visit to Mesjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin, a massive mosque that my guidebook describes as “resembling a landed spaceship.” 

We continue to Soetji Nurani, a Chinese temple where we encounter a group of young girls in local costume.

We stop at the obligatory batik shop where I choose a perfectly outrageous cotton shirt.

For the main attraction, I board a small motorboat for a Canal Tour.

The View from Balikpapan


East Kalimantan



When I called my Cousin Stanley in Florida and mentioned my upcoming trip to Borneo, he had one immediate response.  When I called my dear friend Bill in Connecticut and mentioned my upcoming trip to Borneo, he had the same immediate response. 

Stanley was born in 1932 and I believe Bill was born in 1931.  And so “Borneo” triggered their boyhood recollections of land and sea battles during the Second World War.