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South of the border


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large_5550_14695037799414.jpgLegend: Blue = Visited Red = This Trip Yellow = Future Trip already Booked.
I had an ordered a taxi for 0600 as it seemed like the time in consideration of the travel time to, and check-in Kuching Sentral station at the far end of town. I remember from last time that the taxi rate drops from night to day at 0600.

The driver didn’t use the meter but he seemed nice enough, so I didn’t challenge him. When I arrived at the station, he said MYR40 which was less than expected. What a pleasant surprise.

I got my boarding pass at one counter and went to a different one to have my passport details noted on a passenger list. I had allowed some time to grab breakfast as I recall the paus and curry puffs were excellent last time. Unfortunately it was closed and so was the other place in the station. Pretty slack really.

The bus left on time at 0715 for the Tebedu/Entikong border taking only 90 minutes (rather than 2 hours last time including a meal break before doing the border crossing).large_5550_14695037811436.jpgNever mind the travel time on Google Maps. It took 9 hours lasts time including border formalities and two rest stops. Such is the magic of flight that it only takes 35 minutes in a propeller plane.

After exiting Malaysia, we walked across no man’s land (rather than driving like last time). Indonesian entry formalities at the border were easy but the premises were like a bomb site (OK, a very bad construction site). They didn’t have any forms out, and they said not to worry.

Our luggage was scanned, with our driver dictating and identifying the ones that should be taken for scanning. It was a little strange but I suppose he had been given guidelines based on size etc perhaps.

Two hours after the crossing, we came to a Minang place for lunch. It was far nicer than the shack last time. I showed interest in a SIM card but opted to eat first, telling the SIM man exactly that. He kept an eye on me and came to me as soon as I had finished eating. Is that service or what?!

The road turned bad and unsealed for a while. Less than 2h after the previous stop, we had a short coffee break. It appeared we were making good time. We appeared to have been taking a different road than last time; this time it was more built up with more shops and townships.

We came to a recognisable portion where many homes had a canal in front of them.vvWith the dry weather, it was stagnant. There were people bathing in not-so-nice water in ponds and rivers set further back.There were lots of signs saying "Siram Kulat" which means literally pouring liquid and mushroom. I asked and eventually realised it means car wash. Kulat does mean fungus/mushroom but apparently in Iban it is same as Kilat (shiny) in Malay.

We arrived at Pontianak [Pontianak-travel-guide-869006]’s new international bus terminal at Ambawang 7h after departure as opposed to 9h later outside the Santika Hotel last time.

For Malaysians, the city's name is a specific kind of ghost resulting from death during pregnancy or childbirth, or the spirit of a stillborn (Wikipedia covers all variants of the mythology). However the name in Indonesia doesn't have a negative connotation as the same ghost is referred to as kuntilanak.

It is a city of Teochews (and Hakkas) on one side of the river and Malays on the other. Ibans and other Dayaks are around too but they are traditionally from inland.

Transport into town was a problem now with only one illegal taxi waiting. He wanted IDR250K (NZD25) for the 20 minute ride. I got it down to IDR150K but when I got to the hotel he didn’t have change and I ended up paying IDR180K when the correct price should have been IDR85K to IDR150K depending on which hotel concierge one speaks to.

It happens and sometimes there aren’t choices. There were buses but they were nowhere to be seen and even then, they don’t go near my hotel. If I had taken a bus, I’d probably be stranded somewhere needing a taxi ... and they’re like hen’s teeth in Pontianak. I only saw two in my entire two night stay.

After a rest, I walked to St Joseph’s cathedral on nearby Jalan Pattimura, which came highly recommended. It was a little Vegas-like with its architecture. But pictures on the internet suggest the interior rivals St Peter’s at the Vatican (well, slight exaggeration).

Continuing to Jalan Gajah Mada, I sat myself down for a sirsak (soursop, angmo liulian or guyabao the superfood) shake. I was too tired to explore the waterfront.

I took dinner of kwayteow next to the hotel in a simple hot and sweaty coffee shop. It was horrendously expensive compared to Malaysia and was Singapore (developed world) pricing at IDR30K (NZD3) per bowl.

Singers with guitars came in and out. One had a particularly beautiful voice and I couldn’t help giving him something. I grabbed some insect repellent and water from the supermarket opposite before retiring for an early night.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia

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