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Borneo's Killing Fields


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large_5550_14684982725060.jpgEntrance to the area. Makam Juang Mandor.
My full day in Pontianak [Pontianak-travel-guide-869006] was allocated to a visit to Mandor, Borneo’s Killing Fields. I had been over three years ago but due to weather, I made it only to the memorial. I didn’t make it to the actual mass graves behind.

I woke early and was at breakfast at 0630. The one hour time difference helped. The buffet was good at the Santika.
By 0730 I was outside looking for taxis. There were none. The hotel concierge told me that the buses leave from the international station at Ambawang and would cost me IDR150K to get there (yesterday the other concierge said IDR85K).

He offered ma a taxi to Mandor at IDR750K. When one works out the return trip to Ambawang station, the fare to Mandor seemed reasonable until I realised it was only one way.large_5550_14684982844838.jpgView of the memorial. It has the national crest, the Garuda flanked by relief murals of scenes of the occupation.After some hmming oohing and aahhing, I bit the bullet and got him to get me a taxi.

Luckily I checked with the driver the correct station for buses to Mandor as I hopped into the taxi. He said they left from Batu Layang (just as I thought). As the distance was similar, he charged the same fare.

The driver was a chatty guy and we had good conversations and he might have slowed down his driving pace for that! He was certainly very knowledgeable about many things Indonesian, regional and worldwide.

He helped me find a bus at Batu Layang but we were told to wait. One came along briefly and we left the station quite quickly too around 0930. Then we parked on the roadside while they tried to reconcile the entire cash takings to the people on board (bearing in mind different destinations and fares).large_5550_14684982918211.jpgRelief murals depicting the occupation.They we waited to fill with standing passengers. That added possibly another 30 minutes before setting off in earnest.

I got dropped off at Mandor around midday. So much for wanting to start early and beat the heat! I was hungry and took a light meal of instant noodles with veges and egg before entering the Mandor memorial site (Makam Juang Mandor).

First up was the memorial site. It looked new compared to my last visit. The relief murals had been re-finished with gold paint and pink highlights, very much bringing them back to life. The centrepiece now has a small gate.

From there, it was a short walk till I came across Mass Grave number 1. There was a sign warning people not to steal sand, wood or do anything “evil” (maksiat) and that offenders would face traditional punishment.large_5550_14684982994330.jpgRelief murals depicting the occupation.I wonder if they mean things like graffiti, urinating or perhaps superstitious rituals (eg. asking for lottery numbers).

There was a road continuing straight and another left. I went straight first and came to #9 which looked the same as #1. Slightly further along was #10 which had a concrete wall and a proper building. This was the burial for the sultanate and perhaps Malay elite.

Tracking back to the road not taken, I saw white vacant land which I understand was the result of illegal mining. Shortly after that was #2 and I decided I had had enough of the heat. I had seen 4 out of the 10 mass graves and final resting place of 21,037 victims of the Japanese over three years (1942-45).

It was a short wait back at the lunch place for the bus back to Pontianak.large_5550_14684983082223.jpgEven though Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country, it is secular, open-minded and cognisant of its Hindu heritage. The national crest is the Garuda which draws from the Hindu religion. The bus would finish in town rather than Batu Layang. But not without a stop to replace a tyre, with the vehicle jacked up while we were all on board.

As we crossed the first bridge into Pontianak, the bus turned left. We continued further and further and I asked whether I should get off before we got even further. The conductor advised me to stay on as there were no opelets back to the centre of town.

He eventually let me off. Unfortunately it was still a walk across a big long bridge before I was on an opelet route. As usual, people were helpful, giving advice and keeping an eye on me.

I got back to my area of town around 1700 and grabbed dinner at the same hot sweaty local cafe as yesterday. My noodle soup cost about NZD3 which was similar to Singapore (developed world) price.large_5550_14684983169932.jpgRelief murals depicting the occupation.After some other travels in Kalimanatan, I started to wonder if I got cheated despite proper computer-generated receipt etc.

I retired back to my room around 1800 after a very hot sweaty day. My shirt was encrusted in white salt from my sweat and needed to be rinsed and dried before going in the laundry bag.

I felt I had had the real Borneo experience even though it was my second time to Mandor. Saw plenty of local settlements, homes on stilts along rivers, houses in front of canals, padi and coconuts. As usual, Indonesians are so warm, polite and friendly. It really puzzles me how the neighbouring countries have become so different.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia

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