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Borneo's largest city


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large_5550_1469503940447.jpgFlying from Banjarmasin to Balikpapan (1h10 on propeller plane). Road travel for the 500km journey takes about 12 hours. Continuing by road to Borneo's largest city Samarinda.
I had time for breakfast at the hotel before taking a taxi at 0700 to Banjarmasin [Banjarmasin-travel-guide-861250]’s airport 45 minutes away. Checkin for my 0925 departure to Balikpapan [Balikpapan-travel-guide-861133] on Wings Air was swift. Once airside I noticed that yesterday 1555 flight had been delayed till around 0900. And this morning’s ~0615 flight delayed till around 0920.

I dreaded the possibility of my flight being delayed substantially, or worse my flight to Berau delayed in a few days time when I had to continue to Derawan [Derawan-travel-guide-1335019] by car and boat. As it turned out, my flight was only 35 minutes late.

Remembering the most horrendous weather yesterday afternoon, the delays started to make sense.large_5550_14685740931680.jpgKenyah dancer on Balikpapan airport wall. Known as a highland or inland tribe in Malaysia, they don't seem to be confined in a similar way here. Having said that, as with most riverine towns, Samarinda itself is quite Malay / Banjar.It probably caused the overnight delay to the 1555 flight, and the other one might have been a knock-on effect with crew duty and rest time etc.

Upon arrival at Balikpapan's very flash airport, everyone waited at the designated carousel. The airport had a fair bit of Dayak motifs, something to be seen in Balikpapan and Pontianak but not so much in Banjarmasin. After a while, a staff member came to tell us that our luggage had already arrived on an earlier flight. I picked mine up and proceeded to the Kangaroos Shuttle counter which offers a luxury minivan service to Samarinda [Samarinda-travel-guide-869709] which takes about 2h30.

The ride was more rural than expected. Being two large cities in relative proximity, I expected more development in between. Rather, it was somewhat hilly (or even mountainous) with a patch of forest too.large_5550_14685741134176.jpgFlowers for grave visits.With the hill, we got into a very dark cloudy area which then poured down on us.

I thought the day would have been a write-off. But it was fine when I got to Samarinda and even managed to go sightseeing and have a walk.

Kangaroo offered a reasonable connecting shuttle to my hotel, the MJ Hotel. It was a poorly finished place for the price, but that’s normal in Samarinda from what I understand. Hotels are bad value in this city.

It was around 1500 already and I needed food. After lunch in the mall, I took an angkot to the Islamic Centre. I asked the man at the entrance if I could visit. He said “Yes, but your legs are exposed”. I had brought along a towel to cover my knees and calves. He laughed and brought me out a sarong instead.

I wandered around the mosque. It wasn’t as lavish as the one in Brunei or Abu Dhabi but it does the job very nicely, I’m sure. The adjacent tower, accessed by lift, gave a good view of the Mahakam river meandering through Borneo’s largest city.

It was only 3.5km back to town so I walked it. Even though it was Borneo’s largest city, it doesn’t feel very modern or progressive. The businesses I see tend to be selling basic necessities and there is very little evidence of wealth or even non-basic eating places. And for that reason I took dinner back at the same simple lunch place in the mall.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia

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