A Travellerspoint blog

Covering new territory


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large_5550_14695038515032.jpgMy four sectors on the plane replaced a very long bus journey which probably isn't possible in one hit.
I woke at 0330 even though my alarm was for 0415. Flight departure to somewhere new and exciting, (Banjarmasin, was 0630 so I left the hotel by taxi booked for 0445. It was five minutes late but I still got to the new airport terminal with plenty of time.

Check-in desks were not properly signposted on the monitors. I asked around and joined the queue which was eventually indicated by the monitor.

Once airside, the monitors indicated a 40 minute delay. I got a coffee and pastry but once I got stuck into it, they made a boarding call. I downed my cinnamon roll and took my coffee along for remote gate boarding by bus.

We left only 15 mins on an old ATR72. It took four sectors to get to Banjarmasin [Banjarmasin-travel-guide-861250] via Ketapang, Pangkalanbun and Sampit.large_5550_14685733855868.jpgDayak tail on Kalstar ATR (pronounced Ah Teh Eerrr, here).I was in the first row opposite the crew jump seat so I aksed how many sectors they were doing today. It was a big fat 9, as opposed to a maximum of 12. That’s pretty horrendous with the first flight being 0615 and finishing at home base Surabaya [Surabaya-travel-guide-870617] around 1430! But yesterday they only had three sectors out of Surabaya overnighting in Pontianak. My NZ domestic crew friends would faint.

Despite being a less well-known airline and probably on the EU blanket blacklist, the crew gave excellent emergency exit briefings. This was done only in Indonesian (until some Dutch came on board). They actively sought nods to confirm passenger assistance to help with opening the exit too. Safety briefings were also only in Indonesian (until the Dutch boarded for the last two sectors). Lifevests were only demonstrated for the first flight which had a bit of overwater I guess.

The 3h15 including three stops went quickly. We were given water and chocolate for the first and last flight but that was enough to stave off hunger and thirst.

The Dutch, Simon and Karen, had been to Tanjung Puting. They thought it was quite highly touristed and had slept in kelotoks (boats). They have their arrangements all made with a guide and we are covering some similar ground (Banjarmasin and Derawan) at the same time.

They offered me a seat in their transport to the Victoria Hotel (subject to space). Their guide wasn’t there so we waited. It appears she must have just missed us as we found her at the arrivals exit holding a sign some time later. The taxi wasn’t big enough so I made my own way for IDR130K which was reasonable for the 45 minute ride.

I had lunch in the quiet food hall attached to the hotel after securing my stuff in the room. It was a quiet place and I always feel uneasy eating food in quiet places for fear of food not being fresh.

My priority was to organise a boat for tomorrow’s excursion to the floating market. There was the possibility of going with Simon and Karen but I hadn’t heard from them. After ringing a few guides, some actually picked up their phone. Price was a standard IDR350K for a minimum of 2 people. That’s a fair whack for one person. I allowed some time for Simon and Karen to get back to me, and took a rest to recover from the early morning wakeup. At about 1800 I gave up waiting and confirmed with one guide.

Guess what, about 10 minutes after, Karen WhatsApped to say that I could join them. They had internet problems. I felt really bad and rang the guide back to cancel and he was very understanding.

The restaurant across the road was closed for dinner. There didn’t appear to much around and I didn’t feel like venturing too far. I ate in the hotel restaurant and ordered a delicious Rawon. That really hit the spot!

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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 Comments (0)

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 Comments (0)

Family time


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We landed in Kuala Lumpur [Kuala-Lumpur-travel-guide-1096867] 30 minutes earlier around 0400. I attempted to put the three hours into good use by going landside to try replace my SIM card which was stolen in Buenos Aires a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the Celcom store couldn’t assist as their systems only come alive at 0800.

Heading through the check-in area it was bedlam. The queues were unreal even though it was 6 more days till Hari Raya Puasa. I felt lucky I had been through-checked and could go straight through to domestic airside where I had some kwayteow soup before killing the rest of my time.

The flight to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] took me home to be with family for 9 days and to celebrate Hari Raya Puasa with my Muslim friends.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Flying flat


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With a 1930 departure to Kuala Lumpur, I headed to the airport before 1600 expecting to be in the midst of the rush hour. Fortunately it didn’t take too long.

At the airport, I walked straight to the Premium queue for check-in. There was one person already at the desk who was having problems. He had bought a ticket AKL-KUL-MNL but wanted to get off at KUL (forgetting MNL) then use a separate ticket to ICN. That wasn’t allowed, as with most regular airlines, but with AirAsia the fares are somewhat additive so it shouldn’t have been disallowed.

I got to the front quickly enough and had my bags checked all the way to Kuching, went airside and relaxed in the lounge for about 1h30 before boarding the flight to Gold Coast.

At that time of day, I ate my meal and read all the way till landing. Seated in row 1 of the aircraft, I exited first and went through security screening and was a the boarding gate in five minutes. We reboarded pretty promptly in time for the 1h15 turnaround.

The second sector took off from Gold Coast around midnight NZ time. I had planned on having my included meal for breakfast but I was hungry enough to eat it before popping a sleeping pill, then making full use of the inclined flatbed (about same price as economy on other airlines). Flying flat, I slept soundly till about 30 minutes before landing!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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