Monday, November 2, 2009


1. Day 18, Nov 1, was a Sunday. After breakfast, Yeow Pheng left for mass with Ah Keong and Ah Lan and then to the cementary to pay respect to his in-laws. I stayed behind at the hotel to read and blog. At 10 am, they came back to the hotel to pick me to go for the famous Singkawang pork noodles. Looking at the turnover of customers, the stall was obviously popular with the locals.

2. After dropping by to see a garden at the outskirt of the town (Yeow Pheng was considering the possibility of doing a lantern show there) and a brief stop-over at Ah Keong's furniture shop, we returned to the hotel to check-out. At 2 pm, we were off, on the road to Pontianak. The very hospitable Ah Keong and Ah Lan were there to send us off and ensure that we were on the right road to Pontianak.

3. Pontianak was some 120 km away, and we were expecting to reach it before 5 pm, including breaks in between. It was a pleasant drive, hugging the coastline for most of the way. The road was densely dotted with houses on both sides, interspersing with mosques at regular intervals. We had a rambutan break first, eating the rambutans Ah Lan bought us, followed by a coconut break at one of the scenic rest stops.

4. After Sungei Pinyuh, we had about 40 km to go to Pontianak. As we approached the city, a canal separates the houses from the road that we were traveling. Arched wooden bridges span the canal at regular intervals, making it looking rather like Suzhou and Venice. Small boats plied the canal. Some children were swimming, some were having their evening baths. Others were doing their washing. It is the life-line of the people there.

5. Pontianak is located at the confluence of 2 major rivers that flow into Kapuas River and then to the sea. To get from one part of the city to another would often entail crossing 2 high metal arch bridges. This is the signature skyline of Pontianak, much like Sydney. With the help of our GPS, we checked into Grand Mahkota Hotel, at 335 000 Rp a night (less than S$50).

6. From the 7th floor of the hotel, we have a good view of the city from the window. It is a city of largely low rise buildings, a sea of rusty brownish zinc roofs; densely compacted. Kapuas River could be seen in the distance, with a couple of high container quay cranes sticking out. River was a busy river. Roads are swarmed with motorcycles, though not quite a much as Ho Chi Ming City. One check put its population at about half million in 2004, but it looks like more than one million to me.

7. We had the chay kueh tiow packed from Singkawang for dinner. After some blogging, we had a round of karaoke at the hotel.

8. The next morning, Day 19, Nov 2, we had a couple of things to take care of at Pontianak. First stop was IMI (Indonesia Motorsport Association) and we got there at about 10 with the taxi booked from the hotel for the day. IMI Head Office at Jakarta required us to have our International Driving Licence endorsed by IMI. Machmud Alkadrie, Head of IMI West Kalimantan, duly had our licences stamped and endorsed by him. He was unsure initially where to stamp on the licence and I suggested to him an empty space to do so.

9. Next was to Pelni office to find out more about the shipping schedules between Balikpapan to Makassar and from Makassar to Flores Islands (or to other islands). Two lady officers there assisted us with our queries. They told us that Pelni ships are largely passenger ships. Ships that could carry cars ply between Pontianak to Jakarta and to Semarang but their schedules are established by its HQ in Jakarta and are very uncertain. They had no information about shipping between Balikpapan and Makassar and advised us to see a shipping agent, Prima Vista, instead. At Prima Vista, we were similarly advised that shipping schedules are tentative and that on 7 Nov there is a ship calling at Balikpapan for Makassar, adding that the company does not take booking. From Makassar, there are ships sailing to Surabaya and other islands, but we have to find out more at Makassar.

10. Taking stock of what we were told, Yeow Pheng and I decided that we should proceed with our journey tomorrow to Banjarmasin and then to Balikpapan. We will aim to reach Balikpapan by 7 Nov to catch the ship to Makassar. At Makassar, we will adjust our plan accordingly depending what ship is available and suitable for us for our next stage of the journey.

11. After lunch, we took a drive to visit the Equator Memorial. It was first built by a Dutch geographer in 1928 to mark the point where the Equator crosses Pontianak. Since then, it had been refurbished. Here, I was standing on the Equator itself (the green line) to take this picture. Here, one could hop from one hemisphere to another.

12. We next dropped by the West Kalimantan Museum and the Dayak Museum (the long house), but unfortunately they were all closed. These are some pictures of the outside. Along the corridor of the long house were some beautiful art work of the Dayaks.

13. Our next stop was the Kadriah Palace of the Sultanate of Pontianak; built by Sultan Sayyid Abdurrahman Alkadri, the founder of Pontianak City, in 1771. Made of wood, the palace is still in relatively good condition, though could be better maintained. In there, there are many pictures of the sultans and their families, bed, clothes etc. The entrance to the hall is beautiful. If properly done, this palace could become a tourist draw. The approach to the palace, however, would require a major cleaning up.

14. We had early dinner at a seafood restaurant along Kapuas River, in a boat berthed along side the stilt structures. Nearby, kids were skate boarding and playing cards. They were happy to have their pictures taken. We were fortunate to have a few great sunset shots.

15. We will set off early this morning to Banjarmasin. Journey is about 1400 km and we intend to take 2 night stops so that we can make the distance in a more leisurely pace, especially when the route there is still unclear for a stretch.

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