Due to enormous supplies of oil, gas, wood and coal, the province of East Kalimantan (Kaltim) is the most rich part of entire Indonesia. Kaltim lies on both sides of the equator and is even bigger than Scotland and England together with it's huge 211.440 sq.km. The approximately 1,9 milion inhabitants mainly life along the coast. The coastal cities of Samarinda, the provincial capital, and Balikpapan, a nice oilcity, offer nice accomodation and restaurants in all sizes to the visitor and good connections.
The provincial capital is located about 45 km inland from Selat Makassas (Makassar Strait) and has a key position for what concerned connections with the hinterland. Balikpapan is a lively commercial center, not really interesting for visitors. Eastern Kalimantan exports no less than US$ 4 bilion every year, more than half is oil, 40 per cent natural gas and side-products (methanol, fertilizer) and about six per cent wood, mainly plywood. Other exports are gold, coal, river shrimps, kopra and all kinds of agricultural products.
History of Kaltim
When the powerfull, hinduist principalty Majapahit in East Jawa flourished, other Jawanese principalties were wiped off the map and their rulers forced out. Refugees from one of these small principalties, Singasari, would have fled to the eastern coast of Borneo to found the principalty of Kertanegara in 1300. From 1300 until 1960, when the last ruler turned in his power to Jakarta, this principalty had twenty rulers.
The trade-funded Kertanegara soon came in conflict with the principalty of Mulawarman, further upstream along the Mahakam. Due to a royal marriage between the two principaltie, the peace was kept for several centuries. Eventually, rivalism became so large, that war was inevitable; the army of Mulawarman was defeated and the royal family was forced out.
At the start of the 17th century Kertanegara was completely islamized. After the fall of Mulawarman, islam also spread inland. It was probably around that time that Kertanegara also got known as Kutai, diverted from the Chinese name of ko-tai, which means 'remote place' or 'great land'.
Kaltim consists of four kabupaten or districts. The biggest district is Kutai, which also has the most inhabitants. The capital is Tenggarong, the former seat of the sultan of Kutai. The kabupaten Tanah Pasir is south of Kutai. The capital is Tanah Grogot.
North of Kutai is the district Berau with the capital Tanjung Redeb. Along the coast there are some magnificent islands with good diving and snorkling possibilities. Berau is also the home to several Bajau laut, or seagipsies.
Tanjong Selor, the capital of kabupaten Bulungan, is near the coast along the Kayan River. On the other shore was the location of the former sultanate of Tanjung Palas. The nice palace of the former sultans was set on fire in the 1950's, and burned down entirely. Tarakan, an island off the coast of Bulungan, is an important oil producing location. On the nearby island of Penyu, one of the biggest methanol-factories can be found.