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Banjarmasin
Moving city along the Barito River

Banjarmasin is the only city in Kalimantan which is worth while bringing a visit. The direct environment included, the total area is about 70 sq.km. The most important attractions are the busy floating market, the monkey islands and the diamond mines. Banjarmasin is located 22 km from the Jawa Sea. Because the city is partially located under the sea-level, it rises and lowers with the tides. The Barito River is about 1 km wide. The much smaller, lingering Martapura forms the busy 'mainstreet', on which you can find a suprising variety of ships and boats.

City along the River

Banjarmasin, located on the location where the Martapura and Barito merge, was founded on 24 September 1526, after Pangeran (prince) Samudera succeeded in removing his uncle from the throne with the help of the Jawanese sultanate of Demak.In trade, the prince converted to the islam and changed his name in sultan Suriansyah. During the predecessing hinduist period, Negara - located a little inland along the river Negara - was the capital. Banjarmasin was capital until the Banjarmasin War in 1860, when the Dutch moved their capital to Martapura. After the independence, Banjarmasin regained it's prominent role.
Nowadays, it is still very clear that the original city was entirely oriented on the river. The waterways which linger through the city, are marked by houses in pawls, named lanting. From a small motorized boat - klotok - you can see the daily life, which is especially busy in the early morning and the afternoon along rivers and canals: that is the time that the Banjarese wash themselves and their clothes, and they buy vegetables, fruit and fish with the always talking traders in the small canoo's.
On the busy and colorfull floating vegetable- and fruitmarkets, products from the hinterlands are brought in and sold to shop- and restaurant owners. There are also two fishmarkets, one for riverfish and one for seafood. In the schooner-harbour along the Martapura are dozend of majestic Buginese schooners, which remind you of the era of the sailboat. Just a little downstream is a shipwarf which still build this elegant ships. A complete Buginese schooner costs you a lot of money by the way.

Picture: Big mosque

The industrial zone of the city is located along the Barito, near the city center. In the workshops, workers saw thick trunks to small useable wood, sometimes without machines. The modern plywood factories are placed directly along the banks, so the rafts with lumberwood from the inlands can easily reach the shore. The woodcompanies are accompanied by rubber factories.
On the island of Pulau Kembang, across the city in the Barito, groups of half-tame monkeys spend their time. The island, which is very popular among tourists as well as among Banjarese, is heavily visited on Sundays and local holidays. More downstream is the island Pulau Kaget, a nature reserve. There are nose-apes, birds and other wild animals.
Banjarmasin has one of the most nice mosques of Kalimantan. The Sabilal Muhtadin of Great Mosque is built on a piece of estate which measures 10 hectares, in the middle of the city, the front directed to the Martapura. The mosque is well-known for it's writings of shaykh Mohammed Arsyal al-Banjari, an islamic scientist which lived from 1710 to 1812. The interrior of the building is of top quality marble and decorated with magnificent calligraphy quran-texts. There is a waiter in the neighborhood which can open the mosque for visitors. The front gate is often closed outside prayer time, but the back entrance usually is open.

The floating market

The pasar terapung or floating market is a busy and colorfull collection of small boats and canoo's. The bigger ships bring in fruit and vegetables, which are sold at low prices. The people on the small ships are usually women in colorfull clothes. They buy their goods from the big boats and transport it to the customers at the shore. Along the riverbanks are floating restaurants where you can buy a refreshing cup of coffee or tea. After shopping, many women go home; sometimes they go home in a chain of 12 canoo's.
Who wants to visit the market can rent a klotok near the bridge by Kuin Pertamina. A klotok usually has a small motor and can carry six to ten passengers. The market starts at first daylight and has ended about 8.30. The shipper can bring you close to the shore for making pictures.

Flower island

From the floating market, it's not too far to Pulau Kembang - 'Flower Island' - which is inhabited by the - common - crab-eating monkeys. Some believe that spirits live in these monkeys, so they cannot be disturbed or harrassed. The monkeys wait for visitors near the place of harbour, hoping for a handfull of peanuts which you can buy at a nearby foodstall. It's very hard to feed the smaller animals, because the male raja-monkeys steal everything. An old man, whos family used to own the island, will probably ask you for signing the guestbook and a small financial contribution. The stone shrine on the island is said to have magical powers; prayers and flowers which are offered here, guarantee a good health and success in business. On Sundays and local holidays it's very crowded on the island.


The trip by boat can be continued along Pulau Kembang and the Trisakti harbour with it's big ships. Along the riverbanks are big factories for the rubber processing and plywood. After that you enter the Martapura river. A little more inland are colorfull shops on the banks, where customers moor to shop. Houses, shops and even gas stations are built on floating platforms. More upstream are dozens of very nice Buginese sailboats. It is crowded with workers, working on loading and unloading the big ships, which form the spine of trade between the Indonesian islands.

Remarkable nosemonkeys

Pulau Kaget (lit. 'Horrifying Island') is located 12 km south of Banjarmasin in the Barito and is inhabited by nosemonkeys and other animals. The name points to the reputation of a place with spirits, which are said to be on this island. A trip with rented klotok is fairly cheap. The journey from Banjarmasin takes about 1,5 hour. It's handy to bring a hat, as well as something to drink.
The best time to see the monkeys is around sunrise, 6.30 in the morning. Later on the day they will retreat to a hard-to-reach swampy area. Only when the night is about to fall, they will return to the coast again. The monkeys are easy to see, but hard to make pictures of. Quietness, patience and time and some luck is needed. Besides that, a telelens, a fast film and a strong hand are also very handy. The animals still have a healthy fear for humans, especialy when they hear a motor of a boat.
Pulau Kaget in fact consists of two islands, of which the biggest has a surface of 24 hectares. The best spot to see the Nasalis Belanda ('Dutchman'), is along the southcoast of the most northern island. When it's low tide, you can't reach it by boat. When going there, you also have that taken into account as well. It's better to take a guide with you as well.
I arrived in company of a guide in the dark of the very early morning. It was so cold that I needed a jacket. The reward for this was a meeting with dozens of monkeys, which climbed the trees. The remarkable acrobats are totally not afraid of water and every once in a while they dive into the swamp from a high altitude. You can also see black gibbons early in the morning, as well as many birds among them the brighly colored kingfisher.


    
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