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New asphalt and old totems

After the imposement of the province of KalTeng in 1957, the capital, Palangkaraya, was truly cut out of the jungle. The Russians, back then allies of the Indonesian president Soekarno, gave 40 km of paved road to the new province, which connected Pandahut (a village which became capital) and Tangkiling. Along this road, which has now been extended to Kasongan (85 km from Palangkaraya), transmigrants from Jawa settled. This connection between two big rivers (Kahayan and Katingan) is almost the sole paved road in the province.
The capital is located 130 km from the sea, as the crow flies, over the meandering Kahayan, it's twice that distance. Due to the blooming trade, the arrival of migrants and the increase of governmental jobs, Palangakaraya soon became the biggest city of the province. In 1980 Sampit - with it 60,000 residents - was twice as big as the capital, which now counts well over 100,000 inhabitants.
The most busy part of the city is the area Pahandut along the Kahayan. Jalan Ahmad Yani is a wide street with shops and hotels. Behind this quarter are the governmental buildings and houses; there is still some space for more. Most monuments of the city show a combination of a revolutionary themes and Dayak motives.
The moseum of KalTeng is dedicated to woodcarvings and other objects. There are scale models of several kinds of longhouses, as well as agricultural tools and old Chinese porcelain. Especially the very old, worn, pillars are very special. Currently the museum has three parts, two of them show objects from the environment, a third room shows objects from entire Indonesia. The museum is located in the outskirts of the city center, in the neighborhood of the bus station Pasar Kahayan.
Besides the museum and the live in and along the river, Palangkaraya has little to offer. More interesting are the Dayak villages and the rapids in the area around the upstream Tweah.

On the Kahayan

Travellers which can spend one or two weeks for the trip upstream, are fairly cheap in price. Who only has a few days and still wants to see a lot, can hire private transport, but you have to bring a lot of money. For what the attractions concerned: how further upstream, how more interesting the culture and especially art becomes. The area north of Palangkaraya already has tombes of concrete, but more upstream, they are still made from wood.

Picture: Small rapids

While travelling, you can see sandung and sepunduq-pillars on the river banks. These are used during sacrificional rites, but now they use animals where they used to use slaves. The peaks of these pillars are woodcarved and show human figures. The sandung and sepunduq are made from ironwood and can be kept for a long time, but are sometimes stolen. Some are new, but others are said to be over a century old. Unique is the sengkaran, a very special kind of totem: on top of the long pillar is a rhinoceros bird (symbol of the upperworld), under that a kind of dragon (the watersnake, symbol of the underworld), and below that is a Chinese ewer, which sometimes contains human bones. This all is placed on top of a wider pawl.
In the villages past Tewah, the population sometimes perform traditional dances, complete with drums and gedang, is they know when you are coming. The tourist has to pay for the consumptions of the people: pigs, chicken, rice and much ricewine. It's not really cheap.
Past Kasintu there are sandung and sepunduq in almost every village. The four in Upun Batu, at the bottom of a 300 meter high hill which is steep at one side, are very good specimens of ceremonical decorations. In Tunmbang Hamputung and Tumbang Kurik are also very good ones. Especially the half-buried grave in Tumbang Kurik, with four nice statues, is worth while. The best grave in Tewah is in front of the office of the camat, in the backyard of a school, on half a km from the city center.
Local sources tell that it was made for a tiwah about 80 years ago. The original place of the sandung was touched by the river, so it was moved completely with sepunduq. Too bad it was painted at that time, but furthermore it's still very nice.
The yellow flaggs which you can fing along the river every once in a while are to get attention of the spirits, because sacrifices which are made, are below them. Unclear is the fact that there are more flags between Kuala Kapuas and Palangkaraya than further upstream, however the kaharingan-religion also has much supporters over there. Tewah, the most important city upstream, is the center of the gold mining. Not far from the city, there is a Indonesian-Canadian goldmine on the mountain of Gunung Mas (Golden Mountain). Tewah is on the border of the living areas of the Ngaju and Ot Danum.

The Ot Danum

The Dayak along the upperstream part of the river are the Ot Danum, which differ from the Ngaju by language. Most Ot Danum do understand Ngaju (or Kahayan), main language of KalTeng, but don't speak Indonesian. Who hires a guide in Palangkaraya, better checks whether he speaks Ngaju as well, it's kind of important.
About 70 per cent of the more than 10,000 Ot Danum in the subdistrict Kahayan Hulu Utara around Tumbang Miri supports kaharingan, the other 30 per cent is protestant. The Ot Danum are selfsufficient in agriculture and earn some extra money with rubber, gold mining and ratten and wood chop.
Tiwah are rare here, but in most villages, the yearly pesta panen is held after the harvest. It takes place in March or April and includes partying and drinking. The pesta tanam, the festival after planting and seeding, is more a family-festivaal and takes place on the ladang, the ricefields in the hills. Normally animals and liquor is shared with a number of guests. Seeding and planting usually takes place in September and October.

Trekking in the highlands

Past Tumbang Hamputung, the water of the Kahayan and side-river are more clear than before. The animal world makes more noise (monkeys, birds) and the threes across the river sometimes touch eachother high above the ground.
Dependent on the condition and balance, the traveller can walk about six to nine hours from Tumbang Kurik to Tumbang Maharoi, where the population searches gold, makes ratten baskets with black motives. Tumbang Maharoi is the last village along the Kahayan. Further upstream, the Ot Danum and Juloi live. Local sources say that father inland nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers live, which don't have much contact with the outside world.
Who travels back over the river, can visit the remains of a longhouse in Tumbang Anoi. In 1894, the Dutch held a big peace meeting, in which 30 representatives of Dayak populations from Central Kalimantan agreed to stop headhunting.

Seven big rivers

Maybe there are not thousands of rivers in KalTeng, but at least there are many. The seven biggest, streamin from north to south, form the most important connection between the coastal areas and the hinterland.
The catchment area of the Lamandau forms the most western district of KalTeng, Kotawaringin Barat (West-Kotawaringin). The name Kotawaringin remembers to the once powerfull sultanate. The district counts less than 200,000 residents. About one third of the population consists of Tuman Dayak, which converted to christianiry around 1930. About 10 per cent of them still practices kaharingan. Since the 30 to 40 ritual re-burials are reported to the camat, which passes them to the bupati in Palangkanbun, it's usefull to inform in the city wether there is one coming up.
The capital of the district, Pangkalanbun, counts about 50,000 residents and is the starting point of trips to Tanjung Puting Reserve. One of the most traditional areas is the subdistrict Dolang around the main city of Kundangan. Here are about 100 longhouses, which are used by about 7000 Dayak, which live spread out over 19 villages. Kundangan is located along the base of the hills of the Schwaner Range, far upstream along the Lamandau, and can be reached from the city of Ketapang along the western coast of Kalimantan (the province of KalBar).
The Seruyan (also known as the Pembuang) is the most western river in the district Kotawaringin Timur (East Kotawaringin), which is located east of Kotawaringin Barat. The Seruyun for the main part floats between the two smaller ranges of the Schwaner Range. The most important places along the river are Kuala Pembuang at the mouth of the river, Pembuang Hulu, which is located globally between Pangkalanbun and Sampit, Rantau Pulut, more upstream, and at the end Tumbang Manjul, just below the big rapids. The Seruyan mainly flows thoruh the living area of the Delang Dayak and reaches the area of the Ot Danum in the north. East of the area of the Seruyan is the Mentaya River (or Sampit River) which flows to the sea through Sampit - the capital of the district Kotawaringin Timur.

East of the Mentaya flows the Katingan, which is called Kasongan Mendawai downstream, the most eastern river of the district Kotawaringin Timur. It springs in the Ot Danum highlands ans flows through the territory of the Ngaju and the city of Tumbang Samba to Kasongan and eventually to the Jawa Sea. From Tumbang Senamang or Pendatangaring, it's a six km walk to the longhouse of Tumbang Gagu. Further to the east is the Kahayan, the most western river of the Kapuas district. It springs in the Schwaner Range, near the border with KalBar and flows trough Tewah and the capital of KalTeng, Palangkaraya, to the Jawa Sea. From Tumbang Jutuh along the Rungan, a side river which merges with the Kahayan just above Palangkaraya, it's eight km on foot or by boat (alkon) to the longhouse of Tumbang Malahoi.
East of the Kahayan flows the Kapuas (not to be mistaken by the Kapuas in West Kalimantan). It springs in an area which is inhabited by the Siang Dayak and mainly flows through the area of the Ngaju. South of Kuala Kapuas, capital of the district Kapuas, the river reaches the Jawa Sea.
The Barito is the most eastern in KalTeng. The northern catchment area is inhabited by the scattered Ot Danum, Murung, Siang and other Dayak. The upperstream is separated from the Upper-Mahakam by a stretch of mountains of the Müller Range.
The northern part of the Barito has a number of rapids. The river is safe to use by boat from Teluk Jolo and Tumbang Juloi. From there it flows through Puruk Cahu towards Muara Teweh, capital of the district Barito Utara (North Barito). In Makunjung (just before Puruk Cahu) and in Parici, reachable from Muara Laung over a side river, are longhouses.
South of Muara Teweh live several different Dayak populations. On the western banks of the Barito live the Dusun and Ma'anyan, on the eastern bank the Ngaju, Mengkatip and the islamic Bakumpai. Just south of Buntok, the capital of the district Barito Selatan (South Barito), the Barito forms the border between KalSel and KalTeng. Next it splits in an eastern branch, which flows to the sea through Banjarmasin, and a western branch, which merges with the Kapuas in Muara Kapuas and flows into the sea soon after.

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