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Dynamic cities along the east coast

Balikpapan is a big, and fairly expensive city. Well-stocked shops and the busy, growing airport are features of the commercial city; there is not much to do for tourists.
Balikpapan exsists because of the oil, the thriving force of the regional economy. When the world market collapsed in the 1980, the city was at least as worse. With the rising of the prices, business slowly returned to normal. The airport and the seaport are not too old, so they can stand the busy times.
Balikpapan houses about 370,000 residents. The pattern of the city dates from the Second World War. The big refineries are besides the exporting seaport, then the city itself, and eventually, in the hills behind the bay, a modern residential area for the foreigners and Indonesian employees in the oil industry. Over the recent 20 years, a real city centre has formed, complete with banks, travel agencies, shops, restaurants and a market.
Tourism is increasing, and it is hoped that this will support the economy as well, instead oil alone. The residents of Balikpapan are used to foreigners, however they didn't go outside their home for a walk in the city, so tourists walking will still be a small show.
The nightlife, the accomodation and the restaurants of Balikpapan are better then elsewhere in Kalimantan. The connections with other parts of Indonesia are also better than average. But besides good connections, this city has less to offer for the tourist. Most people who arrive at the Sepinggan Airport, stay in the city for one night, before they travel towards the inland. Individual travellers often leave for Samarinda right away. Visitors who spend a day or afternoon in Balikpapan can visit the art- and souvenir shops, and to enjoy the view from the mountains.


Samarinda, the capital of Kaltim, is a lively city with much traffic, art shops and a sportcomplex with swimmingpool and tennis lawn. There are hotels and restaurants in several different price classes. Not a bad place to spent a day or two when arranging your journey to the hinterlands, or just to have a rest from the previous part of your holiday.

Samarinda is located on both sides of the Mahakam River, about 45 kilometers inland from Selat Makassar (Makassar Straight). The city was founded by Buginese traders wich migrated from Sulawesi in the beginning of the 18th century. Nowadays the city counts about 290,000 inhabitants and is - together with Balikpapan - the commercial center of the province.
The city has a key position for what concerned the connections and trade with the hinterland. Almost all traffic to the inland, planes as well as ships over the Mahakan River, departs here. The Mahakam is about one kilometer wide and 90 meters deep on this spot. Since a big bridge connects the two parts of the city, big seaworthy ships can no longer enter the river. The coal ships do not have any problems with the stocking of the sea-ships, which go back to Selat Makassar through the wide delta of the Mahakam River. Besides the bridge, the river still is a huge traffic lane, with all kinds of ships. Gigantic woodlog lines flow downstream to the wood processing factories, which are up and downstream from the city.
In the early 1970's the upcoming wood processing ('the green gold') was the cause for the local economy to grow dramatically (the negative sides of woodlog mainly took place in the far hinterlands, the regions of the Dayak and the Punan). Not too long ago, the Indonesian government has banned the exports of unfinished woodlogs to support the own wood processing industry. The fabrication of lumberwood and plywood is one of the biggest branches of the Indonesian economy. The biggest buyers are Japan, the United States, Hong Kong and Indonesia itself.

Visit Samarinda

In a certain view, Samarinda has little changed. Small shops and businesses are fighting for a spot in the local economy and the road is in fact one big hole. The small airport is almost located in the city. Near Jl. Niaga Timur, there is a big shopping mall with restaurants and food stalls, the Citra Niaga. Another modern mall and restaurant complex, the Mesrah Indah, is located along Jl. Abdul Hasan. Who likes shopping and cheap Indonesian food, should defenately go there.
Senyur Permai (or Sumber Mas) is the name of the sports complex of Samarinda, located along Jl. Diponegoro. The complex consists of a swimming pool, badminton- and tennis lawns. During office-and school-hours, the swimming pool is almost deserted.
About 15 kilometers north of the city, along the road to Muara Badak and Bontang, lies Rindana, a nicely organised park with fruit trees and flowers. It's a very quiet place compared with the busy and crowded city. Who has several hours to spend can rent a boat near the taxi stand, and have a nice short trip upstream the river. Visitors which are not too much distracted by the big ocean ships, Buginese ships and fleets of logs and smaller ships, told that the view over the city is splendid.

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