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Introduction to Kalimantan

Borneo has always been very interesting to the West. Humid and exotic, densely forested and inscrutable, it used to be a traditional oposite to the rational and orderly Europe. Old travel reports tell about almost naked 'wild humans', which decorated their bodies with feathers and tatoos and whom high graded warriors kept themselves busy with creating heads from a log, which were used as sacrifice to the gods. The message, that the mysterious Dayaks sometimes lived in big groups of over one hundred people in houses on pawls, was received with disbelieve and dismay in the Victorian Western Europe.
About other island people, the forest nomads of the hinterlands, where were even more fantastic stories if possible. They should have lived in trees and should have been able so smell people upto a kilometer away. Above all people in Europe were convinced that these Punan people had some tailish like thing into the late 19th century.
However these stories were overdone and are dated at this moment, the island keeps on stirring our imaginations. Especially the Dayak population still has a firm impression on the West. Travellers do best not to blind themselves on the small aspects of their culture. Most Dayak nowadays wear regular clothing and headhunters only exsist in rytes and stories. Not only the softening influence of Christianity didn't touch the rich culture of the Dayak. However, it is possible to bring a visit to a traditional longhouse. These often richly decorated houses on pawls with a length of several hundred meters, had to protect them from enemy headhunters. With a little luck the tourists can see the traditional agricultural ritual, or a traditional reburial, where they used to sacrifice slaves earlier. Of maybe you can see a belian (sjaman) at work, which sings or makes animal sacrifices while healing an illnes or sacres a new house.
Most tourists will hurry temselves to the hinterlands of the Dayaks and totally forget about the islamic coastal areas, which are inhabited by Malay, Chinese and some Jawanese, Madurese and Buginese. The nice, old mosques are worth a visit and this is also the fact with the old mosque in Banjarmasin. People who are interested in history can enjoy bringing a visit to palaces and gravetombs of sultans, and of source, a number of museums. You can try to see a circumstantion or marriage, events which are regularly decorated with beautifull costumes, original dances and gamelan-music.

Land of sago

The local population used to name Borneo Kalimantan. The name is probably defused from lamantaKalamantan is the area of the lamanta). Another possible explaination is in the Jawanese Kalimanten ('River of the jewels'), which points at the wealth of gold and gemstones on the island.
In the West, Kalimantan is only the Indonesian part of Kalimantan, which consists 2/3 of the island, which is the third biggest - after Greenland and New Guinee - in the world. With a total surface of 746.309 Borneo is 20 times the size of the Netherlands. The northern part of the island concludes Sarawak (the former empire of the 'White Raja' James Brooke) en Sabah, both belonging to Malaysia, and the minute oil state Brunei (this name was the initial name for Borneo when the first people from the West entered named the big island.
Borneo is simply split in two parts by the equator. The coastal planes are very humid and hot, upto 37C. Inland the temperatures are around 25C. In the mountainous inlands it can even be colder above 700 meters. The overdone rainfall -on average 2500 mm every year along the coast and 4500 mm in the inlands - makes Borneo into one of the most wet places on the planet. The wet season lasts for a long eight months, from October until June, and there is no real dry season.

The threathened rainforest

The high humidity causes the tropical rainforest to grow, which covers most parts of the island. It's this location where the most popular forest-inhabitant of the world lives, the orang-hutan, which can only be seen in the wild when you are lucky, because the huge but shy primate lives in an healthy distance of humans. The area still houses much more strange creatures.
Feared is the king-cobra, a five-meter-long monster, which is not scared to attack humans. A natural miracle is the Agrus feasant, related to the peacock and just as beautifull. It's only one of the over 600 kinds of birds which live in between the more than 2000 kinds of trees on the island. The most interesting is the rhinoceros-bird, which plays an important role in local myths. It has an very peculiar sound, scratching, followed by a horn, getting louder and lower, which ends in laughter.

Remarkable is the (male) nosemonkey, blessed with an overdone nose. Not to tell anything about the shooting fish, which can take out insects from the air on two meters above the water with it's perfect beam of water. Some animals have developed flying or floating powers to escape from preditors: there are flying lizards, frogs, squirrels and even three kinds of flying snakes. Very good camouflaged insects, which are sometimes poisonous as well, are giving birds a hard time.
Seventy-meter-high trees, flesheating flowers, glowing mushrooms and many refined colored orchids - it's just a small gift about the many unique kinds which live in this rainforest. Or better, still has, because the rainforest has been chopped down in a rapid speed over the last 30 years. The hunt for the 'green gold' means an ecological disaster of the first order. When chopping continues in this pace for another few years, there is no rainforest left in about a decade. The huge problems which that causes for the climate is getting to be a bigger problem for the world only now. The deforestation also causes big problems for the people who live in those rainforests are also comming out, but they are not seen as a big problem at all, unfortunatwely.

Visit Kalimantan

Kalimantan is split in four provinces: Kalimantan Timur (the eastern part), Kalimantan Tengah (the central part), Kalimantan Selatan (the southern part) and Kalimantan Barat (the western part). The names are abbreviated most of the times, so you will get to see Kaltim, Kalsel, Talteng en Kalbar. In total, they consist of 549.032, or 28 per cent of the entire land mass of Indonesia. Though, only five per cent of the total Indonesian population lives on this island.
The provinces (propinsi-propinsi) are split in districts called kapuaten (24 in total), which are divided in sub-districts called kecamatan (348 in total). The leader of a propinsi is the gubernur, a district is controlled by a bupati and the leader of a sub-district is a camat.
Due to the good infrastructure, developed because of the oil-industry, Kaltim is the best province to visit. This is well-known because sometimes tourists are queueing to see the traditional welcome-dance in Tanjung Isuy. The airport of Balikpapan is one of the busiest of entire Indonesia. The city houses one of the handfull international class hotels in Kalimantan. The Mahakam and the side-rivers are important traffic routes, which connect the inland Dayak villages with the coastal areas. Travelling to Apokayan and to Long Segar and the environment of Kedang Kepala, give a clear impression of the live of the Dayak population. The Kutai Besar reserve provides a chance to see orang-hutans, but the fascilities are not too good.
Kalsel also offers place for visitors. Banjarmasin, the only city on Kalimantan which is worthwhile bringing a visit, has an interesting floating market, and is the starting point for excursions to Loksado Dayak.
Kalteng is least visited by tourists. Palangkaraya, the caital, has decent accomodation; furthermore there are not too much fascilities. One thing you can do in this area is making wonderfull tours upstream. Many Dayak, somewhere else converted to Chrisitanity or Islam, here still practice traditional kaharingan religion. The spectacular burial rytes, which can last several weeks, can be seen, but visit is only allowed for visitors whith a big interest in their culture, and who are willing to adapt to local habits and circumstances. The fairly good reachable Tanjung Puting reserve can be visited to see orang-hutans.
Kalbar and the capital Pontianak are not popular among travellers, partially because the lack of information about this area. Organised tours mainly visited the coastal areas, but slowly they are starting to visit the inlands as well. You can take a plane from Pontianak if you chooce a good seat, but you can also go by boat over the Kapuas river.

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