Lingering in Banjarmasin, Kalimantan

After some gold rush fever in Martapura, it’s back to Banjarmasin in Kalimanta’s southeast, to linger a little longer in this bustling city.

Time is running out with only 4 or 5 days left in Kalimantan…

…so cramming as much as possible before returning again to Pontianak in Kalimantan’s western region.

West Kalimantan, Indonesia, SE Asia
Kalimantan lingering

Stuck in Banjarmasin

Banjarmasin, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia

Not much luck on returning to Banjarmasin. Buses and Opelets are on strike as part of the demonstrations.

Not sure whether the demonstrations are because of the collapse of the 33-year-old New Order of the Suharto government earlier this year in May, or for another cause.

Whatever the reason, the past 4 months have been plagued with cancellations, major disruptions, and much uncertainty. Although not a great time to travel in Indonesia in 1998, experiencing this country by island-hopping has been amazing.

Spending most of today traipsing around shops trying to get the gems bought from Martapura set into a bracelet, this jewellery will take ten days to make. Also learn that some of the gems from Martapura are “Alexanders” – synthetic (glass) and not worth setting.

Martapura gold mine, Banjarmasin, Kalimantan, Borneo. Indonesia. SE Asia
Panners at Cempaka gold mine

Giving up on the jewellery idea as we leave Banjarmasin in five days, head for the market instead.

Cages – a tragic but local fascination

Just over a kilometre from the Borneo Homestay, wandering around another section of the Jalan Pasar Baru market, we stumble across rows and rows of cages filled with wild animals in captivity. It seems as though locals need to own and cage everything – deplorable and distressing.

Borneo Homestay to Jalan Pasar Baru, Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia

Walking past the caged baby eagle, baby monkey (newly born), snakes, parrots, and birds, their sorrowful eyes pierce any passerby. All the captive wildlife looks terribly sick.

Incredibly, anything wild has to be owned, caged, and sold.

While visiting Kalimantan but also other parts of Indonesia over the past 4 months, I’ve seen tiny squirrels in puny cages, baby Orangutans, and all types of baby monkeys in cages or squashed into cardboard shoe boxes – probably all endangered species.

Shocking to see, I feel like going along and opening all the cages and freeing all the animals and birds, but I’m sure I would be arrested. Or worse, have a riot on my hands with locals. The continual logging in Indonesia in 1998, forced wildlife to become displaced and vulnerable to capture – doubt this has changed over the decades.


In another small isolated village where all the jungle and forests were being relentlessly cleared, walking through the roadside market, a shoebox was shoved into my face then hands. Having no idea of its contents, I opened the box. The tiniest fluffiest white baby monkey popped its little head out. Big sad eyes stared mournfully back at me – I have never seen such a rare monkey and probably never will again. No doubt, another endangered species. Wanting to buy the monkey to release it back into the jungle, looking around, there was barely any jungle left. The monkey would have been recaptured and resold. Unable to return to Australia with a monkey, for me, this was a real dilemma and had to leave the monkey behind. Heart-wrenching. People will sell anything, whether to genuinely feed their family or just for the sake of making money from exploitation.

Exploring more of Banjarmasin

Take a rustic Klotok (traditional river boat) for the afternoon to explore a little more of Banjarmasin along the busy Barito River.

Bridge on Sungai Borito, Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia
Sungai Barito – construction with bamboo supports

Life along the riverway is always fascinating albeit normal for locals. Each time we pass someone along the way, they wave, especially the children – waving until their arms are about to fall off – very sweet. Locals emerge from their small corrugated iron and wooden shanties, greeting us with warm smiles.

Sungai Barito, Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia

Bound for Pulau Kaget Nature Reserve, a four-hour return trip for the 12-kilometres downstream from Banjarmasin – settle into the hard unforgiving timber seats.

Banjarmasin, Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia
River ferry

Pass huge plywood mills, built apparently after a total ban on log exports in the late 1980s. Many of the massive logs in the mills must be hundreds of years old – tragic.

Pulau Kaget Nature Reserve

A delta island that was formed by the sediment of mud, which grew from the riverbed Pulau Kaget (Kaget Island), is intriguing if not mysterious. Almost all of the wetland reserve’s trees are dead and dried out – very strange. The whole area contains rice and vegetable crops, so not sure how this island can be called a reserve.

The Proboscis Monkey – famous for its large belly and long red nose – is what we came to the reserve to see, Sadly, these primates are extremely aloof, which is probably a good thing, otherwise, they would be poached and sold.

Pulau Kaget Wetland Reserve, Banjarmasin, Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia
Pulau Kaget Nature Reserve

A photo of these monkeys at the reserve was not to be as they are much too shy and scared of humans…unlike the long-tailed Macaque monkey on the previous boat trip down the Barito.

Long-tailed Macaque, Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia
Brash Long-tailed Macaque

After circumnavigating the island, decide to head back as huge black clouds form before torrential rain pours down – luckily, the driver has raincoats.

Clouds give way to scorching sun and without any shelter on the Klotok, only our sodden hats and a sarong shield us from baking.

Pasar Terapung Muara Kuin, Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia
Mobile shop

Two solemn masts of a sunken timber Pinisi boat jut precariously out of the murky water with inquisitive police checking out the area – obviously hit something and sank. Boats, cranes, or other, everything that sinks in this river is left in the river. Nothing is cleaned up, ever.

For those that haven’t seen a traditional Pinisi boat or read my previous posts, this photo helps…

Pinisi boat, Kalimantan, Indonesia, SE Asia
Huge timber Pinisi boats

Erau Festiva in Tengarrong

Since returning from the Cempaka gold and diamond mine in Martapura it feels as though we’re just wasting time.

Wanting to head northeast to spend several days at the Erau Festiva in Tengarrong – some 600 kilometres from Banjarmasin – discover the festival is cancelled this September due to the ‘crisis, crisis’. This famous festival includes fabulous art and sport (agility) performances, traditional Dayak tribal ceremonies, and sometimes, Malay art is on display.

Leaving Banjarmasin again

Really starting to get bogged down in Banjarmasin, so venture to the airport and manage to book an early flight out for tomorrow, bound for Pontianak. But, not before bargaining hard at the airport for some gorgeous Mutiara pearls…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

4 responses to “Lingering in Banjarmasin, Kalimantan”

  1. gillmorris Avatar

    Another great post Nilla. Did you ever visit Chatuchak market in Bangkok? That had a whole ‘pet’ section with all manner of poor, sick, roasting hot, animals and birds.. I had to get out in the end as the sight was too much.. Also in Thailand, you can release turtles and birds for good luck only for the poor things to be recaptured for the next tourist – so sad! Hope you are well and have a lovely weekend 🙂 xx

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Gill
      Yes, I’ve visited Chatuchak a couple of times over the decades but thankfully, not the area in the market that you mention. I’m sure I’d have to walk out.
      Sadly, Thailand (and SE Asia) has been all about making money on animals, but hope that this mindset is changing albeit slowly. Indonesia in 1998 was awful for this, especially in the markets.
      All going well here in The Land of Oz and hope you have a great weekend! 🙂
      Nilla x

  2. Yetismith Avatar

    What I remember of Indonesia in the 80’s is vast overpopulation. Back then people were being offer land in Irian Jaya and many were transmigrating but to a place vastly different in topography not to mention culturally. It was a devastatingly sad story, just another of so many similar ones around the globe. Our ship stopped one afternoon at Banda Naira and I remember the adorable school boys in their cute uniforms laughing and smiling at us. Beautiful children but so many of them. Mercifully I did ot see animals in cages there although I have seen them elsewhere. The hardest part of living in Asia as a child was witnessing the abuse of animals. We did, however go to the orangutan preserve at Sepilok. I think I mentioned it before, I still say that the softest kiss I ever got was from an orang juvenile. Maybe he liked my ancient BOAC t-shirt! I have been loving your Borneo posts.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Wow, what a story Carolyn!

      Irian Jaya is so culturally different. I haven’t visited but have read much on this region as decades ago, we were thinking of sailing to Papua.

      It was very humbling travelling through Indonesia, especially Kalimantan as it was so isolated and under-developed. I’m sure things have definitely changed over the decades and despair that most of the jungle and forests have gone. The abuse and cruelty of animals is the hardest thing for me to see when travelling through Asia and I know exactly what you mean.

      Ha, ha, I’ve never had a kiss from an Orangutan so can’t say that I can comment but as they are gentle creatures (unlike some humans), then I can imagine this soft kiss.
      Think I only have one more post to write and then, I’m not sure what country I’m going to start digitising – too many travel journals.

      Take care

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