Goodbye Kalimantan and Indonesia

Kalimantan’s low-key and untouched regions offer snaking rivers, remote jungle, and stunning coastal swamps, but it’s time to say goodbye to Kalimantan and Indonesia!

One last time in Pontianak and waiting for the flight out, the day has finally arrived to leave Kalimantan and Indonesia for good.

After 4 months of intrepid and venturous travel in 1998, I have to say it will be good to return home to Australia and no more badgering from touts.

Although, I’ll miss the island-hopping from Singapore, Batam, Sumatra, Siberut and back to Sumatra, then Java, Bali, Lombok and back to Singapore – before heading to Kalimantan and returning to Singapore once again.

four months in Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia
4 months travelling in Indonesia

Travelling through Kalimantan for a month, rarely did we meet foreigners so learning a little Bahasa Indonesia for Borneo is crucial.

Sungai Kapuas, Sintang, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, SE Asia
Sungai Kapuas

Pontianak airport scam

A quick race around Pontianak city just one more time then head out to the airport to catch a flight to Batam. But of course, always time for one last scam.

After checking in our baggage at the airport, the counter staff asks for more money for the pre-paid flight. Apparently, prices are increasing on the 1st of October and come into effect on the 7th. But, today is only the 28th of September.

Pontianak to Batam, Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, SE Asia

Purchasing our tickets a few days ago, no one advised of any price increase, but regardless, it’s not yet October.

Flatly refusing this absurd request and asking for the supervisor, we’re told to return to the city to speak with the General Manager. With only an hour before the flight and my insisting to phone the General Manager, over the phone the GM asks if paying the extra for the tickets in Singapore Dollars or Indonesian Rupiah. Followed by asking whether we can afford to pay! With a resounding no, the GM then asks that I write a letter addressed to him explaining that I can’t afford to pay for the increase. How strange and how not to run an airline but, we are in Indonesia – the land of corruption. Motioned back to the check-in counter, the guy then asked for copies of our passports, taking another 15 minutes and leaving only 20-minutes until take-off. So, we run the gauntlet against time and buy some real (imported) gemstones, before boarding the flight.

Batam again

Just over an hour’s flight later and the Pontianak airport scam is a remnant of a bad dream, hopefully…

Returning to the Asia Dana Hotel but with a much better room this time away from prying eyes and toilet paper stuffed in keyholes, check out Batam once last time for some perfume bargain hunting.

Eaten alive!

Last night was the worse night yet in the 4-month Indonesian island-hopping sojourn.

Waking up at around midnight to being under attack and mauled by mosquitoes, turn on the light only to discover bed bugs crawling all over the mattress and our bodies!

Phoning reception, the manager enters our room armed with a massive can of poisonous spray – obviously, he knows the drill. Then, moves us to an even dirtier room, at least this one is sans bed bugs. Who can sleep after being eaten alive by bed bugs and feeling as though they’re still crawling all over your body sucking at your flesh for blood? The humidity makes the itchiness worse and massive welts cover my skin, which looks as though I have the plague – embarrassing – more Antihistamines.

Batam to Singapore

The horrible night gives way to a morning argument with the hotel’s manager because he expects full payment for the room. Leaving in disgust, we head for the Batam Centre Point International Ferry Terminal, but not before the thought of haggling with yet another Indonesian taxi driver. Surprisingly, the driver is decent for once and identifies as being Batak (Austronesian ethnic group) – maybe this group accepts foreigners?

Batam to Singapore, Indonesia, SE Asia

Breezing through Customs and Immigration, board the clean carpeted ferry. Sinking into comfortable seats, finally, we’re bound for Singapore and civilisation.

The 70-minute journey is a pleasant trip without any issues, which is a relief.

Where to sleep

Heading for our old haunt in Bencoolen Street, Central Singapore and the basic Peony Mansion set of hostels – all similar in price and offerings, it’s only a matter of picking one for a couple of nights. Once the European quarter during colonial times in Singapore, in 1998, loads of hostels and cheaper accommodation can be found along this street.

Shopping in Singapore

Always time for one last shop in Singapore and this time it’s for a 12-volt sound system and TV for our home (sailboat) in Brisbane.

It doesn’t take long before discovering how crooked Singaporean salesmen are and after two days of looking, decide to buy back in Australia. Salesmen like customers to buy on the spot. If you return to buy in an hour after shopping around, they increase the price by SGD$100 for the same item. Then, argue that a price wasn’t mentioned an hour ago – frustrating, maddening, and stressful but all salesmen have this exact same strategy.

Little India, Singapore, SE Asia
Flowers in Little India

Decide to give up on shopping and instead, catch up with friends that are working and living in Singapore in a luxurious company-paid apartment, nothing like the accommodation we endured for the past 4 months in Indonesia.

Singpoare > Sydney > Brisbane

Singapore to Sydney to Brisbane, SE Asia to Australia

Another sleepless night, one of many during the last four months. But, this time it’s sleepless on the flight until finally arriving in bustling Sydney.

Made to wait on the tarmac for half an hour, due to construction work, our bags take another half-hour to be offloaded.

With so many strange things to declare, Customs decide it requires two officers to go through our bags, taking another half-hour. Kindly picked up from Sydney airport, everything looks so clean and tidy on the drive north-west of Sydney. No potholes and only a smooth road – bliss. This is home for a few days before driving up to Brisbane and our home Naiad (sailboat).


In Brisbane for only a couple of weeks, it feels strange to be back and as though we never left Australia. How quickly and easily it is to settle back into the groove of everyday life. Although, after having eight rolls of negatives badly scratched during processing by Statewide Photos, my wallet stolen with everything in it, losing a solar panel and stainless lid from our BBQ in a bad storm, the week hasn’t been too kind. I’m starting to think twice about why we returned, although it’s great having the creature comforts of our own home once more.

sailing boat, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, Australia, Oceania

The Indonesian Archipelago is so much cheaper to live in than Australia but the corruption is what stifles the country and makes living there so tricky. As is the extreme poverty in many areas and the divisive disparity of wealth that only breeds contempt and unrest in the country. This makes you realise how very spoilt and lucky we are in Australia – wouldn’t live anywhere else…well not forever anyway. πŸ˜‰

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53 responses to “Goodbye Kalimantan and Indonesia”

  1. gillmorris Avatar

    Eeek bed bugs – I had the same in Vientiane and had horrible welts too! Yay back to civilisation. Good adventures and memories but always good to be back on home turf (for a bit anyway!) x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yuk! I was lucky in Vientiane both times and no bed bugs – horrible things!
      Indeed it is Gill, until the next adventure… πŸ™‚ x

  2. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Quite a few months of adventure. I like Singapore. Did I tell you my great uncle was Chief of Special Branch in Singapore before the war? (I probably have)

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly was adventurous.
      Singapore is a great clean respite from the rest of SE Asia, or at least it was back then…
      I lose track of all of your incredible and colourful relatives!

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I personally think Singapore is a model of development. But many might disagree.
        LOL. I di too. That Uncle is the reason there is a street to our name in Singapore…

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It can be quite clinical but then there’s the darker side of fines and caning. Check out the photo halfway down this Singapore post.
        That’s a great story – your family is so famous! πŸ˜‰

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I need to get together with one of my cousins. He just spent about ten years in Singapore. Hopping to you post.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        That would be an interesting catch-up I’m sure.
        Thank you!

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I had seen and liked it already. I’d forgotten the public message.
        Didn’t go to the Raffles, it was in a major overhaul.
        Selamat malam kawanku.

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you! You’re my biggest supporter. πŸ™‚
        It’s super expensive to stay there…I looked it up and out of my league for a night!
        Selamat pagi/malam dimanapun anda berada

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I’m sure it is. Here a hotel night can cost 800 to 1200 Euros. 1 Euro = 1 US$…

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Do you mean in Paris? My eyes are watering!

      9. equinoxio21 Avatar

        It is crazy. (Yes in Paris)

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thinking next holiday, take the less-traversed route and you may enjoy it more… πŸ˜‰
        Hope it was a good break and catch-up regardless of the hoards.

      11. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Paris is a must for me. Getting back in touch with family and friends. And I do try to avoid some of the crowded places. But the river with its bookboxes is one of my favourite places so I have to make do…
        We’re also thinking of changing our dates next year. September in lieu of July-August…

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Sounds great!
        I wouldn’t visit France or Italy in July-August. Especially August for Italy, as a lot closes down for the month and everyone heads to the sea. Everything seems more expensive during August, of course, and it’s the hottest month. That’s my travel agent hat on for you! πŸ˜‰

      13. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I know. But my wife’s vacations are always three first weeks of July, and I stick around a few more weeks. She might retire end of year. Not sure yet. If she does, then we will have more lee away in timing

      14. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ah right, that’s not ideal. Mention gently it’s time to retire and enjoy life. πŸ˜‰
        What does your wife do?

      15. equinoxio21 Avatar

        She is planning to retire end of the year, but it’s a bit complicated.
        She’s a chemist, does fundamental research at the U.

      16. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Maybe start with cutting back to a couple of days per week for a gradual transition.

      17. equinoxio21 Avatar

        No, it’s more the retirement system that has two options, one much better than the other, but it’s only open a few. We’ll see when it comes.

      18. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’m sure it will work out and if it’s only until the end of the year, then not long to wait…

      19. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Dimanapun anda berada = wherever you are?

      20. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’m impressed! I’ve forgotten so much of my Bahasa Indonesian but I’m sure I could pick it up if I spent some time there again… πŸ˜‰

      21. equinoxio21 Avatar

        LOL. Don’t be. I just checked it word by word… And tried to commit to memory…
        Selamat pagi Kawanku…

      22. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Selamat pagi orang bijak…;-)

      23. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Had to look up bijak. It comes out as “wise guy”. LOL.

      24. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha not quite – wise one!

      25. equinoxio21 Avatar


      26. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Oh. Another thing: what happened to your planned photo expo?

      27. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Full-time work is absorbing all of my time, as is renovating and writing for Image Earth Travel.
        I really want to hold another one but there’s still a lot to organise. πŸ™

      28. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Full-time work means full-time money πŸ’° πŸ’΅ πŸ’· LOL
        So the expo is on hold. It will come.

      29. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed it does but also means 45-plus hours per week and very tired by Friday afternoon.
        I hope to have enough to squeeze it in but think I need to stop work as there’s just not enough hours in the day.

      30. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Your job is very intense right? Writing all day? Technical doc was it?

      31. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes and yes but I also look after 4 Tech Authors so you know the amount of time that also takes… πŸ˜‰

      32. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Supervision takes time. Depends on how much time you’ve had to train the people and how well they respond.

      33. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        …and if you’ve inherited a couple, which I did but both are gone now so onwards and upwards. πŸ˜‰
        Also, attitude and drive are important but in my line of work, especially attention to detail.

      34. equinoxio21 Avatar

        “inherited” is often bad… And I can imagine detail is critical…

      35. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, it was…very crucial. When I see spelling and grammar errors in an applicant’s CV, they don’t even make the short-list.

      36. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I agree. If they can’t even use spell check, how can you expect them to be rigorous in tech detail.

      37. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Exactly and if they’re not sure about the grammar, then use a grammar check but both are a worry.

      38. equinoxio21 Avatar

        True. I must I am glad I don’t have to hire people “no more”. It is so hard to find good people… (Now some of the very good people I did hire, I’m still in touch with…) Cheers

      39. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Totally agree, it is really hard to find good people with the skills and right attitude. IT seems as though some want to do as little as possible but get paid as much as possible.
        Really cool that you’re still in touch with people you hired – doesn’t happen often.

      40. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Or maybe that’s a global tendency? “Less for more”?
        Yeah. Some I’ve know for 20 years. We stay in touch.

      41. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Not sure as we ponder the ways of today’s globe…
        I’m the same and I really like that you can remain friends with work colleagues.

  3. Carolyn Avatar

    How long was I in Sudan…too long! It was a special kind of ordeal for lots of reasons but I am very glad to have had the experience. It was two weeks on the “road” (often non existent) another four days just being messed about by the authorities (them again). I went to Sydney three times I think. Melbourne (one day. We were in a ship..the Wilhelm has its own story nothing to do with me) Also Cairns once by choice to get on a ship only it couldn’t dock because of a strike, ho hum, more drama. Latterly I flew to Cairns from Seattle to “rescue” Dad and people were so very kind. I have always been grateful. My childhood friend as far as I know still lives in Sydney but she is not a communicator and we lost touch.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, being messed about by authorities seems to be the norm regardless of the country.
      Great story and experience.
      What a shame you’ve lost contact. Have you tried connecting via one of the social media platforms?

  4. Stella, oh, Stella Avatar

    I think I could put up with most of it, except the bed bugs. I am not sure that I understand that salespeople’s strategy, they must lose business with that.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Stella
      Exactly! I can put up with almost anything while travelling but draw the line at bed bugs, also because I get a bad reaction to these nasty bugs. I’ve experienced these more than once now and once is too many!
      I’m not sure why the strategy and can only think that want people to buy on impulse or maybe they’re just trying to rip off tourists.
      Thanks for your comment. πŸ™‚

  5. Yetismith Avatar

    Glad to hear you made it out before the visa expired. You had such fun at the airport. I’ve had a few versions of the same…all part of the fun. I was spared bed bugs though I did get severe sand flea bites in Sudan that kept me remembering the whole saga for weeks. I won’t call it miserable as I felt it taught me a few things! Shall always have good feelings for Australia. I had a very good childhood friend who was from there but I also loved the visits I had. Thanks for the exciting tour of Borneo!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Carolyn
      Looking back at it now, we seemed to have loads of ‘fun’ everywhere we went. πŸ˜‰
      Which areas of Australia have you visited? I’ve seen more of the world than my own country.
      How long were you in Sudan?
      Thank you for following my Indonesian series and for all of your wonderful comments.

      1. Yetismith Avatar

        Not sure my answer took…security issues. Anyway We were in a Bedford truck travelling from Juba back to Khartoum. 2 weeks, plus four days being messed about by the authorities. My first camping trip. Don’t do it in Sudan! But great lessons learned about myself. I was in Sydney 3 times, Melbourne one day aboard the ms Wilhelm Ruys (late the Achille Lauro) . Cairns first time to board a ship but it couldn’t dock due to a strike. Another saga. (We called ourselves Disaster Tours) Again in 2001 to “rescue” my dad. God bless the people who helped me. It was dire. I will always have warm feelings for Australia.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hi Carolyn
        Yes, it did but this comment is just as good and slightly different so I’m leaving it…;-)
        Camping in Sudan sounds exciting but not luxurious – not like glamping then?
        Ha, ha, “Disaster Tours” – bet it wasn’t funny at the time. Hope you were able to rescue your dad. It’s always humbling when you meet such helpful and hospitable people – they’re the ones that really make your experience memorable. Australia is a great place to live but in the last 10 years, it has become costly, which takes its toll on many.

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