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Published: August 1st 2013
Original Equator Monument First Constructed in 1928
Building surrounding the monument was only fairly recently constructed and finished in 1991.
I've been saving that blog title for weeks ever since I decided to start my second round of this year's Indonesian travels in the West Kalimantan capital of Pontianak. Pontianak has the distinction of being one of the few cities in the world smack dab on the equator. The airport, however, is well south of the city and hence below the equator. There are many ways to cross from Malaysian Borneo to the Indonesian side but I opted for yet another flight, this time from Kuching, bringing July's monthly total to 8. Flying has become ridiculously cheap in Southeast Asia, often cheaper then the bus ride between the same destinations.
After spending 30 days in Malaysian Boreno, it is safe to say that I'm extremely glad that I undertook Borneo's principle tourist activities back in 2006, namely climbing Mt. Kinabalu and diving at Sipidan. The prices to visit Borneo's top 2 destinations, in addition to many others, have gone through the roof in the last 7 years while food, transport (especially the aforementioned flying), accommodation, excellent coffee, and even frosty tinnies of Tsingtao beer are all still very economically priced.
While in Pontianak I've noticed a couple of major
Simultaneoulsy Standing On Both Halves of Planet Earth
In Indonesian Tugu Khatulistiwa translates to Equator Monument. Official looking geographical marker on the floor in front of me.
differences from other big Indonesian cities. First is that the angkot
network (minivans serving as city buses) is not nearly so developed nor are there many becaks
(motorcycle or, more commonly, bicycle taxis) meaning there is a lot of ground pounding here which is a chore under the brutal equatorial sun and heat. The other difference, far more pleasant than the excessive walking, is that many less men are smokers here which is seriously shocking as smoking is the national pastime in most of Indonesia. Cigarettes are dirt cheap, a bit more than $1 a pack, and heavily promoted with omnipresent banner advertising and scantily clad women regularly dishing out ciggies in shopping malls. Not so much here, which is nice. One constant in all of Indonesia are the endless greetings of "Hello Mister!"
$US ≈ 10,000 Indonesian rupiah (Rp) Accommodation and food
I had to tell the taxi driver something at the airport so chose Hotel Patria because it was the first one listed in my guidebook. That turned out to be a bad choice but I did not have my bearings in the city and just wanted to drop the bag somewhere. The hotel was really
Earth's new and improved dividing line demarcation.
shabby but cheap, 85,000 Rp for a room with a fan and bathroom containing a cold water tap (cold being a relative description) and a dual purpose bucket: showering and for flushing the toilet. I'm all for efficiency in most instances but taking care of business was too much darn work. Before checking out the equator monument I stopped by the city hall where there was a quasi-tourist office who suggested another hotel. For my last 2 nights in Pontianak, I checked in to Hotel Borneo this morning where a compact, clean single with AC, cable TV, a flush toilet, and proper hot water shower (it never ceases to baffle me why I prefer a hot water shower in the tropics) is running me 125,000 Rp. There is fast WiFi in the lobby and a light breakfast of coffee and toast. The major drawback is that it's a bit far from the center which is very noisy so I'll appreciate the quietude here. There is a great warung
across from Mall Matahari (yes, same name as the infamous WWI spy whose name means "eye of the day," the Indonesian expression for the sun) where grilled chicken or fish with rice,
Cruising the Muddy Sungai Kapuas
Have to cross Indonesia's longest river (1143 km) to get to the monument.
tofu, tempeh, salad, and sambal
(fiery Indonesian chili paste) is 19,000 or 25,000 Rp. Add another 10,000 Rp for a refreshing glass of ais jeruk
(ice cold fresh-squeezed mandarin OJ). Coffee shops abound including a couple with WiFi at the mall where a macchiato
is 12,000 Rp. Transport
The only airport transport is a taxi which I negotiated for 80,000 Rp to the center. In much of Indonesia, it is possible to walk from the small airports, such as PNK, to the main road in a few minutes and catch a bus or angkot
to the city center but here there did not appear to be be any sort of public transport running along the main road by the airport. To get to the Equator Monument, catch the Kapuas River ferry to Siantan for 1,400 Rp then an angkot
from the adjacent terminal for 3,000 Rp. No entrance fee for the monument.
Today I bought a bus ticket to Sintang with Allegra for 135,000 Rp on what should be a 10 hour night trip with service approaching eksekutif
level, i.e., arctic AC and a toilet. Interestingly, today was the first incidence of being adversely affected by Ramadan. Towards the end of the 30 day period (last day August 7), many Indonesians are traveling, usually back to their villages, making transport very crowded. I first went to Boreno Trans to get the bus ticket for Saturday since 2 days advance purchase is almost always enough but the bus was already sold out. The basic plan from Sintang is to head to the northern fringes of Bukit Baka-Bukit Raya National Park and try to find a ride to the other side of the park. Then I'll hopefully be able to find a guide to trek to the summit of Bukit Raya which is the highest peak in Kalimantan after which there are purportedly boats to Central Kalimantan. It could be an epic adventure. However, I'm not terribly optimistic about the odds of completing this cross-Borneo trip and fully expect to be back in Pontianak about a week after I leave.
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