East Kalimantan #1

I love this feeling. The mind is fresh while the heart is full of joy. This is what a great holiday all about. This time, life brought me to Bontang, East Kalimantan. We might know this place because of the 2 big companies, the gas mining “Badak” and the fertiliser factory, “Pupuk Kaltim.” But for my best friend, this is home.

Yeah, you are right. I visited my best friend’s home town, Em. Of course, thats a fiction name. I understand that publishing a travel story in a blog also mean that i publish my traveling partner. With this concept, i respect his/her privacy, and i hope you too. Don’t worry, this won’t change the story though.

She invited all her best friends to come to her home. It turned out that only her boyfriend and i were available for the trip. I know, i might be a potential disruption for those two lovers. In Indonesia, we usually use “mosquito” as a metaphor for this. I mentioned to them that i might be their “mosquito” along the journey. Em’s answer just simply like this, “I already prepared anti mosquito repellent. Meaning, we will be okay having you around.” All i can do was laughing. Merci , Em!

To reach Bontang, you need patience and road endurance. Why? The only airport in East Kalimantan is located in Balikpapan. Please note that this is not the capital city of East Kalimantan, that is Samarinda, a city that lies between Balikpapan and Bontang. So, to reach Bontang, we need to fly from Jakarta to Balikpapan, then drive to Bontang to Samarinda. It was 2 hours flight and 6.5 hours drive.

We stayed with Em’s family during our holiday. Before i met them, i was concerned that i will make them inconvenient or even make them uneasy because i am a stranger. And being solo traveler in past years made me feel bad if i make other people helping me with my personal needs (that i usually taken care of myself). During the time, they welcomed us very very warm. Of course, it was awkward at first, but i think we feel home too in the end.

I was there for a full week, from Saturday to the next Friday. Each day had its unique adventure. On day one, we went to a honey bear conservation centre. It is located between Balikpapan and Samarinda. When i thought about honey bear, i always remembered the “Pooh” instantly. The conservation is located in the middle of conserved rainforest. We can see the “Pooh” from a traditional wooden bridge. It has more or less one meter distance with the another fence as the border of bear conservation. There is no fee to enter this conservation, but we can donate money.

When we arrived in the gate, the keeper told us that we might want to go to the left of the bridge. She just saw two “Pooh” were running and chasing one another. She was right. We found three bears in the left corner of conservation. It was great to feel rainforest environment after all previous months in high-populated Jakarta. That was the first day but i already felt it, back into my element.

We started to feel the Bontang city on the second day. This town is small. There is no fancy shopping centre in here, only Ramayana, if you can categorise it as shopping mall. The town is clean, neat, and NO traffic! Living in Jakarta made me appreciate this city more. We went to Bontang Koala or in local term named Be-Kha (yes, thats how they spell it!). It is the part of city that located near the sea. Its not only in the seashore (its not beach, pals) but also quite far to the sea line. How? They basically built their houses on top of the water. All of them made by wood. This is their place to live, trade, do casual afternoon talks, and also fishery. We tried local food in its traditional town centre and then went to a fishery in the corner of the site. That was a good spot for fishery and a beautiful spot to enjoy sunset.

Third day was a complete island and beach getaway. We went to human-made island, named Beras Basah. To reach there, we rent a mid size boat that enough for 20 people. Beside Em, her boyfriend, and I, there were Em’s family, Em father’s family, and some church friends. Em even joke that we surely be okay, there were two priests in the group. Maybe she was right. The wave was calm and of course the boat didn’t swing too much. What i realise since my landing in Balikpapan, the water in beaches was very clear. I discovered it in this island and also the beach near the Balikpapan airport. I can see what was below the surface. The available attraction is banana boat. This was the first time i tried this “sport.” The downfall was very scary. Mostly its because of my less-skilled swimming capability. That was also the first time i felt the saltiness of ocean water. And, I lost my glasses here. It left me a bit blind on the rest of holiday.  Oh, i almost forgot, Em’s boyfriend and I got “tanned” skin and a bit sunburn. We might played in the water too long. I didn’t realised it until i showered, back in home in Bontang.

Do you want more adventure story? Don’t worry, there will be more in the next days on the next post. Ciao for now! :’)

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