Papua - Ambon - Sulawesi - Kalimantan - Sumatra
October - November 1987
Part III - Kalimantan

If you want to skip directly to the other parts, then just hit
Part I   - Papua or
Part II - Ambon/Sulawesi or
Part IV - Sumatra.


Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of Borneo. My first destination was Balikpapan, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan. In order to get there by plane I had to fly from Manado via Surabaya on Java, where I just stayed one night. Why go to Kalimantan? I wanted to visit the Dayaks and assumed that they are still living like their ancestors (and more so than their relatives in Sabah, in the northern part of Borneo), except for their head hunting, of course. But I was a little bit disappointed. You will see for yourself.


On the plane I met Dennis. He really was not the menace, but a very kind bachelor who has been living in Balikpapan for a couple of years and he offered to show me around. He was hired by an Indonesian Oil Company as a freelance oil drilling platform specialist worth 5 grand (5000 USD) a month. The Indonesian government can afford it, because they make much much more, but not necessarily for the benefit of the people living there. I didn't take any benefits and didn't stay in Dennis' house but for 25 USD in the
Hotel Bahtera
Jalan A. Yani RT 51 No 2
Indonesia, after they became independent, has taken over this land the same as they did with Papua like "what belonged to the Dutch West Indies before, belongs to us now". They even tried to push back the indigenous people, the Dayaks, by transmigrating their own people from Java to Kalimantan. The Dayaks, however, fought back several times in the years 1997 to 2001 killing hundreds of the Javanese until the transmigration program was suspended and even thousands of Javanese were evacuated (ok, that happened all after I was there).

Remark: The photos on the right side may not be correctly adjusted if you use Mozilla Firefox or Chrome. I propose to use the Explorer of Microsoft instead.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

The oil refinery makes real good money but not for the slum dwellers at the sea
The foreigners working there and their families have all the same amenities as in their home countries, even better: luxurious sub-divisions and lush resorts to swim, sail and relax.
The foreigners working there live very well with their families in a resort at the sea
Dennis, whom I met on the plane was driving me to every interesting place
It just happened that there was some kind of a procession or parade coming up in town. It was nice to look at all the nice Javanese costumes. But there is always good and bad. Also this Javanese story seemed to have a devil.
A festival was going on in town with a parade just compiling
With beautiful Javanese costumes but didn't make out the occasion
Is this supposed to be a tiger and is he charming a snake?
This is a devil scaring me but this lady only saddens me
But I am here for the Dayaks and not the Javanese. Where have all the Dayaks gone? Have the last ones around here been assimilated or just buried in the old cemetery.
This looks like a cemetery with many nicely carved statues
So I had to search for them, the Dayaks, by going deeper into the jungle. No Camel Trophy 4WD adventure tour, though, but just going on the Mahakam river by boat for around 24 hours, from Samarinda to Tanjung Isuy.
Leaving with a boat from the city of Samarinda into the Borneo jungle all along the Mahakam river
And sleeping all night beside pineapples traveling together with many other passengers
Who are used to this only kind of a ride while switching into the final boat, I met my "guide"
But also here around the big lakes right in the middle of East Kalimantan I only saw Javanese and their settlements with even a mosque already. No Dayaks, who have their own religious belief, and no Dayak longhouses along the lake. What a disappointment.
Huge lake area invaded by Javanese and settled down in floating houses
and built villages at the shore and a mosque for their religion
I settled down in one guesthouse in a small village at the lake recommended by my new Javanese "guide" I met on the last boat. I asked him where and how I can meet the Dayaks.
Where have all the Dayaks gone
He recommended another guy with a motorbike to drive me around to search for the Dayaks. We went crisscross like on a motocross rally through the rain forest, or whatever was left of it: stumps of cut-off trees, wood burned to ashes. And where are the Dayaks? Finally we reached a longhouse. But what a disappointment again. The longhouses we found were deserted and slowly decaying. No Dayaks living in there anymore.
Is this the last Dayak here around with some decaying longhouses
You can see the old workman-ship and their skills in carving statues
Only their ghosts in form of their nicely carved statues are scattered all around. Some day they will also have disappeared and will show up in some antique stores and replicated for some souvenir shops.
You still see many around in the wood
and still not so old they look
some are even colorful painted standing between grave signs
Dayak, Dayak, where are you hiding? Where did you go? We were still searching around. I told my "guide" I want to see living Dayaks. My "guide" didn't know of any, only of more deserted longhouses.
Still abandoned houses wherever you look
But then all of a sudden we came to a brand-new longhouse. Did the Dayaks became rich and are building fancy new ones now? But also here, that pretty nice longhouse was deserted, or still empty. But who is going to settle down here? And then I almost couldn't believe it. This was supposed to become a hotel. For whom? Package tours advertising Dayak folklore (with Dayak actors) and eco-tourism (with the rainforest chopped down)?
Oh wonder, what do I see here all of a sudden a brand-new longhouse in the wilderness
Looks like a Hilton Kalimantan to lure tourists into Dayak Land
But there are only wooden statues No tourists, and most Dayaks gone
And finally, oh wonder, I found my Dayaks. An old woman with "diamond" earrings within the long stretched ear lobes, Dayak style. So her son was supposed to be a Dayak too. But I did not expect the first Dayaks to meet in Kalimantan only to sell souvenirs to me.
But at least a new souvenir shop managed by a Dayak mother and son
I may have probably still found some real traditional old Dayak villages by going deeper into the interior of Borneo (if I would have had more time), but they also may have disappeared by now.

Ok, that was Kalimantan, though only a small part of it.

There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

If you want to skip now to the other parts, then just hit
Part I   - Papua or
Part III - Ambon/Sulawesi or
Part IV - Sumatra.

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