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Michigan in Borneo?

sunny 28 °C
View Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia 2008 on shinenyc's travel map.

A short flight took me from Suyabaya in Java to Bajarmasin in South Kilimantan (Borneo). Being the largest city in Kilimantan, the third largest island in the world, Bajarmasin is criss crossed by a system of canals inhabited by residents on both sides, with 17 different ethnics. Along the urban developments like many modern cities, these inhabitants had been living for generations along Sungai Martapura and its tributaries. They live on these land for free but have to leave if government take the land for development.

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Daily life such as bathing and shopping involves around this river. You can find river cafes, ministore, mosholla (small mosques) along the canal and children jump in and out of river hitching a ride from cez (motorize canoes) passing by.
Every morning, there is a floating market where their river residents sell their produces and fruits in the traditional way. I met my guide at 5am, had breakfast at the river 'Starbuck' and made our way to the floating market. To my surprise, the presence of me and other local tourists did not seem to bother their traders a bit. It is also much less touristy and more peaceful than the floating market in Bangkok.

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After the floating market, we made our way to Palau Kembang where large tribes of long-tailed macaques congregate and reside close to a a Chinese temple. The dominant tribe stationed close to the pier in the morning where tourists get off and feed them with peanuts. The less dominant tribe come to the pier after the dominant retreat for the day.

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Located an hour out of town, Cempaka's diamond mines are owned by a handful of landowners and managed by a few decently-dressed men patrolling around large holes of muddy water 00105A.jpglocal diggers spend entire day in waist high water filtering wooden baskets of silt hoping to find tiny speck of the precious stones. These diggers are paid Rp 25000 ($2.5-3) per day and shared a tiny portion of the profits if a diamond is sold.

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During the multiple transit from colt (small and packed minibus) to small open trucks, my guide (ex-english teacher), Mukani, told me amazing stories about Australian and Arabic businessmen coming to Bajarmasin for cheap rough diamonds, ended up being cheated or mistrusted by the local people. We talked about health system and economy over mie goreng (fried noodle) at the local market after a long day.

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That night, a very strange thing happened. A cat that look exactly like my long time companion (only with very short tail), Michigan, appeared in the lobby of my hotel just when I was about to head back to the room for the night. Michigan had passed away 20 months ago. I could not help but gave her some affection. When I asked if she'd like to stay in my room, she followed me and we spent a cozy night together, with her never more than two feet from me. The next morning, she waited for me to bring sticky rice with fish. When she saw me packing, she slowly walked outside the room, disappearing from my sight, the same way she came into my life the night before.

Posted by shinenyc 22:58 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking

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