03 Sep - 13 Sep 2013 Singkawang

Republic of Indonesia (CPI = 32/100 and BPI = 7.1/10.0) 
West Kalimantan aka Kalimantan Barat (KalBar)
Jalan Selamat Karman 17
Well-lit and spacious a/c twin room (no. 308) with private bathroom (bak mandi) and clean Asian squat loo, a great communal verandah with unmatched views onto both the Moslems’ brand-new city mosque aka Masjid Raya and the old Chinese main temple aka Vihara Tri Dharma Bumi Raya, including free wifi in the hotel’s lounge, for IDR 800,000.- or US$ 72.50 per week and thereafter IDR 120,000.- or US$ 10.60 per additional day.
Including compulsory daily wake-up calls at 03:45 a.m., agh, darn it, from the city mosque’s very powerful blasters, located only 50 m down the road and 25 m above ground level,
Hopelessly friendly Indonesian receptionist; limited English but excellent mimicking skills. Competent and very co-operative owner/manager.
Beer: 620-ml bottles of chilled Bintang Pilsener (c. 4.7 % alc./vol.) for IDR 23,000.- or US$ 2.05 per large bottle from the friendly Chinese Buddhist Toko Pangan mom-and-pop shop; luke-warm 330-ml cans of Anker Pilsener (c. 4.9 % alc./vol.) for IDR 12,500.- or US$ 1.10 per small can from New Fashion supermarket.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Sinar Khatulistiwa in Singkawang, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:
N 00° 54.57' E 108° 59.31'

Matt: Getting my rough Kalimantanese feet whilst exploring Singkawang’s well laid out city centre with its wide streets that cross at right angles and its great examples of simple and rugged but functional 19th-century CE Hakka shop-house architecture, learning that Singkawang has been built by the Chinese after the gold rush fizzled out at nearby Monterado, the Indonesian abbreviation for Mount Eldorado, in the mid 19th century CE when Chinese miners founded their own republic, Lan Fang Republic, after they had defeated the local Malay sultans, and, since I was obviously the only long-nosed resident in town, becoming the target of hundreds of mercurial, friendly and pushy Indonesians of all races, religions, complexions, ages and professions who approached me non-stop with their resourceful greeting of “Hellooooomisteeeeer-whatisyourname-howareyouuuu!”, giggled from passing scooters, whispered from behind locked toilet doors and sung from the shaky roofs of their shophouses - welcome to Indonesia, a country of 250 million people (FAQ.: “What’s the best of Indonesia?” A.: “The people!” - FAQ.: “What’s the worst of Indonesia?” A.: “The people!”) and Southeast Asia's largest and most rapidly growing economy with serious environmental issues which are often given a lower priority due to weak, under-resourced governance and high poverty levels (Indonesians are about three times poorer than Malaysians, according to my economical benchmarking: a haircut is MYR 8.- or US$ 2.70 in Kuching/Malaysia and only IDR 10.- or US$ 0.90 in Singkawang/Indonesia).

Matt: Examining the friendly tourist office’s +62562631423 official motto of “Singkawang, City of a Thousand (Chinese) Temples” and visiting quite a number of them, small and big, day and night, during prayer times and off-time, meeting Chinese Indonesians of all walks of life, listening to their stories about everyday life in Indonesia, to their aspirations and dreams, …and being reminded of the political, cultural and psychological situation of the ethnic Germans of Romania under the Ceausescu regime in the 1980s CE.

Matt: Penetrating the dirtiest, smelliest, most chaotic, most fascinating and most friendly fresh-produce market which I have ever been to, so far, making friends with merchants of anything and everything and with their customers, and blundering into the most delicious breakfast ever, consisting of a bowl of suckable sea snails, probably collected or even farmed near the sewer outlet, but cooked to perfection in a broth of lemongrass, coconut milk and exotic spices (c. 50 snails for IDR 5,000.- or US$ 0.45 per bowl; washed down with excellent, slightly bitter local Robusta coffee for just IDR 2,000.- or US$ 0.20 per glass).

Matt: Delving into Singkawang’s not-so-hot night-life scene at the Hong Kong Market aka Pasar Hongkong, during daytime, a few nondescript city streets with the odd conspicuously fat rat dashing along, but from late afternoon till dawn, vendor carts, plastic chairs and tables line the street while chefs get busy with their woks, pots and pans and are happy to pour lukewarm Bintangs, Ankers and Guinesses over ice cubes; cheers to all creatures of the night!

Matt: Taking a rickety minibus aka opelet from the bus stop in Singkawang to the village of Pajintan (c. 8 km, ¼ hour, IDR 5,000.- or US$ 0.45), hiking to the summit of the 660-m high Gunung Poteng (3 ¼ hours up, applying my residual field craft from bygone times and following the faded and barely visible red arrows from the waterfall and rock pools to the rocky peak; 1 ¾ hours down back to the village), fighting the Gang of Four As (“Altitude”, “Age”, “Alcohol” and “Alzheimer’s”) en-route through 90 % humidity in this leech-infested, dense dipterocarp rainforest, eventually being rewarded with interesting views of KalBar’s wounded nature and the coastline of the Natuna Sea and sneering at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s romantic metaphor: “Do not follow where the path may lead … go instead where there is no path and leave a trail…”; this frogpondian smartass might never ever have entered any jungle.

Matt: Touring the Sinar Terang ceramics factory +62562632419 (one of the southbound opelets from Singkawang’s Jalan Stasium bus terminal, c. 5 km, ¼ hour, IDR 5,000.- or US$ 0.45 per orang putih) and studying its ancient kiln and traditional potter’s wheel where nobody is running out of time and where domestic pots, flower vases and huge Chinese urns are still being manufactured the same way like thousands of years ago.

Matt: Lazing away the day in the bamboo warung and under the coconut trees at Long Beach aka Pasir Panjang (one of the southbound opelets from Singkawang’s Jalan Stasium bus terminal, c. 15 km, ½ hour, IDR 10,000.- or US$ 0.90 per person), noticing the litter and erosion on this actually quite nice but untended and immensely mobbed yellow-sand beach, thus brooding about the question whether or not I have arrived hundred years too late or thousand years to early, and being pulled out of my sullenness by a rowdy but socially competent and friendly biker gang from Pontianak who serenaded me and introduced me to their potent local firewater (Hokkien: phak ciu; Bahasa Indonesia: arak putih aka cap cuan), a home-distilled, clear rice moonshine (c. 50 % alc./vol.) served in recycled water bottles; have a good trip!

Matt: Discovering the fact that Singkawang is a vegetarian’s heaven and regularly tucking into delicious vegetarian fare, always for under one dollar per generous platter, at (i) Rumah Makan Vegetarian Diet Sehat +62562636266 with its popular and clean Chinese vegetarian buffet, (ii) Rumah Makan Vegetarian Maitreya +62562635212 with particularly delicious food and a wonderful service team, (iii) Rumah Makan Vegetarian Berkah Kita +62562633109 with a sumptuous buffet for lunch and an xtra-long menu for their a-la-carte dinners but with a proselytising Buddhist owner, (iv) Pondok Vegetarian Bahagia +6281253283813 which serves the vegetarian versions of all the standard Indonesian nasi goreng and bihun/mee/kuehteow goreng combinations and permutations, and, as a doable compromise, (v) the veggie sections of the countless Rumah Makan Padang which offer both veggie dishes (e.g. daun ubi tumbuk, sambal balado, gulai jariang) and a great variety of the famous and spicy West Kalimantan bean curd aka tofu/tohu.

Matt: Arming myself with tried and true chemical weapons for the upcoming trips into Kalimantan’s hinterland, such as (i) a 240-ml bottle of Dettol antiseptic for IDR 12,500.- or US$ 1.10; (ii) a 5-grams tube of Bactroban antibiotic (Mupirocin 2 % w/w) for IDR 44,000.- or US$ 3.90; (iii) a few 50-ml containers of Autan Refresh repellent lotion (DEET 25 %) for IDR 7,100.- or US$ 0.65 per container; (iv) a box with 10-packs of Baygon anti-mosquito coils (d-aletrin 0.3 %) for IDR 3,000.- or US$ 0.25 per pack and (v) undisclosed quantities of arak-putih hooch (c. 40 % alc./vol.), free of charge, and leaving the insurance industry high and dry since this shopping list is much cheaper than any medical insurance!

Matt: Practising my intercultural negotiation skills, convincing the dewy-eyed Muslim agent in charge that I am not a terrorist from the United States, eventually receiving the key to the tall northern minaret of Singkawang’s Masjid Raya, climbing the shaky, vertical ladders up to the twin-towers' loudspeaker level, resisting the temptation to cut the sound system’s connecting wires (white or black?) and being amply rewarded with a stunning 360-degree view over Singkawang’s corrugated iron roofs and green mountains in the background.

Matt: Taking a northbound bus from Singkawang’s Jalan Stasium bus terminal to my next stopover, Pemangkat Beach (25 km, 1 ½ hour, IDR 10,000.- or US$ 0.90 per person), a sleepy fishing village during the week and a popular weekend destination for city slickers from Pontianak, Singkawang and Sambas.

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
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From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to rely on rules;
It’s good to trust in human nature.
Keep your bearings!