26 Sep - 04 Oct 2013 Sintang

Republic of Indonesia (CPI = 32/100 and BPI = 7.1/10.0) 
West Kalimantan aka Kalimantan Barat (KalBar)
Jalan Mt. Haryono 30
Penginapan Laksamana +6256521734
Clean standard double room (no. I) with fan, private Western bathroom and spacious terrace for IDR 100,000.- or US$ 8.70 per night. Lockable communal fridge for safekeeping and cooling one’s beers. Efficient laundry service from the hotel ladies for IDR 20,000.- or US$ 1.75 per load (clean and dry).
Friendly Dayak staff; limited English.
Beer: 620-ml bottles of ice-cold Bali Hai Premium Lager Beer (5.0 % alc./vol.) for IDR 19,000.- or US$ 1.65 per large bottle from the ubercompetent and friendly Chinese Indonesian Toko Asia Mitra Supermarket in Sungai Durian (Chinatown).

Click below for an interactive road map of the Losmen Laksamana in Sintang, which we would recommend, and for directions:
N 00° 04.39' E 111° 29.02'

Matt: Procuring a plain city map of Sintang (paper doesn’t blush and Google Maps provides only low-res satellite images of this part of the planet) and availing myself of the opportunity to study the achievement potential of four, not a lucky number anyway, pompous and overstaffed administration offices, in particular, (i) the almost Kafkaesque Department of Tourism (zero English, no motivation to deal with visitors, no city map), (ii) the rather Langleyesque Department of Information (hidden English, no permission to deal with aliens, therefore no city map), (iii) the friendly Department of Planning (good English, helpful attitude but printer broken, therefore no city map) and (iv) the dubious National Park office (no English, but very interested in making some additional income, unfortunately no city map), all of them as useful as a hole in the head, luckily overhearing the existence of the privately run Kobus Centre +6281345657431, where I received a warm welcome, strong Indonesian coffee and all the necessary information about the area from Father Jacques aka “Pastor Mas”, a committed Dutch priest-turned-conservationist and activist who made it the mission of his life to empower the local Dayak communities and, together with his team of trained vets and experienced keepers, to rescue Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), which had been kept as illegal pets, and to take care of orphaned orangutans from Kalimantan’s ever-encroaching palm-oil plantations.

Matt: Learning about a comprehensive survey (Erik Meijaard et al.: Quantifying Killing of Orangutans and Human-Orangutan Conflict in Kalimantan), based on structured interviews with c. 7,000 villagers across Kalimantan in 2008 CE, which found killing rates between 2,400 and 3,900 orangutans killed per average year within the lifetime of the interviewed villagers, much higher killing rates than previously thought, thus confirming that the continued existence of orangutans in Kalimantan is under serious threat, and hearing that e.g. the supervisor of a palm-oil plantation allegedly authorised mass killings in order to protect his profitable crop, with a bounty of US$ 100.- for one dead ape.

Matt: Exploring by means of steel rickshaw aka becak, wooden pirogue aka sampan and plastic flip-flops aka thongs the three distinctive neighbourhoods of Sintang, located at the start of the Upper Kapuas River aka Sungai Kapuas Hulu and the confluence with Sungai Melawi, a perfect springboard, then and now, for both Chinese traders and European missionaries into the Dayak inhabited hinterland of Kalimantan(i) the busy Chinatown east of Sungai Durian with its old and new shop houses, atmospheric hodgepodge temples and non-halal beers, (ii) the traditional and predominantly Malay kampung east of Sungai Kawat with stilt houses, the old sultan’s palace aka Istana Almuk Arramah and a traditional wooden mosque with lighthouse shaped minarets, and (iii) the suburbs around Pasar Inpres with government offices, residential areas for civil servants and an impressive military presence, previously the place where the Europeans used to live under the protection of a diminutive Dutch fort.

Matt: Hanging around together with a lovely diversity of Kaharingan, Christian and Muslim descendants of Dayak headhunters, Chinese traders and Malay nobles, discussing the eternal balance between earthly life and afterlife in the rugged stilt warungs on the southern bank of the Kapuas River, enjoying great views (against the grey mountain backdrop of Bukit Kelam) of the scenic confluence of Sintang’s two big rivers, sipping the local moonshine aka arak obat (short: “Ah! Oh!”), an alcoholic concoction of doubtful origin (IDR 10,000.- or US$ 0.90 per unmarked 250-ml plastic bag, c. 35 % alc./vol.), spiced up with medicinal herbs, mostly ginseng, and of the same colour, albeit a shade darker, than the river water, and browsing the buzzing local market where hundreds of friendly and enthusiastic fruit/veggie vendors of all ethnicities, beliefs and temperaments peddle whatever has come downriver this morning and offer fabulous chow (a mix of reliable Padang food, globalised Chinese noodles and authentic Dayak jungle cuisine) in their street stalls.

Matt: Taking a local bus from Sintang’s Pasar Inpres to the village of Kelam (3/4 hours, 20 km, non-negotiable IDR 20,000.- or US$ 1.75 per orang turis), climbing up the bald and impressing 900-m high Kelam Hill aka Bukit Kelam, a cross-breed between Table Mountain and Ayers Rock, enjoying encounters with butterflies, pitcher plants and local climbers from Pontianak, and experiencing mixed feelings on its top, due to unobscured panoramic views over a vast sea of oil palms planted in rank and file; altogether a 3-hour uphill climb from the warungs at the foot of the chunk to the two dilapidated mountain shelters on top, with vertical steel ladders on its toughest rock faces, thereafter 30 min more to the actual "summit", and one hour back with an electrical storm on my tail.

"The path up and down are one and the same."
(Heraclitus of Ephesos)

Matt: Hitching a ride to the remote and isolated Museum Kapuas Raya +628125721702 (free entrance), a half-empty, monstrous showpiece with unused computer workstations, covered in dust, and funded with European tax money (a clear win-win which provides a serious raison d'être for the "assisting" European experts and a wonderful travel opportunity for the "fact-finding" Indonesian office sitters), awakening the friendly wardens out of their beauty sleep and spending the morning in the museum’s neat and well-organised historical and ethnological exhibitions (…neither of them mentions that the habitat of the polar bear is disappearing as fast as melting ice).

Matt: Taking the convenient Alegra +6256524985 air-con luxury bus (Indonesian reclining seats without upright position) back to the coast, to Pontianak (c. 420 km, 10 ½ hours including a quick tyre change, IDR 135,000.- or US$ 11.70 per person), KalBar’s dirty capital and most ardently loved/hated urban destination, located bang on the equator, thus entering overland the southern hemisphere for the first time in this year, looking forward to city life à la KalBar and nerving myself for the upcoming challenge of kissing a frog…

Click below for more blog posts about orangutans
11 Jul - 01 Sep 2013 Kuching
09 Mar - 12 Mar 2012 Bukit Lawang
30 Jun - 07 Jul 2009 Kuching

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 litter;
It’s good to be an artist.
Keep your bearings!