Banjarmasin, long the trading capital of South Kalimantan, sits astride the deltas of the Barito and Martapura Rivers. Canals were once the only highways, now more than 60 canals, lined densely with stilt cottages, are still used for transportation. Klotoks fly along the narrow waterways, gangs of kids dive in and grab on for free rides, and the everyday life of the people is open to all passers by.
Further up the canals are the rice paddies, parched now in the dry season, the grains ripening and patiently picked stem by stem by women with a homemade device looking like a spinning top, with a cutting edge. Slowly the rice is gathered and sold to the market. The nearby tiny village is home to the farmers, fishermen and boatmen, living a life simple and constrained by the seasons.
A drive to Banjar Baru leads to the Lambung Mangkurat Museum which offers a fascinating insight into the old life of the trading peoples of the region and the Dutch colonial era. Outstanding pieces are an ornate beaten gold backed throne came from a bygone era of sultans, and a serene landscape with lines of marching regiments going to the top of a hill. We saw exhibitions of the art of bark fabrics, some gossamer thin, patiently beaten out using a bamboo mallet. And another one of ceramics, with a wonderful naive painting of the smooth appealing shapes of earthenware vessels.
Canal tours and Museum visits can be arranged by WOW Borneo.
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