Banjarmasin is the largest city and the capital of South Kalimantan, a province of Kalimantan, which is the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. It is located on a delta island that is near the confluence of the Maraputa and Barito rivers.
It can be reached daily by plane from several Indonesian cities including Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Balikpapan, Pangkalan Bun and Sampit. The airport, Syamsuddin Noor (BDJ), is 26km from the city. There are taxis available at a fixed rate from the airport, or visitors can ask their hotels to meet them at the airport. On the street outside the airport, visitors can get a minibus to Km 6 terminal, the public bus station.
There is a bus from Balikpapan that takes more than 12 hours and includes a meal. It will take visitors to Km 6 terminal where they can get a taxi to the city.
There are ships that travel to Banjarmasin’s main harbor, Trisakti, from many places in Indonesia. The fare is inexpensive, but the conditions are not very good. Visitors traveling from Java will need to spend one night on the ship. There are also Express Ferries that take eight hours from Java. The trip from the Tanjung Priuk Harbor Passenger Terminal in Jakarta takes two days and two nights. There are also ferries from Surabaya and Semerang on Java and one every two days between Banjarmasin and Surabaya that takes 21 hours. This method of travel is not recommended for single women or people who do not like cigarette smoke.
For those who are already on the island and are traveling from another province, there are boats that travel along the many rivers. There are slow boats and speed boats and they both provide the chance to experience the local lifestyle.
Once in Banjarmasin, metered taxis are plentiful, but visitors must insist that the driver use the meter. There are also public shuttle-buses that go all over town including to the Km 6 terminal. The shuttle-bus terminal is on Jl Pangeran Antasari near the night market on the eastern side of the city center. There are plenty of auto-rickshaws, which are three-wheeled motorized taxis.
Visitors can also hire a boat operator for a few hours to travel the canals near Jl Hasanudin. Pasar Baru is the central area of the city, which is small and easy to visit on foot. Visitors can also rent motorized canoes and take themselves around Banjarmasin and the Barito River.
There are boats that leave at dawn under the Jembatan Dewi Bridge that take visitors to the famous floating markets to see the canoes full of food, flowers, spices, fish and meat, daily necessities and many other things. These markets haven’t changed for centuries, and visitors can see the river-based lifestyle. The canals pass through the poorest part of the city as well as give a view of the modern part of the city. There are little boats from which locals offer tea, coffee and snacks to the people at the market. The floating market is open from about 5:00 am to about 8:00 am.
There are several guided tours available that take visitors by boat to Pulau Kembang or Flower Island where the long-tailed macaques live. There is also a Chinese temple there. It is a 20 minute boat trip and visitors feed the monkeys with nuts but should take care because the monkeys can be very aggressive.
To visit the famous waterfalls near the city, visitors can rent a motorcycle. The road passes through forests and by rushing streams, and the destination is worth the ride.
Shelley McManister is a freelance writer and a travel agent, living in Banjarmasin. She books tours for tour groups and recommends Golden Tulip Galaxy restaurants for those eager to try out authentic Indonesian cuisine at its finest.