Saturday, July 19, 2014

SEA for Ourselves: Borneo Again

We awoke to bid farewell to Ketapang. We had liked our stay, surprisingly. We returned our motorbike, and were each driven to the airport via motorbikes  –in my case driven by a craaazy driver. Our departing flight was an hour late, which allowed me time to sit with the others to watch a World Cup game -something I did whenever possible of late. Indonesia was as caught up in it as anywhere.

After an hour’s flight we arrived in Pontianak, where this entire adventure had started 2 weeks earlier. It’s a small airport, but busy. We were immediately met by a pleasant young man who offered his help for our getting to Putusibau or Sintang. Though Pontianak sits on the mouth of 2 large rivers, he claimed that there were no longer boats that went where we were headed. We nearly agreed to let him take us to the bus station for a long ride eastward until we learned it was an overnighter -with non-sleeper seats. Mutually passing on that opportunity is a sign that we’re getting older. Besides, everything happened too fast, and our options were still unclear, and we couldn’t believe that our newish Lonely Planet book could be so wrong.

Three hours later -we still sat, dejectedly at a small cafe table, taking turns setting off to ask varied agents questions or to doublecheck schedules and tripplecheck destinations– we finally let go of the entire pursuit, vowed to line everything up better next time, and decided to do the next best thing: go somewhere new. So we bought plane tix to the island of Java, giving us 2 days to explore Pontianak first.

A crazy, rush hour taxi ride to a cheap room chosen from our book gave us our first detailed look at Pontianak. It’s big, flat, not especially attractive, and the streets very busy. We also learned that motorbikes are not popular because thefts are common (this helped explain the car congestion), and that they are not rented out. Ugghh. Our 3 story hotel was hidden behind a motorcycle shop, which one needs to pass through to reach the lobby. The hotel and our room was surprisingly nice, and quiet. After settling into our room, we set off in search of dinner at a short list of Lonely Planet recommended restaurants.

One of my complaints against LP is its maps, and scale. We walked a looong way that first night, asside noisy traffic and upon unkempt and uneven sidewalks, only to find the place closed down. So back we walked -and then some- until we finally reached our second choice restaurant. It was a large, plain, stark, vacuous room, with office furniture tables and chairs given a second life. It did a great business as a popular seafood restuarant. (The next night we sat in another vacuous restaurant, one much more elegant -but were the only customers).

Our breakfast was at a nearby corner place that was packed with locals. We immediately drew attention and stares -and (me) flirty comments and glances from the young staff women.  : )  A guitarist and violintist wandered amongst the tables playing beautifully together. I appreciated their rendition of “Yesterday” and they appreciated it when I said “Kemarin!!” (yesterday) and tipped into the little sack attached to the guitar neck.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: SEA for Ourselves: Borneo Again