Lok Baintan Floating Market Borneo

Lok Baintan Floating Market a.k.a Pasar Terapung in Kalimantan

Lok Baintan floating market is a unique cultural part of the tradition and heritage of the Banjar peoples of Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo. Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the third largest island in the world, Borneo. It covers 73% of the island’s total area, the remainder taken by Brunei and the Malaysian States of Sabah and Sarawak. The total area of Kalimantan is just over 544,000 square kilometers or 210,000 square miles.

traditionally clothed woman rowing boat smiling at camera
Lovely smile from a seller at Lok Baintan floating market


It is world renown for its lush tropical rainforest, which contains all manner of incredibly diverse flora and fauna along with numerous rivers. The three main arteries or rivers of which are the three longest in Indonesia are the Kapuas River (1,143 km), Mahakam River (980 km) and the Barito River (890 km). These rivers along with many smaller ones are where the peoples of Kalimantan live what we could call an alternative lifestyle, natural and idyllic in some respects yet extremely tough at the same time. There is also an abundance of Dayaks which is a term to describe the many different indigenous races of people found throughout Borneo.


aerial view of lok baintan floating market
Lok Baintan floating market or Pasar Terapung


This post is concerned with what happens on the Martapura river in South Kalimantan near the city of Banjarmasin in Banjar Regency. The people here are in quite a remote part of the rural countryside with the village of Lok Baintan nestled on both sides of the river. Located a mere 12km by road from central Banjarmasin it feels worlds away with it’s rustic riverside timber houses, broken roads (if you opt for this rather than take a boat from Banjarmasin) and its extremely simple and somewhat impoverished lifestyle looking at it from a monetary viewpoint. On the other side of the coin the life is rich and bountiful with what nature has to offer and tradition continues to abound. The Lok Baintan floating market or Pasar Terapung as it is known in the Indonesian language dates back to the Banjar Sultanate (c.1520) when river traders would do exactly the same as they do to this day!


suspension bridge spans the martapura river at lok baintan
Suspension Bridge at Lok Baintan


The Floating Market of Lok Baintan continues to flourish thankfully at this time as it is a truly unique way of life and unlike the Pasar Apung at Muara Kuin River mouth in the City of Banjarmasin which is nothing more than Warung Terapung (floating food stalls where one can pick up a decent breakfast on the Barito river) the Lok Baintan floating market is actually the real deal and anybody that makes the effort to reach it would not be disappointed.


female trader in boat with handfuls of fresh fruit
River merchant handling tropical fruits


Pasar Terapung at Lok Baintan for anybody who doesn’t know is a market that quite literally floats downstream as the morning progresses, it’s pretty fascinating the way it works, due to the currents the whole gamut of traders, customers and visitors all in their respective boats probably floats downstream a few kilometers by the time it is all done and dusted. It starts around the Lok Baintan Suspension Bridge at the Dermaga (pier, wharf or jetty) between 5am and 6am and continues until around 9am so you have to be an early riser to get there in time to catch the action.


women in boats rowing along the martapura river
Local traders want to go home in an empty boat


Pasar Terapung at Lok Baintan mainly involves the sale of vegetables and tropical fruits such as guava, mangoes, rambutan, bananas, mantega, oranges, longan and kasturi, a rare type of Kalimantan mango and dragonfruit. The local vendors usually trade in kind between themselves rather than use money. Food is also available throughout the proceedings with inexpensive ready-made meals usually wrapped in a banana leaf and a variety of drinks to quench your thirst as the sun starts to heat up the surroundings. As the floating boats hug the riverside local residents will come out of their wooden houses to purchase goods too.


Aerial view of Pasar Terapung traders


So what’s the best way to reach Lok Baintan floating market?
Well there is no easy answer, first of all you have to get to Kalimantan or to be more precise Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan usually via Jakarta in Indonesia or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia or Singapore. From Banjarmasin there are a number of options. You can take a big Klotok boat from the Martapura River in central Banjarmasin which at the time of writing would be between 300,000 idr to 500,000 idr depending on your bargaining skills for the 30 minutes to an hours journey. These boats can take a large group of people hence sharing would make things cheaper.
Another option is to go by land directly east from the center of Banjarmasin around 5km and 20 mins to where the Martapura and Lulut rivers meet and there is a dermaga or quay at the village there near the very active daily market where you can take a klotok boat for a cheaper price as its a lot closer. If you are thinking of using a motorbike which I did to go all the way to Lok Baintan here is some helpful information so you don’t make the same mistake I did!


woman trader at lok baintan floating market
Eyeing up a sale at Lok Baintan Floating Market


The first day I went on a motorbike I ended up traversing a terrible stretch of potholed, rock strewn road which was pretty flooded after a heavy nights rain shortly after leaving the village at the confluence of the Martapura and Lulut rivers. It was terribly hard going for a good few kilometers and seemed to take forever due to the tortuously slow speed I was travelling at trying to negotiate the huge holes filled with water and uneven dirt track. I managed to reach there but very late so decided to go the following day. This time I followed the route from Banjarmasin to the pasar village again (15 mins) then continued directly east along Jalan Martapura Lama (15 mins) which is a good road until you return in rush hour as it’s simply not wide enough to take the huge amount of traffic it has to put up with later in the day.


sales taking place from boats on the river
Prices are negotiable at Pasar Terapung


So I followed this road up to a big crossroads where you turn left onto Jalan Gubernur Sarkawi, this is a very big and wide road but has some crazy holes and cracks from subsidence I imagine, this took me to a big bridge (10 mins), just before the bridge, there is a slip road, I follow that under the bridge and I’m back at the Martapura river, this is like the back route to Lok Baintan and from here on in very picturesque and rustic. Wooden houses line the roadside all the way to Lok Baintan which is only 3 km or 10 more minutes ride. Most of the houses are made from Kayu Ulin which is otherwise known as the Bornean Ironwood and used much in Kalimantan for construction purpsoses due to its hardwood nature, it is very durable and heavy hence long lasting making it one of the densest woods in the world and looks beautiful when it’s wet and takes on a glossy black appearance.


stunning landscape image of wooden houses by the river
Beautiful houses on the rivers of South Kalimantan


As I was on the way to the Lok Baintan suspension bridge and the small jetty I was caught by a local resident who had a good Klotok and offered to take me to the floating market for 150,000 idr and we were gone for a good couple of hours, he was in no rush and was very pleased to have some business as was I for his services. It was much appreciated by me and turned into a great little adventure

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