Pontianak in Indonesian Borneo

The Waterworld of Pontianak

unique river boat in pontianak
Unique River Boats at Pontianak


Pontianak in Indonesian Borneo is the capital of West Kalimantan (Kalimantan Barat) a trading port (one of the many) on the island of Borneo. Borneo consists of three main parts, Malaysian Borneo which covers around a third of the Island, Indonesian Borneo which covers two thirds and a small portion surrounded by Malaysian Borneo which is Brunei. Borneo is the third largest Island in the world with a total area of 748,168 km sq. or 288,869 sq miles.
boats crossing the kapuas river in pontianak borneo
Pontianak located on the Kapuas River Delta
Pontianak is a fascinating place photographically speaking being so vibrant and full of life but that is Indonesia in general for you! Situated at the confluence on the Kapuas River delta it is an extremely interesting place regarding river life and this is one of the main draws here. There are a number of markets very near the riverside on the south side and close to the centre of town which is a prime position for collecting or sending goods from the boats which are constantly coming and going to various places up and down river and these boats also double as passenger boats. whether it be covering a big distance or just crossing to the other side.
There are a number of ways for getting to or from Pontianak which I will go into in Getting there and Away
cargo and passenger boats pontianak
Pontianak Cargo and Passenger Boats
Not only that there are also huge wooden boats functioning as long distance cargo boats and houseboats too for the crew who venture up the Kapuas River (Sungai Kapuas) which takes 8 days to cover around 800 km’s to reach Putussibau an Iban dayak town home to native peoples of Kalimantan and the world famous and unique long houses some of which are 200 m long.
kapuas river boat at pontianak
Kapuas River Cargo Boat
pontianak to putussibau boats
Captain contemplates the eight day boat journey to Putussibau
cargo boats and houseboats on kapuas river
Cargo cum Houseboats at the Docks
The crew generally take upto three days to load up these monster freight carriers whereby the captain takes stock of everything that goes onboard. The shipment contains just about everything you can imagine from cement and other building materials to beds, wardrobes, kitchen utensils, sacks of rice, pots and pans and the list goes on and on as these boats are going to remote out of the way places. Even if travelling by road where it is possible don’t expect an easy time of it, the roads are rough. Borneo is home to one of the biggest rainforest areas in the world and much of the Indonesian part is still largely remote and difficult to access hence the main mode of transport is via a variety of boats.

loading big cargo boat documentary stock photo
Loading Putussibau freight boats

Tugu Khatulistiwa – Equator Monument in Pontianak

Pontianak also straddles the Equator, north of the River Kapuas you can find the Equator monument and have one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere at the same time. Inside the building that now houses the original monument you will find hanging frame pictures of it’s progression through the years.

On March 31st 1928 there was an International expedition led by a Dutch geographer to Pontianak to determine the equator with the construction as follows:

  1.  The first monument built in 1928 in the form of milestone with arrows.
  2.  1930 refined, shaped and milestones with a circle of arrows.
  3.  1938 was rebuilt with improvements. The original monument can still be seen on the inside.


equator monument at pontianak

Equator Monument 1951 & 2014

In 1990 the Equator monument was renovated with the manufacture of the dome to protect the original monument and the making of a duplicate monument five times larger than the original monument. Inauguration was on 21st September 1991 and this is how it remains for now!

panning photography on pontianak streets
Panning shot of another popular mode of transport around Pontianak
Pontianak city itself is a fast moving place especially regarding traffic and motorbikes especially but tucked away in the backstreets you can find the local tinkers, mechanics, electricians, craftsman etc which is somewhat like stepping back in time.


pontianak backstreets stock photo


Pontianak backstreets
recycling waste in pontianak city
Waste not want not
portrait of indonesian guy in pontianak
Backstreet Boys
indonesian welder working on street in pontianak
Back over the river on the north side there is a lovely kampung (village) on stilts. Traditional wooden houses built on wooden pillars above the water. The kampung is surrounded by canals which the locals use to bathe in, wash clothes and use small boats to get around the place. People are very friendly and if you want to take a trip through the channels and around the village I got the impression the locals would accompany you for a little cash.
floating village of stilt houses
Village on stilts
indonesian child with ego posing for camera
The little people of Pontianak
gang of indonesian kids posing for the camera
Peace Man!
long boats on pontianak river
Village Boats
Not far from the village on stilts is the Pontianak Kraton, (also spelt Keraton), and is the former royal residence now like a museum piece. The building is around 200 years old and built mainly out of hardwood and painted yellow at present. The condition is pristine.
indonesian street children posing for camera


Indonesian Kids at Pontianak Kraton


pontianak kraton or royal palace
Pontianak Kraton

Getting There and Away – Pontianak

Getting to or from Pontianak is very easy with a wide variety of options. direct flights from Kuching in Sarawak from 600,000IDR or 160rm , from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and all domestic flights from Indonesia.
Pelni Ferries take around 24hrs to or from Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya in Java. Pelni also go to Banjarmasin and Samarinda in Kalimantan and on to Sulawesi etc.
Coaches go frequently from Pontianak to Kuching in Malaysian Sarawak costing as little as 240,000 IDR or 60rm in Malay ringgit. The trip takes between 9-12hrs and the night coach is only available from Pontianak to Kuching which arrives at Entikong (Indo/Malay border) at 6 am opening time. There is no night bus from Kuching to Pontianak because the border is only one and half hour away from Kuching and the border would be closed so the last bus leaves at 1.30 pm and arrives in Pontianak around 10.30 pm.

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One Response

  1. Anonymous

    excellent photos old chap as per usual

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