Banjarmasin is the biggest city in South Kalimantan. The city population was 625,395 at the 2010 census. Average temperatures vary from 24ºC to 32ºC.
The official founding date of the city is 24 September 1526, but its history is older than that date. From the time of the ancient kingdom of Nan Serunai, to the Buddhist kingdom of Tanjungpuri and the Hindu kingdom Negara Dipa and its succesor Negara Daha, the rivers of Southern Kalimantan were always been the favorite spot of the Malay people. That’s why Banjarmasin old name was “Bandar Masih”, meaning the port of the Malay in Dayak Bukit dialect. In the chaotic time of civil war between the rightful heir of Negara Daha, Pangeran Samudera, and his uncle, Pangeran Samudera was forced to flee for his life. At this time, Bandar Masih received him warmly, stopped paying taxes to his uncle and support Pangeran Samudera’s fight to get his throne back. When his uncle finally surrendered, Pangeran Samudera decided to make Bandar Masih his new capital, converted to Islam, and begun his rule over the new Islamic Kingdom of Banjar. His day of victory was then celebrated as Banjarmasin’s birthday. The name "Bandar Masih" slowly changed into "Banjarmasin" as the water tastes salty when in dry season (salty is "masin" in Banjarese language). The Kingdom flourished and back in its golden era, its power enveloped almost all of the area of what is now Indonesia’s part of Kalimantan. After the fierce Banjar War which produced a lot of highly-revered local heroes such as Pangeran Antasari, however, it was forced to surrender the colonial Dutch, following the total destruction of the palace ground and the capture of the last Banjarese Princess (Ratu Zaleha). Banjarmasin continued to be the capital of Dutch Borneo throughout the colonial era. Even after the forming of the Indonesian Government, Banjarmasin was the capital of Kalimantan province until it was divided into 4 Provinces (West, East, Central and South), then it became the capital of South Kalimantan. Few is left of its previous glory, but Banjarmasin silently kept her forgotten charm in unexpected places for the persistent travelers to find.
Banjarmasin’s airport is Syamsuddin Noor (BDJ), half an hour drive from the city. To go to the city, you can take a taxi (with fixed rate Rp 120,000 as of March 2016) or better yet, tell your hotel to pick you up.
There are daily flights from many Indonesian cities including Jakarta and Surabaya. The airport is 26km from Banjarmasin. Or, if you walk about 2 minutes to the street outside of the airport, you should be able to share a mini-van which costs Rp 10,000 to go to kilometre 6 terminal.
The roads of Trans-Kalimantan are in bad condition, but if you’re patient and adventurous you can try to reach Banjarmasin from the neighbouring provinces of Central Kalimantan and East Kalimantan by car.
Another alternative to get to Banjarmasin is by ship from various places in Indonesia to Banjarmasin’s main harbour, Trisakti. Be forewarned that the condition of passenger ship transportation in Indonesia is poor, albeit cheap, and you might want to consider that before spending the night (at least 1 night if you come from Java). You best bet is Express Ferry where it’s available, only 8 hours from Java, and 2 days + 2 nights of sea trip from Jakarta Tanjung Priuk Harbor Passenger Terminal. Plus, there are ferries from Semerang and Surabaya, both on Java. There's a ferry every 2 days between Surabaya and Banjarmasin.
The ferry between Surabaya and Banjarmasin is 21 hours. If you have a problem with cigarette smoke, this is not a good method of travel. Smoking is permitted in the sleeping area. There are no cabins. Solo females should be aware that they will receive a considerable amount of male attention, most of it unwanted. The food is not good.
Alternatively, if you are coming from the neighbouring provinces of East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, there are a lot of boat transportations through the rivers of Kalimantan. This could be an adventurous or boring ride depending on your taste. A range of boats are available, from slow moving boats to speedboats. It’s a great choice if you are extremely adaptable with the locals’ way of life.
Your best bet would be the metered taxi, insist the driver to use the meter if you have to. Alternatively, you can use “angkot” or “bamikro” or public shuttle microbuses (Rp 5,000 per passenger), which interesting enough are also called “taxi” too by the locals. Also available is by "ojek" (motorcity taxi) and "becak" (Tricycle Rickshaw), that cost around USD2.00-2.50 or Rp. 15,000 - 20,000 for inner city trips. There are some really old orange-colored "bajaj' (auto rickshaw) on the city streets as well.
Banjarese, the name of South Kalimantan’s ethnicity, have a unique way of building their houses and other structures in harmony with nature. There are at least 12 types of traditional Banjarese houses, which have unfortunately lost their popularity in modern times. Still, you can see a few houses that were built with traditional techniques all over Banjarmasin if you really search for them. The palace ground was totally destroyed by the colonial Dutch, but you can still visit its remnants in Kampung Kraton, along Jalan Pangeran Samudera. There, you can see Masjid Sultan Suriansyah. Built during Pangeran Samudera’s rule, it is the first Mosque in South Kalimantan and contains the royal burial site.
- Museum Waja Sampai Ka Puting - this was an old and genuine Banjarese traditional house in "Bubungan Tinggi" style (one of the 12 styles and the most bona fide one) before it was transformed into a museum.
- Masjid Sultan Suriansyah - The oldest mosque in South Kalimantan, 300+ years old.
- Masjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin - a giant modern mosque completed in 1981, the second largest in Indonesia.
Banjarmasin is abundant with wide and mighty rivers. The rivers have always been a part of Banjarese way of life. To this very day, every morning there are floating markets in which farmers and traders brought their goods to trade on boats. It has always been a farmers’ market and it’s interesting to see the genuine river-based way of life. The rivers are also the main venues for boat races and other festivities. The main attractions are the waterlogged suburbs traversed by canals; much of the city's commerce takes place on water.
- Floating markets - trading is from dawn until around 9AM. Get there early. Journey takes around 20 minutes by boat.
- Canal trips
- Pulau Kembang (lit. Flower Island) - visit the long-tailed macaques at the decrepit Chinese temple, 20 minutes by boat. You can buy nuts to feed them. The monkeys are quite aggressive if you have food and will try to steal it from you.
- Pulau Kaget (lit. Surprised Island) - see the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), the mascot fauna of South Kalimantan. No guarantee you would have a good look at them, though, as they are really shy.
In Sunday mornings, people from Banjarmasin have a tradition of walking, running, jogging, cycling or go with whatever you want toward the suburbs that is called "Pal Tujuh". There, they would go to the "Pasar Ahad" or "Sunday Market" which, obviously, opens only on Sundays. Enjoy local treats such as Ketupat Kandangan and Apam as your warm breakfast over there.
Semi-precious gems and stones. Rattan products.
Banjarese love their foods and even though they are most of the times very excited about other kinds of foods, they adore their own local specialties more than others. The ones in restaurants, malls, or foodcourts are fine for beginners, but to find the real taste of Banjarese food, you have to go to hidden places in small streets because there you’d find the ones that are famous among the locals.Foods that are available throughout the year and are very popular with the locals:
- Soto Banjar - "Soto" is a type of Indonesian soup. Soto Banjar is a uniquely Banjarese variant of Soto, popular in other places throughout in Indonesia. Don't miss the chance to try the real and genuine taste in its place of origin! Soto in Banjar meant that it is served with lontong, while Soup is served with rice, for the same meal.
- Apam - Although not specifically Banjarese, the Apam here has its own twist. Enjoy it sweet and warm, accompanied with tea.
- Bingka - A specialty of Banjarese, it came in many flavours. The pride of the Banjarese people, it's very sweet and creamy.
- Ketupat Kandangan - It's actually a specialty of Kandangan, but you can also find it in Banjarmasin. Known as a festive food, especially favored during Eid al Fitr.
- Klepon Buntut - Similar to Klepon, a palm sugar filled snacks coated with grated coconut found across Java, however this one has smoother texture and the flling is more liquidy.
However, in the month of Ramadhan, the Banjarese went all out with their traditional delicacies. Heaps of wadai (traditional cakes) and other treats mostly unavailable throughout the year will suddenly appears in Ramadhan. Though most travel guides won't suggest you to travel during the month of Ramadhan in Indonesia, it's an amazing experience to see the emergence of many "Pasar Wadai" (Cakes Market) all over the city, with treats such as:
- Amparan Tatak - banana pudding
- Bingka Barandam - Although named "bingka", tasted nothing like it. It's somekind of a cupcake soaked in sweet syrup.
Apart from localities, there are 3 KFCs, 2 Pizza Huts, and a Dunkin Donuts. If local taste doesn't suits you, go to Duta Mall and you'll discover National as well as International renowned outlets.
One should try the Banjarese tea, which is somewhat different with the teas found elsewhere in Indonesia. It is a strongly Muslim area, so don't expect to find alcohol outside large hotels. if you have interest to find tropical fruit there's one new agrotourism area at banjarmasin its named Mek farm. there you can find and try some original tropical fruit its might be hard to find at other place. like durian, avocado, keledang, some kind of kalimantan local manggo and there is a restaurant too. the restaurant serve only Indonesian traditional food It's easy to find the farm its only about 5 kilometer from the airport and we can use taxi, car rent or local transportation service like what they call angkot and becak.
- Swiss Belhotel. From USD67..
- Hotel SAS
- Hotel Istana Barito
- Hotel Arum
- Hotel Victoria
- Hotel Roditha, rates from USD35. Full air-con, free breakfast, slippers and cable TV.
- Hotel CitraRaya, rates from USD10. Full air-con, free breakfast for two.
- Diamond Homestay, Jl. Simpang Hasanuddin, ☎ +62 926 3131. Feels like at your own home. They have clean rooms but outside bathroom. Free internet. USD 5.
- Borneo Homestay.
- Losmen Permata, Jalan Kol Sugiono. 40,000 Rupiah for a single room.
70,000 Rupiah for a room for up to 4 people.