Pontianak

Pontianak is the capital of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, and bisected by the Equator. The city is mostly populated by ethnic Chinese, Dayaks and Malays, as well as significant numbers of minorities such as Bugis and Javanese.

Understand

History

The word pontianak probably from bunting anak, "pregnant with child" means the undead vampire of a woman who died while during childbirth. Disguised as a beautiful woman, the pontianak goes around murdering unwary men, harming pregnant woman and eating babies, but they can be controlled by plunging a nail into a hole in the back of their neck.

According to legend, when Abdurrahman Alqadrie's group arrived in the uninhabited area of Pontianak, it was haunted by pontianaks/kuntilanaks, which deterred many of his companions by their scary voices at night. To sweep these ghosts away, Alqadrie ordered his men to fire their cannons to the forest which was believed to be their base. Afterwards, no more pontianak's voice was ever heard.

In 1771, Abdurrahman Alqadrie cut down the forest which was at the crossing between Kapuas and Landak river, then settled there. He was awarded the title Sultan. Under his leadership, he succeeded in attracting many traders, most of them ethnic Malays, as well as some Dayaks from the upstream parts of the Kapuas River.

Following the civil war and widespread poverty in China at the end of the 19th century, many Chinese migrated to Indonesia, and some settled in Pontianak due to its strategic location for trading. This later added Chinese culture to the history of Pontianak. Chinese in Pontianak are mainly of Teochew, Hakka, and Cantonese descent.

In the early part of the 19th century, the Dutch occupied Pontianak and the rest of West Kalimantan's cities as part of its colonial campaign. Pontianak was occupied to become a trading post in order to gain rich natural resources, mainly rubber and wood, from upstream Kapuas River. Resistance by both ethnic Malays and Dayaks continued sporadically and this forced the Dutch colonial armed forces to frequently request reinforcements from Batavia/Jakarta.

Dutch occupation ended in 1941 during World War II when Japanese imperial forces overran Dutch bases from the north. These bases were not able to deploy sufficient numbers of soldiers in order to defend the strategic island of Java. During the Japanese occupation, tens of thousands of civilians and intellectuals were massacred, mainly those who refused to recognise the emperor of Japan.

When the Japanese retreated, the Dutch under the Allied Forces umbrella re-entered West Kalimantan. Their colonial government over Pontianak ended a few years later after a series of diplomatic missions and local resistance which also freed the other Indonesian territories at the same time.

People

You may find that Pontianakians of each ethnicity tend to live homogeneously. For example, areas along Jalan Gajahmada are overwhelmingly Chinese whereas Sungai Jawi in the suburb are settled mostly by ethnic Malays. Intermarriage is not common, especially between ethnic Chinese and the indigenous people (Dayaks, Malays, Javanese, Madurese, etc.). But that's not to say these people like to fight against each other. Visit a restaurant somewhere in the middle of Pontianak and you might find both Chinese and Dayaks chatting hilariously with each other.

The locals of Pontianakians are mostly easygoing, at least compared to those of other metropolitan cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya. Their tone of speaking may not as soft as the Jogjanese, but if you try to blend yourself with them you will almost definitely be reciprocated.

Get in

By bus

Bus trip to Pontianak can be arranged from Kuching in neighboring Malaysia. A trip from Kuching to Pontianak or vice versa will last at least 8 hours which will pass the border area of Entikong. Some of the bus providers serving this route are Damri, SJS and Biaramas Express (www.mybus.com.my). The fares for the trip ranges from RM45 to RM75. Click Pontianak to Kuching for travel itinerary on this route. A bus trip to Brunei is also available.

By plane

Pontianak is reachable by air with Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya Air, and Lion Air. A new addition to the Pontianak to Kuching route is Kalstar.

Maswing Airline serve from Kuching to Pontianak.

From the airport to Pontianak city the only mean of transportation is by taxi (coupons at a fixed price of IDR60,000 are sold).

By boat

While being the cheapest inter-island transportation mean, it is recommended only for travellers to board on a ship to Pontianak. Tourists would do better to fly instead. The tide in Java Sea is unstable, which may make you feel sick on board, if you are not used to high tide. A trip will spend 12-18 hours to/from Jakarta. Contact nearest travel agent to conduct your trip.

By car

Pontianak can be reached by car from Kuching in 6-8 hours, although the road is not in very good shape. See Pontianak to Kuching for a detailed itinerary.

Get around

The most convenient way to explore Pontianak is either by taxi or rented car. The entire Pontianak is integrated by road link, parts of which are not well maintained. There are also plenty of cheap (IDR2,000) public buses but sometimes it can be kind of adventure to use them since the buses are not well marked, drivers and most of the locals do not speak English and the orientation is difficult. Also there are boats crossing the river and this is in general the most convenient and the cheapest (IDR1,000) way to get in to the other side.

See

Do

Sungai Kapuas (Kapuas River) divides Pontianak into two different sides. Get a boat ride along the river about five or six o'clock local time and you will see amazing views along this river. The locals who live along this river taking a bath in this river during these hours throughout the year. A very unique tradition that should not be missed.

During the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, there is a Meriam Karbit festival that is well worth visiting.

Buy

Equatorial souvenirs from the Equatorial Obelisk sоuvenir shop, as well as, cheap textile and many craftwork items as everywhere in Indonesia.

Eat

Pontianak is quite popular among domestic tourists due to its wide range of food with strong cultural touch, most notably the Chinese. There are plenty of eating options for the culinary adventurers, from street hawker food to local restaurant culinary to internationally franchised fast food.

Talk

Nearly all Pontians, regardless of their ethnicities, speak Bahasa Indonesia, albeit it is slightly mixed with Malay accent close to that of neighbouring Malaysia. Most ethnic Chinese people at the southern bank of Kapuas river speak Teochew, and those at the northern bank speak mostly Hakka (called Khek by locals). Mandarin is spoken mostly by those aged 30 years old or above, but don't be surprised if they mix it with Hakka or Teochew dialect as it is not very commonly spoken in town. English is mostly spoken by also the young locals, but is usually not mastered beyond some basic knowledge despite many English courses, so it would be wise to know some phrases of Bahasa Indonesia. Hiring an English-speaking guide could smooth your travel a lot.

Stay safe

Pickpockets and motorcycle thefts are quite common in town. Exercise necessary caution even when being in a shopping mall. Be careful when travelling in a public bus (called oplet) as somebody could threaten you with a knife to hand over your valuables.

Sleep

If you arrive by Pelni ferry late at night then it's better option to sleep aboard until morning as there is usually a long layover at Pontianak.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Phone call

Most national GSM and CDMA operators have their signal towers spread throughout the entirety of Pontianak, meaning that there should not be too many problems communicating around the town and the tariffs are also reasonable, at least for tourists coming from the West. Shops selling SIM cards and their top-ups are also in abundance, even in the outskirts of town, just like in other cities in Indonesia. Fixed line phones are also available everywhere. There are also few phone stalls (Warung Telkom) offering you phone call with a reasonable fare.

Internet access

Internet cafe businesses are flourishing, but you'll only find a few without distracting gamers like you might find in typical East Asian internet cafes. Don't worry about the billing (that's how the locals say). An hour of internet access will cost you IDR3,000-6,000. But don't expect a speed-of-light one out of it, though. Many locals have internet access varying from snaily dial-up to ISDN (most notably Telkom Speedy) installed in their houses. GPRS and 3G access from your cellphone exists, but you will not necessarily find GPRS signal everywhere even in the middle of the city.

Consulates

Go next

Pontianak is the gateway for travellers wishing to travel deeper inland. Singkawang, another one of the most Chinese-influenced town is reachable by taxi. Kuching, which lies in the Malaysian part of the island, offers some modernity you wouldn't find in the Indonesian part.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.