The Kingdom of the Banjars

  Borneo is one of South-East Asia’s most addictive travel experiences. After our first visit to the island in May 2005, we returned there five more times in the following four years, visiting both Malaysian states on the island- Sarawak and Sabah- as well as the three other provinces of Kalimantan and even tiny Brunei, the oil and gas-rich micro-nation wedged between the two Malaysian states on the island. (It is a little known fact that Borneo is the only island in the world which is shared by three different nations). On these various trips we took in some remarkable sights: carnivorous plants and proboscis monkeys in Bako National Park in Sarawak; South-East Asia’s highest peak, Mount Kinabulu, in Sabah; the ironwood palace of the Sultan of Pontianak in West Kalimantan, and peat swamps around Palangkarya in the centre of the island. But the trip which afforded us the most insight into the island’s ancient culture was our second trip, which we undertook just a few months later in late 2005. This trip also took us across the Java Sea to the territory of the third of Indonesia’s original Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, Holing, so of all these trips, it is only this one which belongs here.

    On this jaunt we were accompanied by Sienna, another teacher from EF (English First), the English school which we were working at in Central Jakarta. Sienna was around 25 years old and a native of a small town about an hour outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She was one of few qualified teachers in an industry dominated by backpackers clutching no more than an online 30 hour teaching certificate, and she was easily the best of the expat friends we made during that year and a half stint in Jakarta. For nine months we lived in a shared house together, with Cam and I sharing the room at the back of the house beside the kitchen and Sienna in the room up front by the alleyway. She was dating an Indonesian called Hendra, who was an office assistant and amateur bodybuilder. We got on OK with him overall, but disliked the low-budget action movies which he liked to watch on Indonesian TV when he slept over, which was most nights. We had gone away in a group of four to Bali in August and then she accompanied us alone to South Kalimantan a few weeks later. She had originally been reluctant to travel within Indonesia, but we had convinced her that it would have been a great shame to live in Indonesia and see no more than its crowded, chaotic capital, and she ended up agreeing with this opinion. Before she had left Indonesia, she had ticked off everywhere from Pulau Bunaken off the tip of Sulawesi to Lake Toba in the highlands of North Sumatra.

    The trip from Jakarta to Banjarmasin was a discount flight on Lion Air and it took us across the Java Sea, which connected the North Coast of Java and the South Coast of Borneo. Banjarmasin was the capital of the smallest of Kalimantan’s four provinces, South Kalimantan- a name that was somewhat misleading as the province only included the southeast corner of the island, not the whole south coast. The province was the home to the Banjars, who were known for being fervent adherents to the Islamic faith, and it was said to be the mostly densely populated and least ‘Dayak’ part of Indonesian Borneo.  The flight took an hour and a half and brought us eventually to Syamsudin Noor Airport, which probably only saw a dozen flights a day at most- most of them to the smaller settlements in the interior of Kalimantan. From there we bought a taxi-coupon into town and checked into a small, dingy place which was asking Rp 180.000 for a very basic triple room; once again Kalimantan was proving to be pricier than Java or Sumatra.

    With 600,000 people in the city proper and a couple of hundred thousand more in the urban sprawl out towards the administrative centre of Martapura, Banjarmasin was one of the larger urban centres of regional Indonesia, but like most Indonesian cities off Java it had a laid-back, provincial feel. There were still becak (bicycle-rickshaws in the downtown area) and minivans and other forms of cheap public transport still far outnumbered cars. Some of the hotels and bank buildings reached to several stories in height, but it was still a low-rise city overall with many bungalows right in the centre of town. There were a few indoor shopping-centres but these Banjar ‘malls’ were cramped and dingy, stocked with cheap clothes and accessories that would have been very down-market on Java. Nor was there much on offer in the way of upmarket restaurants or entertainment options: just a few dubious-looking dangdut clubs on one of the backstreets. Seemingly lacking in modern amenities, Banjarmasin was a city more notable for its proliferation of mosques noisily calling people to prayer.

    Everywhere we went in town, we saw the aluminum domes of local mosques flashing and even when they were out of our line of vision, we were likely to hear a sermon droning from a rooftop loudspeaker. The town’s reputation for Muslim piety clearly had something to it. I wasn’t sure whether this point was at all related, but the Banjar proved less open and friendly than most Indonesian ethnicities too. It was a bit of a relief not to be subject to the endless cries of, “Hello Mister”, or, “Where you go Mister?” which are such a feature of a visit to Sumatra and small-town Java, but it was often replaced here by fixed stares which seemed to simmer with hostility. I was left with the impression that the Banjar weren’t the most overly hospitable of people towards outsiders. Whether this had a religious tinge was difficult to assess.

   A perfunctory look around downtown convinced us that there wasn’t much of interest here for foreigners, though we did manage to track down a place serving a local specialty, soto Banjar. This soup is notable not only for its use of limes, but also duck eggs. As the woman in the warung told us, Kalsel (South Kalimantan) was famous in Indonesia for its ducks and duck eggs. (We were able to confirm this the following day when we saw numerous duck farms along the roads on our trip around the district.) Apart from soto Banjar, the province’s best-known dish, they also served various kinds of freshwater river-fish. Sienna and I both ordered a portion, while Cameron stuck with Indonesian fried rice; we both agreed the river-fish had a muddy taste which wasn’t especially palatable.

   But if downtown proved to be of little interest to the Western traveler, we weren’t too concerned, as what had really drawn us was Banjarmasin’s reputation as a canal city, where much of the population lived on or above the water. We loathed nothing more than farfetched monikers like ‘the Venice of the East’, especially when applied to a city in an obscure corner of Borneo, but the idea of boat trips around its canals did appeal to us. Though there were a few sights in and around town which we wanted to see, our real aim was to get out in a rental boat and see it from the water. So in the afternoon we went down the waterfront of the Kuin River, a small river which connects the Martapura River with the massive Barito River, and which divides the city of Banjarmasin in two. Once we were down there, we rapidly found a sampan, the motorized canoe of Indonesian river ports, which was being rented out by its owner. We didn’t have to haggle very hard to get a decent price for a three-hour rental around the waterways of the old port.

     Our first stop was the tomb of the most famous of the Sultans of Banjarmasin. Also known as Pangeran Samudera (the Prince of Oceans) and many other exalted titles, his more regular handle was Sultan Suriansyah. He had earned his place in history by being the first Banjar Sultan to convert to Islam. He claimed the throne for 30 years from around 1520-1550 and the date of his conversion to Islam, 1526, is often given as the date of the founding of the Sultanate of Banjarmasin. The earlier kings in his line had been Hindus, part of a little reported on line of devarajas whose predecessors had possibly built the small stone temple of Candi Laras in the interior of South Kalimantan as far back as the seventh or eighth centuries. We were to encounter his name all about town; a modern meeting hall, for example, was named after him. Though he only took us back half a millennium, to the end point of the Hindu-Buddhist kings, he was clearly a link between modern Banjarmasin and a much earlier epoch in its history.

    The sampan driver waited in the boat while he climbed ashore and walked into the Tomb Complex of Sultan Suriansyah, a rather modest historical reminder of so famous a local figure. It was a timber shelter with stone graves beneath- somewhat similar in style to the royal tombs of the Kutai kings, but even simpler and less pretentious in its design. Cam and I were also reminded of the simple tombs of the Wali Songo, the nine saints credited with converting the Javanese to Islam. Scattered along the North Coast of Java from Cirebon to Surabaya, these tombs were usually small and unelaborate as befitted preachers proselytizing a new faith. Perhaps the similarity was not entirely coincidental as apparently Suriansyah had maintained friendly relations with the Sultan of Demak on the North Coast of Java, a former seat of Islamic learning that housed one of the wali songo tombs. Set just across the Java Sea from East Java, this part of Borneo had probably long been subject to influence from larger Javanese kingdoms, at first the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit, who counted Banjarmasin, like Kutai, as a vassal state, and later to the Islamic Sultanates of sixteenth century Java. Having taken a rather quick look at this tomb- there wasn’t much to see- we returned to the boat and then dropped in at the city’s royal mosque, the Mesjid Sultan Suriansyah, which was also situated along this stretch of river.

    The mosque was a good example of local architecture and easily the most attractive building we had seen since arriving in South Kalimantan. Regarded as one of the three oldest Banjar mosques in existence, it was a wonder to us why it wasn’t included in our guidebook, but that is the beauty of having a local guide I suppose- they sometimes know where to find things that the guidebook companies have missed. The mosque was a timber building which was painted all over in green paint. The main feature was a steeply peaked roof, which looked like a giant witch’s hat sitting on top. Another feature of the Banjar mosque, as shown here, was the fact that the mihrab was enclosed in a separate but connected building and had its own roof. In a brief visit we learned that the first mosque had been built here by Sultan Suriansyah in the early sixteenth century but that most of the present structure was a renovation done by Sultan Tamjidillah I, who had ruled the Banjars from 1734 to 1759.

     A royal mosque and royal tombs: this was clearly the ceremonial centre of Negeri Banjar, the country of the Banjars. But if we had found the core of the old Banjar Sultanate, where was the palace? We could find no answers at the time, but based on what we had seen at Kutai, we ought to have been able to guess that answer. The palace had, indeed, been located in that area too, but as so often in Indonesia, it had been destroyed utterly in the period of the Dutch subjugation of the Banjars. The pattern in South Kalimantan had clearly followed that of so many other kingdoms in early Indonesia. An early Hindu civilization had sprung up along a major river- in this case, the Barito, a tributary of which we had come sailing down- and it had eventually been replaced by an Islamic sultanate, which like its Hindu predecessor had grown rich selling jungle commodities. Finally, in the colonial era, the local kingdom had been crushed, leaving only scant traces of the old kingdoms which had proliferated here for a thousand years.

    We re-boarded the sampan and continued down the Kuin Rover towards its confluence with the Barito River. While the Kuin River was a snaky little tributary, the Barito River was immensely broad and in seeing it I was immediately struck by the sheer of volume of water it had carried down from the interior of Borneo. By this point the river was almost a kilometre wide and the far bank hovered at an astounding distance. I have read since that this river is 890 kilometres long, making it one of the longest rivers in the world which is on an island; but even without the knowledge, you could sense something of its immensity from the prodigious qualities of water flowing by towards the Java Sea. You could tell how impressed we all were by the way everyone was looking about and smiling.

   The port of Banjarmasin is set in a delta, twenty-two kilometres from the Java Sea, meaning that just like Tenggarong-Samarinda and indeed Pontianak, the largest city in West Kalimantan, it was set near the mouth of a massive river. That day, seeing the Banjar capital from the water, I first started to make sense of the history of the island. Its modern patterns of settlement were still a reflection of the ancient trade patterns: the three biggest cities in Kalimantan- Samarinda, Banjarmasin and Pontianak- were located at the mouths of its three biggest rivers. Today as in antiquity these cities had served as halfway points between the jungle-clad interior of the island. While the interior had been the preserve of Dayak hunters and gatherers speaking a multitude of tribal languages and dialects, more outwardly looking city ports had sprung up on the coast. The chiefs or petty kings who had held power at the major river mouths had been able to act as middle men between the Dayaks and the Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese traders who came to ancient Borneo in search of its jungle products. Their kingdoms and sultanates had grown rich off customs and excise duties- or whatever the ancient equivalents of such things had been. It was one of those moments when something suddenly came into clear focus and a whole new level of understanding was reached.

    From the confluence we turned inland and went upriver along the banks of the Barito. Here the exultation of being out on this mighty waterway was to quickly sour, at least for me. The first sign of environmental devastation was waterborne: a great variety of barges and ships were bringing down cut logs from the interior. On the biggest boats hundreds of massive logs were piled up in great ziggurats, whole allotments of forest chainsawed, hauled and stacked on boats for shipment downriver to Banjarmasin. What horrified and outraged me was the fact that there was apparently a moratorium on logging in this part of the world! Yet in flagrant violation of the supposed laws of the Republic, commercial logging was proceeding on a massive scale. I had heard that half of all the tropical timber in the world was being shipped out of Borneo, and that notion was dramatically and depressingly illustrated here.

   But if the haul on the boats had upset me, what was onshore was even worse. On the banks were a number of large sawmills, chewing up the jungles of Borneo and turning them into cut logs and planks for the booming furniture and construction industries of Asia. The amount of cut timber sitting around in sheds and timber-yards was truly incredibly, with whole piles of timber six metres high or metre being stacked up. The whole area was given over to the cutting up and storage of jungle timber, and all of going on a few kilometres from downtown Banjarmasin. Such was the scale of the pillage that I knew there was little help left for Borneo; it faced the same fate as Riau and in another decade or so would be denuded of all its primeval forest heritage. While the ancients had come here in search of jungle products, the modern trader came here to buy the jungle itself, with Borneo’s jungles being chopped down and shipped off to China and the West.

      After a while cruising past the saw-mills and timber-yards, we changed course and headed for Pulau Kembar, a river-island out in the Barito. According to legend the island had been formed when a Chinese junk had capsized in the river (capsized boat legends seem to be a dime a dozen in the world’s largest archipelago, hinting at a past of maritime trade and maritime disasters). But when we got there it was clearly just another mangrove island, rising above the river mud. We rounded the island and pulled up at a small wooden wharf, which was in an advanced state of dilapidation, and read the sign which confirmed that Pulau Kembar was still some kind of recognized tourist site.

   Its main claim to fame was the troops of macaques which lived on the island. There were a few locals about to sell peanuts to tourist arrivals so we could “feed the monkeys”. We adopted our obligatory role in the tourist circus and set off for a walk around Pulau Kembar, with the macaques closing in for a feed. Sadly it turned out that these large monkeys had lost all fear of humans and now behaved in a very aggressive manner, charging at us with bared teeth until we had given them what they wanted. The dominant male was a hideous brute with a mouth full of teeth twisted out at odd angles. We quickly handed out all the peanuts, hoping they would then lose interest but random macaques kept running over to check us out, coming much closer than we would have liked.

   At some point one of the peanut vendors picked up a large bit of wood and started swinging it threateningly at the macaques whenever they got too close. It worked better than our hissing and gesturing had done, but we were all in agreement that this island was a miserable sort of tourist attraction and decided to have a quick look around and get out of there. First, we headed for the mangrove walk, a raised boardwalk above a mangrove swamp. It offered a short five minute circuit walk, but it was also in a sorry state. Many of the planks were now missing and many of the others were badly weathered and decayed as well. We had to watch our step, while also keeping an eye out for marauding macaques, who hadn’t heard that we were out of peanuts. In the end we wound up at the much vaunted ‘Chinese temple’, which was really no more than a dismal, wooden pagoda without any walls or paint. It seemed as if the local Chinese Indonesians had given up on it years ago. Having seen this laughable main sight, we headed back towards the boat.

    But just before we got back to the wharf, the dominant male made one last charge at Sienna and bit her on the leg. As she cried out, the youth with the lump of wood swung it at the beast and it scurried off with a bit of a squeal. Clearly human-primate relations were at rock bottom on the island, and we were glad to be away from the wretched place. Cameron asked Sienna if she wanted to get straight back to Banjarmasin- a monkey had just bit her after all- but she assured us she was okay, and we continued on our adventure, seeing some shipyards and other parts of the port of Banjarmasin. Yet after we got back to Jakarta we learned she had received a souvenir from our trip out to Pulau Kembar that day- a permanent scar from where the macaque had bitten her on the leg.


                                                 The River of Diamonds (7.9)


   The next day we pursued just as busy a schedule of sightseeing, waking at six in the morning for our first stop. Clutching cameras and day packs, we made our way out of the hotel and back down to the river. We had asked the boat driver to meet us again the next morning but we really didn’t feel confident that he would be up in time. Yet we had doubted him unnecessarily; when we got down to the waterfront, he was there in his sampan.

   The early start was necessitated by the fact that we wanted to see Banjarmasin’s most famous attraction: the city’s floating market, located close to the confluence of the Kuin and Barito Rivers. Promoted by our guidebook as possibly South-East Asia’s most authentic market, I didn’t want to leave Banjarmasin without seeing it. We had spurned the DS Floating Market in Ratchaburi Province outside Bangkok, having read  that it was just a tourist show these days, put on entirely for Western tour groups, but clearly there were no Western tourists in South Kalimantan, and this market was still an authentic part of life in that corner of the island.

   The boat trip to the floating market was also to prove a revelation. As day rose over the Banjar capital, our boat driver took us along the minor canals along the main course of the river. This provided us with a close up look at the houses along the edge of the waterways. Some of these were evidently of great age with traditional Banjar roofs, but others were floating raft-houses that had a rough, crudely built appearance. The most interesting thing was how much the river was part of the life of the people in these communities. Their back doors literally opened on the Kuin River and when they wanted to bathe they climbed down ladder into the water. You saw women in sarongs hanging off these ladders while they washed their hair, and groups of boys who jumped straight out of their houses into the water to splash around with their friends. And the role of the river extended far beyond just bathing and swimming.

   There was a kind of floating general-store which we passed at one point. People in the river kampungs would paddle out here in sampan to buy rice, sugar, flour and other daily groceries. We had heard that there were also motorized versions of these stores, which headed upriver along the Barito and its tributaries, selling goods to remote villages located along the banks of the rivers. There was even one floating musholla, a small, Muslim prayer house, which was located in the centre of the kampung. In this part of Banjarmasin, it really was true to say that people lived out on the water, their lives tied to the river in a manner which had its roots in the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of antiquity.

    It took us about half an hour to reach the floating market and by the time we got there, it was already in full swing. There were dozens of long, pod-shaped sampans wedged together out in the river, constantly shifting positions as they paddled past each other, trying to get to the sampans of their customers. The sampans of the vendors served as both store and transport, with the floors of the boats stacked with the produce for sale. Most of the boats were selling fruits and vegetables. Huge branches of bananas were piled in the bottom of some of the boats, while others were filled to the brim with leafy, green vegetables of every variety. Still others served local breakfast items, sweets and other delicacies, and others offered rice packets in Styrofoam which you could take away. The vendors were mostly women and they wore enormous, dome-shaped hats called tanggui, which were a unique handicraft of the Banjarese. Made of rattan, they sat on top of the women’s heads like a gigantic mushroom cap. They were obviously useful for keeping the sun off the women’s complexions, with fair skin being regarded as a sign of beauty throughout Indonesia. In the end, wanting to buy something, I purchased some local sweets from one of these tanggui-wearing women, and we ate them on the way back to town.

   The Banjarmasin floating market has all the makings of a tourist circus, except that it is in South Kalimantan, hundreds of kilometres away from anywhere large numbers of foreign travelers congregate. In the medium term it has more potential as a tourist attraction for domestic tourists, and during our visit there was one sampan filled with Indonesian art students snapping away on their cameras. Moreover, several years later the national broadcaster featured footage of the market as part of a montage of Indonesian life. But what is of more interest for the history buff is the little window that it opens on the ancient past of Borneo and the Indonesian archipelago generally.

   It was a reminder of the importance of riverine communities, markets and trade in the development of the early kingdoms. Ancient travelers to Indonesia often reported that the people lived out on the water on floating houses. In ancient Sumatra, for example, a majority of the population of the great trade emporiums had once lived on rafts, explaining why little remains of these former capitals. It is also worth remembering the role which trade commodities had played in bringing Indonesia into global trade networks. It has often been suggested that long before the rise of major kingdoms, local rulers had gained wealth and prestige by their position on riverine trading networks. It was telling in this case that this market had sprung up near the confluence of the Barito and Kuin rivers. In the ancient past, the rivers were the highways and this place would have marked a trade crossroads. It was very likely that the floating market we had seen marked an age-old scene. In modern Banjarmasin people still traded on the waters of the great rivers, using them as both highways and marketplaces, just as they had in the days of the earliest Indonesian kingdoms.

    After breakfast we hired a taxi to take us out of town to explore the surrounding area. We managed to get a car for Rp 250.000, around $28 for the whole day, excluding petrol. First of all we headed 25km out to Martapura, which was the administrative centre for the province. On the weekend it had a rather deserted look, with all its government offices being left empty. (Though knowing how little gets down in many offices in Indonesia, perhaps it wouldn’t have been much different on a work day!) The main thing to see here was the Kalsel (South Kalimantan) provincial museum, which could be accessed for a few thousand rupiah apiece.

    The museum was nothing out of the ordinary but it was clearly labelled and offered a modicum of information about local culture. This was as much as you can expect of a museum in a backwater province of Indonesia. We collect local textiles, so we enjoyed seeing their large collection of cloths from all over the archipelago. Apparently the Banjarese produced some of tie-dyed cloth which we had never heard before that would not have looked out of place at the Woodstock Festival. In terms of the ancient kingdoms, the best display was from the archaeological sites of Candi Laras and Candi _______. These were small stone candi from the interior of the province, which, at the time, were just a pile of rocks. They have since been fully restored, and they clearly resemble the earliest phase of Hindu architecture from Java, just across the sea. Even in their ruined state, they were proof that South Kalimantan had been ‘Indianized’ as early as the eighth century. There had been Hindu kingdoms in this area for at least seven-hundred years before the Islamic Sultanate of Banjar.

    From the museum we headed out into the swampy villages to the north of the market town of __________, which was locally famous for its gemstone market. (Gemstones, especially diamonds, would have been one of the commodities which attracted Viet, Chinese and Indian seafarers to this remote part of the world in ancient times.) Not being in the market for a diamond, we kept on. I was interested to see traditional Banjar houses, and the area around ____________ was said to be fertile hunting grounds. About five kilometres out of town, we came upon a cluster of old houses set amongst a low-lying, swampy area of land with a rather forsaken look.

   Our driver decided to wait in the car and we set off towards the houses along a wooden boardwalk. There were two large old houses, both of a slightly different style, less than a hundred metres back from the road. The one on the left hand side was the more massive of the two and it was still occupied. By the time we got near we had attracted the attention of the locals and a greeting party had formed in our honor. Their leader, a slender man wearing a sarong, asked who we were and why we had come to his village. After a few minutes exchanging pleasantries, he told us what he knew about the houses.

   He said that formerly up to twenty or thirty people had lived in one Banjar house, with many branches of the one family living under a single roof. As recent times, as people had adopted more Western customs, many people had developed a preference for smaller, more private houses. As a result, many of the oldest houses had now been abandoned. This was also a result of the high costs associated with the upkeep of a traditional house. As an example of this phenomenon, he pointed to the smaller Banjar house to our right. It had been nominated as a National Monument and officially it enjoyed protection as a heritage property, but no funds had been made available for its conservation. The house was set up on stilts. It had a very high roof with several consecutive peaks and the quality of the woodwork and carving was delightful. But the house was also completely abandoned. He showed us around the house and there was no longer a single stick of furniture inside. It was still in reasonable condition then, but with no one looking after it, it could only be expected to deteriorate in the coming years, and a valuable piece of the region’s heritage would eventually be lost. From there he graciously showed us around the rest of the village, which consisted of a mixture of historic and modern houses. People were very curious and warm towards us (the village was completely unused to visitors, clearly) and we left with a very positive impression of our time there.

    From there, we continued on to the last of the three main stops of our day tour, heading out to Cempaka, some forty kilometres out of Banjarmasin. There wasn’t much traffic about but the roads were very narrow so progress was pretty slow nonetheless. Still, it gave us a decent look at the area. We passed a number of large duck farms- the province was a major player in the Indonesian duck and duck-egg industries- and there were quite a number of villages along the way. The area along the road was always low and swampy but towards the end of the trip we could see blue mountains rising in the distance. These were the Meratus Mountain Range- the highest point in the province. We stopped at one point at a roadside restaurant and had Padang food (this was the driver’s request) and from there we continued on Cempaka, locally known for its illegal diamond miners.

    There was a legal, official mine at Cempaka, it seemed, but without an entry permit, we were more interested in the “informal” diggings outside of the perimeter fence. There was a small town of some sort, which consisted of little more than weathered, wooden shacks along the main road, and past this was an area of diamond pits and heaps of mine tailings. Climbing out of the taxi in the midst of this bleak environment, we wandered off through the hillocks, camera in hand. Just over the first rise, we saw a group of shirtless miners with pickaxes and shovels digging holes and throwing the soil onto a kind of rickety conveyer-belt. There were also various deep pools where the soil had been previously been scooped out, giving the whole area a pocked appearance.

   Unlike at our last stop, these people had obviously seen tourists- or at least traders- before. They did not seem particularly surprised to see us, and a couple of them wandered over with some specimens of their finds, asking if we wanted to buy them. While it was interesting to see a real “diamonds in the rough”, none of us had any idea what we were looking at and certainly weren’t interested in making a purchase. In terms of souvenirs, we were more interested in taking a few snapshots, which we did of the diamond miners among the heaped tailings. As we did so I remembered that the Indonesian word for Borneo, Kalimantan, apparently meant “River of Diamonds” in one of the local languages, and thought that perhaps jewels and gemstones had been one of the island’s coveted commodities since the days of the early kingdoms.

    From there we went back to the taxi and headed back into Banjarmasin. Sienna was flying back to Jakarta early the next morning and we were flying on into Central Kalimantan in the hope of seeing orang-utans at Camp Leakey. In preparation of an early rise, we had a quiet night, bringing to an end an unexpectedly rich couple of days in South Kalimantan.