Welcome to East Kalimantan which was the oldest Hindu kingdoms in Indonesia, and what is the second largest Indonesian province. The two major cities in the province are Samarinda (the capital of timber production) and Balikpapan (the center of the petroleum and oil refinery industries).
The indigenous population are made up of the Dayaks and Kutai groups living in rural areas. While other migrant ethnic groups Javanese, Chinese, Banjarese, Bugis and Malays, who mostly preside on the coastal areas.
Here are some of the highlights:
A stones throw away from the Makassar Strait well to be exact 60.7 km sits the Capital of East Kalimantan, Samarinda. The first thing you will notice when you see Samarinda is Mesjid Raya Darussalam mosque and for good reason. This is an amazing structure and reminds you of what an important role religion plays in the lives of the locals.
Samarinda is used as a jumping off point for trips into the jungle and rainforest of kalimantan. Yet if you have time we suggest that you visit Pampang Kenyah a small village 40 km to the east of Samarinda, as there is a Dayak ceremony on Sundays. You will not be the only tourist as it does get a bit busy.
The city by the sea and this is exactly why this city has made its fortune. There are two harbors, Semayang and Kariangau (a ferry harbour), yet as a tourist you are probably entering the region through the airport, Sepinggan International Airport. As the wheels touch that tarmac you will immediately notice that every Indonesian has already gotten their bags and are heading for the door, but that is by th by the next thing you will notice is that Balikpapan is actually a very hilly area unlike most of Kalimantan. The city itself has a population of just less than half a million yet it is an extraordinarily busy place for this relatively small number of people.
There are lots of bars and places to sit back and relax. Yet if you are looking for a walk on the wild side I would recommend a quick visit to the crocodile farm. Yes you heard it right you can spend the day with those fluffy friendly crocodiles. All joking aside it is amazing to see hundreds of them safely on the other side of the security fence.
Now for the ladies, or even gents, are you looking to get your hands on something shiny and the perfect gift for any occasion? Then you need to take a trip to Kebun Sayur, this is the gem market.
Tourist offices are great places for the leaflets and better knowledge of the local area, but hats off to the people at 'Kantor Pariwisata Kota Balikpapan' or 'Dinas Pariwisata' as they seem to call themselves. Very nice people and it was so clear that they love the region, it was not just a job but they want you to share their love for Balikpapan.
Now, how much of an adventure do you want? This is not for the faint hearted. Yet if you want to live with the Kenyah people, a Dayak indigenous group, now I mean live, wake up, wash, eat, do all your activities and fall asleep with the Kenyah people then this is for you. Imagine a remote village in the highlands where western culture is a bit of a myth. You have probably seen pictures of the women from this area and not have realized, they are easy to identify as they have the long stretched ear lobs that bounce around their shoulders.
You know the black stuff that burns really well, Coal, the other black gold. Well this place is known for being a great spot for it. So bring along you spade and bucket. No to be serious for a moment this is quite a small place yet quiet affluent and this is clear when you see all the fantastic traditional building. The Museum Batiwakkal at the Gunung Tabur Kraton, the Pura Agung Giri Natha Hindu Temple, the Sambaliung Kraton and the Mesjid Agung Baitul Hikmah mosque. This mosque certainly captures the eye and the skyline with its bright green monolithic tower.
Please help save this park.
Sadly this national park has lost about 70% if its pristine rainforest to illegal logging and natural disasters. On paper this does not hit home but when you go there it burn a hold in your heart. There are around 2,000 orangutans in the park and you will fall in love with everyone you are lucky enough to see. There are official guides who are fantastic and make every step an adventure as you move up close and personal with the animals. You can get here from Samarinda and Bontang.
Do you like to trek? Welcome home then. It is truly beautiful up here, as you follow the trails that will lead you into Kayan Mentarang National Park. Don’t go too far west or you will need your passport as you enter Malaysia.
Jump on board, take a long boat from Samarinda to Muara Muntai. It will take around 10 to 12 hours and it will fell like a walking pace as you saunter up the river into the Mahakam lake country. When you get to Muara Muntai it is time to hit the markets and see what bargains you can pick up. What is the price of a live chicken these days anyway?
Nunukan is the capital of the Nunukan district, which is where the the central government offices are located. There are 5 main villages in the district. The most noticeable place to visit would be Enching & Sedadap Beaches which are quiet during the week and get very busy on Saturday and Sunday in the early hours of the morning. There is also Binusan Waterfall which I have never managed to get to so please let us know what you think.
Pulau Derawan (Derawan Island)
A hidden Gem. This is a beautiful place that time and tourist seem to have forgotten about. Great food and a wonderful place to visit but you have to get into the water to really find out what this place is all about. As you slip into the waters from the white sandy beaches you will find yourself in another world. Diving and Snorkeling is a must and if you are lucky you will be swimming with the turtles.
Check out: http://www.divederawan.com/
Tarakan is 100km south of Nunukan, and it is useful as a visa-free border-crossing between Indonesia and the Malaysia town of Tawau in Sabah.
As a tourist destination why go there, well it does have historical value as it was the site of a prominent battle between Australan and Japanese soldiers coming to the end of World War II. There is a memorial placed there to let us remember those who fell.