Travel Guide: Palangkaraya, Indonesia
There’s really only one reason to come to the capital city of Kalimantan–to see a wild orangutan.
This hotel is clean and spacious. It has hot water, AC and pretty good wi-fi. The free breakfast is simple but good with fresh fruit, toast, noodles and rice. We paid 320,000 rupiah per night.
We don’t have much to report about the food scene in Palangkaraya as there were few restaurants within walking distance of our hotel. The Amaris Hotel has a restaurant downstairs that we did not try, but prices seemed reasonable. We did manage to find some pretty good ikan bakar (grilled fish) one night, and tried an expensive but delicious family-style Chinese restaurant near the night market.
At this point in the trip, we were getting burnt out on fried rice and noodles, so we opted to order some KFC through the front desk and have it delivered. Some of you will read this and think we’ve committed the ultimate tourist faux pas, but sometimes you get tired of constant culinary adventures and just want something familiar. So think of us when you find yourself in a McDonald’s on your next adventure!
Things to Do
A small but fascinating collection of Dayak artifacts that will introduce you to the rich culture of the native people of Borneo. Most of the museum displays are written in Indonesian and English. You won’t be able to read what every little thing is but you can get a general idea of what you’re looking at.
Thanks to some misinformation in the Indonesia Lonely Planet guide book, we happened to visit on a Saturday when the museum was closed, but a museum coordinator took pity on us and let us in to browse the collection for a couple of hours. The entrance fee was 50,000 rupiah per person.
The largest traditional market in Palangkaraya. We visited the Pasar Malam (night market), which runs from 3PM until 9:30PM. You can find anything at this colorful market, from delicious local food to clothes and souvenirs. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking for something to do in the city!
The best way to get from Amaris to the market is to take the local mini buses. They cost 10,000 rupiah per person each way, so they are dramatically less expensive than taking a cab. To flag one down, clap hard to get the driver’s attention, then give him a wave.
Hire a Driver
To see the interesting parts of Palangkaraya and the surrounding Nyaru Menteng Arboretum, your best bet is to hire a driver. Our group of 4 was able to hire a driver for the day for 600,000 rupiah (300,000 per couple). Just across the street from the Amaris Hotel there is a small tour guide office–we hired our driver here. We highly recommend doing this instead of taking a cab–it’s much cheaper and you can take your time exploring without stressing that the meter’s running!
Kaja Island River Tour
This is why you took the 3 hour bus ride from Banjarmasin to Palangkaraya–for a chance to catch a glimpse of a mighty orangutan in the wild! A short ride up the Rungan river in a small, dilapidated boat will bring you to Kaja Island, where rehabilitated orangutans are released back into the wild. During our visit, and thanks to Ketut’s sharp eyes, we saw three orangutans. The boat ride cost 180,000 rupiah per person. The best time of day to take this tour is in the morning; you’re more likely to spot orangutans along the beach before the heat of the day sets in.
Don’t expect to be cruising up the river in a luxurious ship–our boat sat water level and leaked like a sieve. The captain of our small vessel spent as much time steering the ship as he spent bailing it out. Similarly, I spent as much time enjoying the boat ride as I spent worrying about our camera equipment.
It would be extremely difficult for a foreigner to show up at the dock and hire a boat without knowing how to speak the language. You should arrange to take a tour in the city before traveling out to the river.
To see more pictures from our tour, click here
Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
The Nyaru Menteng BOS Center focuses on orangutan rescue, rehabilitation, reintroduction and long-term conservation. When you visit you’ll learn all about the foundation through several videos they loop throughout the day. You can only observe the orangutans behind thick glass. The center opens to the public on Sunday, from 9AM till 3PM. It was free, and they accept donations.
After exploring the center, we took a walk through the surrounding Nyaru Menteng Arboretum along 5km worth of cute boardwalk.
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