OK that did it! While having dinner + a couple quarts of Bintang served by the great looking Bintang girl I made the executive decision to put Pontianak, Indonesian Borneo on the bucket list for anyone interested in getting off the beaten tourist track & happen to be in the area ie; SE Asia! See below for reasons.
A quick heads-up on credit cards, to save unnecessary hassles it’s a good idea to make sure that your name on the card is exactly the same as on your passport, managed to talk the nice young lady into using the one I wanted her to but took a bit with the language difficulty.
Just when, after 5 months in SE Asia, one thinks they have they have seen it all & there will be no further surprises, you reach the Tebedu-Entikong, where the last empty page on my passport was used for another full page visa, border between Malaysian Borneo’s Sarawak province & Indonesian Borneo’s West Kalimantan province where—hang on to your horses—you have entered a whole new ball game!
From no motor bikes/scooters in Brunei to less than usual in the Malaysian province of Sarawak, you are immediately into a whole bunch of motos/scoters & pedal sharing the road, not as bad as Saigon but more than Bangkok. Then add a slew of Mitsubishi public buses, basically a 20-25 passenger minicoach (equivalent to an E450 Ford) which are seriously overloaded & may or not still have the dual rear wheels in place. The first one we met only had singles in place & was using the motos as a slalom course, speeding down the highway, looking as if it would upset at any moment (& I thought Thailand’s van drivers were crazy—nope perfectly sane in comparison), add in the lousy road conditions & driving can be a challenge, especially after dark as lights seem to be optional.
Other than the crazy drivers (coach bus drivers excepted) & the questionable safety of the public buses it’s a great place to visit with friendly people who although their English is limited, successfully make the effort to communicate. Did have a tad of a disagreement over price with my taxi driver who toured me around this afternoon (tried to change price to piece work from hourly agreed upon) but the hotel staff negotiated an amicable agreement with no hard feelings on either side.
Restaurants in Borneo tend to have tables set up for 6-10 people so if busy you get to sit with others & invariably the others will try out their English on you even if it’s limited to a few words which makes travel in Borneo even more interesting. Oh yeah saw another white face today, makes a total of 3 in 4 days. So definitely a destination if one wants to get away from western tourists.
Have been warned more than once by locals that safety can be a concern in Indonesia but so far I have had no problems or found myself in a situation where I felt uncomfortable. Of course on my last day in Bangkok I walked through a red shirt encampment with no worries nor problems but am keeping alert & staying out of iffy areas here. Staying on the water front but apparently the hotel is owned by the navy so it’s all right.
Another first today as this old farm boy from The Eastern Townships crossed the Equator for the first time, visited the Kadariyah Palace, which is nothing more than an elaborate wooden house (for the time) situated in a working class neighborhood but pretty cool, then the Provincial museum where NO English translation of the exhibits is given (clearly showing the lack of western visitors).
Then tonight after dinner while having a cool one & enjoying the scenery, I was joined by an Indonesian whose hobby was practicing his English language skills, which were quite good, on any foreigner he came across. That along wit the Asian tourists I met at the Equator monument who wanted their picture taken with this farang (or whatever the term is here), not to forget the Bintang girl with the long hair & those fantastic Asian good looks (same as the Bangkok Singha girls) made me deicide to place it on the bucket list for any traveler to SE Asia looking to get off the beaten track (regular tourists need not bother. Also given the fact that Kota Pontianak is reachable by air, ship or bus from anywhere makes it an ideal destination !