Banjarmasin is the best place to absorb Kalimantan’s urban culture, both on land as on the waters. Located on a delta near the junction of the Barito and Martapura rivers, Banjarmasin, together with its neighboring city, Banjarbaru, form the center of the ninth largest metropolitan city in Indonesia.
From ancient times and up to this day, Banjarmasin has remained an important harbor town on Kalimantan. It has an abundance of wide and mighty rivers, which have always played a significant role in the Banjarese’ (the indigenous ethnic group of Banjarmasin) way of life. To this very day, every morning there are floating markets where farmers and merchants ply their goods on boats to trade. The town’s main attractions are the suburbs that are traversed by canals, where much of the city’s commerce takes place on the water.
The most notable of these river markets is the Muara Kuin Floating Market located on the Barito River. The floating market is the place to see the traffic of all kinds of boats laden with bananas, shrimps, fish, yams, spinach, coconut, incandescent spices and chilies, buckets of fuzzy rambutans, and whatever other fruit are in season. Maneuvering their boats with dexterity and precision, since the boats are constantly wobbled by the river’s waves, traders exchange goods and money.
There are daily flights from many Indonesian cities including from Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Balikpapan, Sampit and Pangkalan Bun to Banjarmasin’s airport of Syamsuddin Noor (BDJ) . The airport is 26 km from Banjarmasin, or about half an hour ‘s drive from the city. To go to the city, you can take a taxi (with fixed rate) or better yet, tell your hotel to pick you up.
Another alternative to get to Banjarmasin is by ship from various places in Indonesia to Banjarmasin’s main harbor, named Trisakti. The sea trip will take approximately 2 days and 2 nights from Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Harbor’s Passenger Terminal. Plus, there are ferries from Semarang and Surabaya, both on Java. There’s a ferry every 2 days between Surabaya and Banjarmasin.
The ferry between Surabaya and Banjarmasin takes 21 hours. If you have a problem with cigarette smoke, this is not a good method to travel since smoking is permitted in the sleeping area. There are no cabins. Females travelling solo should be aware that they will receive a considerable amount of male attention, most of it unwanted. The food is also not good.
There are public buses from Balikpapan to Banjarmasin, which will take a little over 14 hours.
Alternatively, if you are coming from the neighbouring provinces of East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, there is plenty of boat transportation on the rivers of Kalimantan. This could be an adventurous or boring ride depending on your taste. A range of boats are available, from slow moving traditional boats to speedboats. It’s a great choice if you are extremely adaptable to the local’s way of life.