Thursday 5 September 2019


Equator monument 1982
          Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, Indonesia probably is an unlikely  stop over for travelers.My first encounter with this  destination dated far back as August 1982 when, surprisingly, I was seconded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take up my designation as the Malaysian Police Liaison Officer (MPLO) at the  Malaysian Consulate in Pontianak that was established in West Kalimantan in Nov 1982. This opportunity, as far as I was concerned, was  a wish came true. Pontianak, first attracted my attention during my primary school days at Pykett Methodist Penang having located this city on the world atlas during our geography lesson and of course as a boy I wondered how was the situation  then.What a name for a city. Least did I expect of being here. As far as we Malaysians and even Indonesians are concerned we are familiar with 'Pontianak' something equivalent to the  female version of Count Dracula/Vampire 
Equator monument 2019

     In the eighties  access to this city was by air once a week on Friday by Merpati Nusantara  from  Kuching.The other alternative was by road from Kuching to Serian, Tebakang to Tebedu our last frontier before crossing into Indonesia. No official crossing point existed however anyone intending to venture further has to report to our police and Immigration Officer in Tebedu. Then proceed on foot through jungle track and earthen road to reached the Entekong on the Indonesian border.All travelers must report to the Indonesian military border post for registration.Bear in mind at that time border operations were carried out by both armies to hunt Paraku communists along the common border.

Border crossing
If you arrived at the border town at noon you probably have to spend a night at Entekong a small village as all public transport would have left Entekong for Pontianak at break of dawn.Road trips from Entekong to Pontianak will take about 8 hours. Currently air con tour buses depart daily from Kuching in the morning as soon as the border opens but with better road conditions now the journey reportedly is more pleasant.

The flight time is about fourty five minutes and the scenario down below are the dense  jungles of Kalimantan. I anticipated life would be very much different and was prepared to face the situation in a place that I will be calling home.Unfortunately at that time Pontianak faced a long drought.Water for drinking comes from the Kapuas River. The Supadio Airport itself   gave me a brief picture of what to expect. Whatever the situation as a police officer I had to adjust. "When in Rome do as the Romans do" that's it. I did not take long to adjust to  my new environment and my gregarious character made  it easy to attract friends quickly. One thing for sure I left the hustle and stress of Kuala Lumpur for Pontianak alone with no friends except for a couple of military men from Third Brigade, Sarawak. However at the conclusion of my tour of duty I left a number of local friends whom I considered as relations a friendship I cherished to this very day.Well of course some have passed on and may God bless their souls.

     My most recent visit to Pontianak was on 15 August 2019 which coincided with the National Day of Indonesia on 17 August 2019, Before this recent visit my second visit Pontianak was in 2003 for a Search & Rescue meeting..What a surprise Pontianak had undergone a drastic change. Shopping malls, and starred hotels can boost tourism which was negligible in the seventies and eighties. Further more with the opening of overland travel it is now possible to drive from Kota Kinabalu to Pontianak.

     Before my departure I visioned the city of Pontianak to be somewhat like our own Kuching the capital of Sarawak.Unfortunately that was not the case as they have much catching up to do. The ground condition in the city areas were not conducive for the construction of any structure beyond 4 floors high. .The new Supadio airport was impressive  Decades ago there existed no supermarkets or shopping malls.This transformation  now put them at par with Kuching. In the eighties  only the Kapuas Permai Hotel can be proud to have an Olympic size swimming pool. An alternative public pool was located at Tetraria which is now just a memory. PresentlytThere are a number of good hotels to cater for tourists.

 Present Hotel Kapuas

Legend has it that Pontianak was founded on 23 October 1771 by Syarif Abdurrahman Al Khadrie of Arab decent.He sailed up the river Kapuas and upon reaching  the confluence of the rivers Kapuas and Landak he decided to establish his sultanate. It was said that evil spirits roamed the location.  Syarif Abdurrahman Al Khadrie ordered his men to fire a canon ball and at the break of dawn  directed them  to locate the canon ball.At the spot  where the canon ball was recovered he ordered the construction of the 'masjid' of timber that stood the test of time till this present day. Similarly like Masjid Jamek Kuala Lumpur which  is located at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang Rivers, Masjid Keraton Pontinnak is located at the confluence of the Landak and Kapuas Rivers.

   There are events of significance to me.The ceremony at the Hero's Memorial (Makam Pahlawan) is one and others are Ramadhan and the Eid Celebrations. Indonesian independence day is celebrated on 17 August each year with a solemn ceremony at the 'Makam Pahlawan' that will simultaneously commence at 0000 hrs 17 August throughout the republic. Of interest, the regional military commander (Pangdam) will declare the number of TNI soldiers,vigilante and villagers (including unknown soldiers) from West Kalimantan who died fighting for independence. .Candles are lighted on each standard size tombstone with a combat helmet on each grave.What a beautiful sight it was.Tears swell in my eyes while the buglers sounded the 'last post', that echoed throughout the cemetery, as the numbers of the dead were cited.Graves were segregated according to the various religion. This ceremony was something I have never experience before. Follow up to this in the morning the parade and the raising of the national flag took place. What a big difference as compared to our celebration. At the parade iveterans were given front seating what an honour.

Tomb of civilian combatant

    Ramadhan in Pontianak is also unique affair, each morning during 'sahur' the village youths would strike electrical, telecommunication posts and empty tins to wake up people for the early morning meals.The terawih congregations in mosques  remained about the same in numbers from day one to the conclusion of the fasting month.During the last week of Ramadhan the explosion of the Raya canons fired from both banks of the Kapuas turned the place into  a war zone.Surprisingly no casualties reported connected with these activities.

Log Canon  used before
Present day concrete canon
Eid prayers decades ago were held in the streets especially  in front of the old military HQ near Alun Kapuas Park and on the road in front of the Mujahidin Mosque. The main prayer hall was not utilised.

It was known that,Lampung, and of course Pontianak are the only two provincwere the most  that  carried on with  this tradition.My three Hari Raya in  Pontianak the most memorable.

Mujahidin Mosque Pontianak
Add caption

St Joseph Cathedral Pontianak
I was happy to be able to meet old friends but sadly some had passed on.One of my dear friend is Bapak Agus Prawito a dentist by profession. Overall he's Ok except for his hearing.I met him during my tour of duty second occasion in 2003. 

If the opportunity prevail ang God willing I will again make that journey down memory lane.The locals mentioned this everytime to a visitor -If you have drunk the water from the Kapuas River then, one day you shall make a return trip  to Pontianak.I did just that. Apart from Nasi Padang do enjoy the fried ayam kampong, local 'jeruk' (orange) and don't forget to soothing Aloe Vera drink.  

With enough finance and of course good health one must make it point to visit Putussibau the eastern frontier of West Kalimantan and of course Sambas and Singkawang, the "Amoy' city of West Kalimantan.
                                               Image result for map of west kalimantan indonesia