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Pontianak

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Pontianak is the capital of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. The city is mostly populated by ethnic Chinese, Dayak, and Malay as well as significant number of minorities such as Bugis and Javanese.

Understand[edit]

History[edit]

The word pontianak — probably from bunting anak, "pregnant with child" — means the undead vampire of a woman who died while during childbirth. Disguised as a beautiful woman, the pontianak goes around murdering unwary men, harming pregnant woman and eating babies, but they can be controlled by plunging a nail into a hole in the back of their neck.

Legend said at the first time of Abdurrahman Alqadrie group arrival in the uninhabited area of Pontianak, it was haunted by pontianaks/kuntilanaks, which deterred many of his companions by their scary voices at nights. To sweep these ghosts away, Alqadrie ordered his men to fire their cannons to the forest which was believed to be their base. Afterwards, no more pontianaks' voice were heard ever.

In 1771, Abdurrahman Alqadrie cut down the forest which was at the crossing between Kapuas and Landak river, then settled there. He was awarded the title Sultan. Under his leadership, he succeeded to attract many traders, most of which are ethnic Malay, as well as some Dayaks from the upstream of Kapuas river.

Following the civil war and widespread poverty in China at the end of 19th century, many Chinese migrated to Indonesia, which also targeted Pontianak due to its strategic location for trading, main occupation of the Chinese. This later added Chinese culture to history of Pontianak. Chinese sub-ethnics in Pontianak are mainly Teochew, Hakka, and some Cantonese--dominant Chinese citizens in Hong Kong.

In the early of 19th century, the Dutch occupied Pontianak and the rest of West Kalimantan cities as part of its colonial campaign. Pontianak is occupied to become its trading post to gain rich natural resources, mainly rubber and wood, from the upstream of Kapuas river. Resistances committed by both ethnic Malay and Dayak occur sporadically, which forced the Dutch colonial armed forces to request for reinforcement from Batavia/Jakarta frequently.

Dutch occupation ended in 1941 during the World War 2 when Japanese imperial forces overrun their bases from the north, which were not deployed by reasonable amount of soldiers in order to defend strategic Java island. During Japanese occupation, they massacred tens of thousands of civilians and intellectuals, mainly those who refused to recognise the emperor of Japan.

When the Japanese retreated, the Dutch under the Allied Forces umbrella re-entered West Kalimantan. Their colonial government over Pontianak ended few years later after series of diplomatic missions and local resistances which have also freed the other Indonesian territories at the same time.

People[edit]

You may find that Pontianakians of each ethnic tend to live homogenously. For example, areas along Jalan Gajahmada are overwhelmingly Chinese whereas Sungai Jawi in the suburb are settled mostly by ethnic Malays. Intermarriage is not common, especially between ethnic Chinese and the indigenous people (Dayaks, Malays, Javanese, Madurese, etc.). But that's not to say these people like to fight against each other. Visit a restaurant somewhere in the middle of Pontianak and you might find a Chinese and a Dayak chat hilariously.

The locals of Pontianakians are mostly easygoing, at least compared to those of other metropolitan cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya. Their tone of speaking may not as soft as the Jogjanese, but if you try to blend yourself with them you will almost definitely be reciprocated.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

Bus trip to Pontianak can be arranged from Kuching in neighboring Malaysia. A trip from Kuching to Pontianak or vice versa will last at least 8 hours which will pass the border area of Entikong. Some of the bus providers serving this route are Damri, SJS and Biaramas Express (www.mybus.com.my). The fares for the trip ranges from RM45 to RM75. Click Pontianak_to_Kuching for travel itinerary on this route. A bus trip to Brunei is also available.

By plane[edit]

Pontianak is reachable by air with Batavia Air [1] from Jakarta, Batam (accessible from Singapore by ferry), Pekanbaru, Surabaya, Yogyakarta]. Batavia Air also operates direct international flights to Singapore and Kuching, Malaysia. The name of the local airport is Supadio. A new addition to the Pontianak to Kuching route is Kalstar.

Other airlines serving the city from Jakarta include Garuda Indonesia [2], Sriwijaya Air[3], Lion Air [4] Maswing Airline [5] serve from Kuching to Pontianak.

From the airport to Pontianak city the only mean of transportation is by taxi (coupons at fixed price IDR60,000 are sold). Hotels, such as the Aston, will charge IDR100,000 for a 4 person transfer from the airport.

By boat[edit]

While being the cheapest inter-island transportation mean, it is recommended only for travellers to board on a ship to Pontianak. Tourists would do better to fly instead. The tide in Java Sea is unstable, which may make you feel sick on board, if you are not used to high tide. A trip will spend 12-18 hours to/from Jakarta. Contact nearest travel agent to conduct your trip.

By car[edit]

Pontianak can be reached by car from Kuching in 6-8 hours, although the road is not in very good shape. See Pontianak to Kuching for a detailed itinerary.

Get around[edit]

The most convenient way to explore Pontianak is either by taxi or rented car. The entire Pontianak is integrated by road link, parts of which are not well maintained. There are also plenty of cheap (IDR2,000) public buses in the form of minivans but sometimes it can be kind of adventure to use them since the buses are not well marked, drivers and most of the locals do not speak English and the orientation is difficult. The public buses are marked by colors which indicate their routes. There are yellow, red, grey, blue, light green, dark green buses. Yellow buses serve Jl. Tanjungpura and Jl. Imam Bonjol. Red buses will serve the route to Jeruju, grey buses serve Jl. Gajahmada, dark green buses serve Kota Baru area. There isn't any central bus station for intracity buses, but some will congregates in Jl. Tanjungpura. Also there are boats crossing the river and this is in general the most convenient and the cheapest (IDR1,000) way to get in to the other side.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Kebun Binatang Pontianak (Pontianak Zoo), Jl. Adi Sucipto, a reconditioned zoo with a reasonable variety of animals from the jungles of Borneo and from some parts of Indonesia. Some of the collection, including some orangutans, were said to had been freed from illegal ownership by an Italian lumber mill owner.
  • Tugu Khatulistiwa (Equatorial Obelisk), built directly under the 0 degrees equator line. It is only 11km from the city center and is comparably easy and fast reachable by public buses (IDR2,000). There you can learn lots of interesting facts about the equator and to see how unique is Pontianak, one of the few cities in the world situated exactly on the equator line. There are friendly English speaking staff and sоuvenir shop, actually maybe the only one in Pontianak.

Do[edit][add listing]

Sungai Kapuas (Kapuas River) divides Pontianak into two different sides. Get a boat ride along the river about 5-6pm local time and you will see amazing view along this river. The locals who live along this river taking a bath in this river during these hours throughout the year. A very unique tradition that should not be missed.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Equatorial souvenirs from the Equatorial Obelisk sоuvenir shop, as well as, cheap textile and many craftwork items as everywhere in Indonesia.

Eat[edit][add listing]

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Pontianak is quite popular among domestic tourists due to its wide range of food with strong cultural touch, most notably the Chinese. There are plenty of eating options for the culinary adventurers, from street hawker food to local restaurant culinary to internationally franchised fast food.

  • Street Hawker Food, where you can taste the local delicacy such as Beef Rice Noodle & Beehoon (Fried, With soup, Dried), Seafood Noodle (With soup & Dried), Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice with Chicken, Beef), Nasi Uduk, Kwe Kia Theng (Teochew phrase, Rice Noodle in Soya Sauce Soup with Pork and intestines (optional), Bakso (Fish or Beef Ball Soup), Sate (Chicken or Beef Satay), Kari Peng (Teochew phrace meaning Curry Rice), Koi Peng (Teochew phrase literary "Chicken Rice", but content also include pork, cucumber, etc. also known as "Nasi Campur" or Mixed Riced), Martabak, Kue Terang Bulan, Otak-otak, Pempek, Tui Jiu He (Teochew phrase literary "Beaten Cuttlefish", dried cuttlefish are beaten until tender and flossy, woodfired until cooked, then served with belacan sauce, best to have it with friends and beer), Sio Bi (also known as Siomay, made of pork served in soya sauce with the options of chilli and mustard), Siomay Bandung (Fish cake, beancurd, potato, vegetable, egg served in peanut sauce, with the option of chilli and tomato), He Mue/Bubur Ikan (Fish Porridge), and many more. These Street Hawkers are usually found from dusk until 10pm - 12am, depending or business, but some operated from dawn to dusk or midnight. They are usually clustered around busy commercial streets such as the CBD: Jalan (Jl.) Gajahmada, Jl. Hijas, Jl. Setia Budi, Jl. Agus Salim, Jl. Diponegoro, Jl. Patimura, Jl. Nusa Indah 1, Jl. Tanjung Pura, Jl Siam or around the suburban such as Jawi (Jl. Merdeka, Jl. Hassanudin, Jl. Wahid Hasyim), Kotabaru (Jl. St. Abdurrahman), Purnama, Siantan, Sungai Raya Dalam and Sungai Raya. Price per meal ranging from IDR 5000 to about IDR 25000 (USD 0.55 - 2.77 at IDR 9000 exchange rate).
  • Local Restaurants include Chinese Food such as Satria Wangi Dining; they have great local menu at very affordable price as well as average-English-speaking staff. The restaurant is centrally located at the heart of the city, Jl. Nusa Indah II No. 62. Its signature dishes such Ikan Gurame Terbang, Gulai Kepala Ikan, Ikan Jelawat Kukus have been featured and reviewed by many national TVs cooking show. Pontianak culinary experience has more to offer; some other options include Restoran Star (Jl. GajahMada), Restoran Gajahmada (Jl. Gajahmada), and Restoran Hawaii (Jl. Nusa Indah 3), Malay Food such as Dangau (Jl. Arteri Supadio), Western & Japanese Food such as Italian Steak House (Jl. Nusa Indah 3), Sari Bento (at Museum, Jl. Ahmad Yani). Papyrus Restaurant at Gardenia Resort and Spa offers all-day dining with a selection of Asian, Western, and authentic Indonesian favourites. At open deck area, you can enjoy the views of the landscaped gardens while enjoying the chef's specialties.(Jl. A Yani-5 minutes from the airport)
  • Fast Food if you think you have had to much of local culinary and prefer the good ol' Fast Food then you can have it at KFC (Ayani Mega Mal, Jl. Gajahmada,Jl. Ayani and Ramayana Mal), Pizza Hut (Ayani Mega Mal, Jl. Gajah mada), CFC (Ramayana Mal, Matahari Mal), Texas Fried Chicken (Matahari Mal, Mega Mal), etc.

Talk[edit]

Nearly all Pontians, regardless of their ethnicities, speak Bahasa Indonesia, albeit it is slightly mixed with Malay accent close to that of neighbouring Malaysia. Most people of ethnic Chinese at the southern bank of Kapuas river speak Teochew, and those at the northern bank speak mostly Hakka (called Khek by locals). Mandarin is spoken mostly by those aged 30 years old or above, but don't be surprised if they mix it with Hakka or Teochew dialect as it is not very commonly spoken in town. English is mostly spoken by also the young locals, but is usually not mastered beyond some basic knowledge despite many English courses, so it would be wise to know some phrases of Bahasa Indonesia. Hiring an English-speaking guide could smoothen your travel a lot.

Stay safe[edit]

Pickpockets and motorcycle thefts are quite common in town. Exercise necessary caution even when being in a shopping mall. Be careful when travelling in a public bus (called oplet) as somebody could threaten you with a knife to hand over your valuables.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

If you arrive by Pelni ferry late at night then it's better option to sleep aboard until morning as there is usually a long layover at Pontianak.


  • Hotel Patrina, Jl Hos Cokrominoto no 497, 0561 736063. Quite basic but clean enough. 50,000 fan; 80,000 AC Untried  edit
  • Hotel Sentral, Jl H.O.S. Cokroaminoto no 232 (Ten minutes walk from drop off point for most Kuching buses, turn right at traffic light.), (+62561) 744910. checkin: 2pm; checkout: 12pm. Faded rooms. Staff friendly enough. All have AC and attached bathrooms. On a busy junction between two streets so window rooms will be slightly noisy, (but non window rooms are a bit musty). Travellers have reported overpricing and demands for security deposit from the staff here From 160,000.  edit
  • Hotel Wisma Patri, Pontianak. No air, no fan, no window and fairly mosquito-ridden with no insect spray available 70,000RP.  edit

Splurge[edit]

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  • Gardenia Resort and Spa, Jl. A Yani II, [6].
  • Hotel Sentral, Jl. H.O.S. Cokroaminoto 232, Commercial Hotel.
  • Hotel Gajahmada, Jl. Gajahmada, [7].
  • Hotel Grand Mahkota, [8].
  • Hotel Peony, Jl. Gajahmada, [9].
  • Hotel Kapuas Palace, Jl. Imam Bonjol, [10].
  • Hotel Kini, Jl. Nusa Indah 3, [11].
  • Hotel Mercure, Jl. A. Yani, [12].
  • Hotel Orchardz, Jl. Gajahmada, [13].
  • Hotel Santika, Jl. Diponegoro, [14]. National Chain Hotel.
  • Star Hotel, Jl. Gajah Mada 189, [15].

Contact[edit]

Phone call[edit]

Most national GSM and CDMA operators have their signal towers in entire Pontianak, meaning that there should be not much problem communicating around the town and the tariffs are also reasonable, at least for tourists coming from the West. Shops selling SIM cards and their top-ups are also in abundance, even in the outskirts of town, just like in other cities in Indonesia. Fixed line phones are also available everywhere. There are also few phone stalls (Warung Telkom) offering you phone call with a reasonable fare.

Internet access[edit]

Internet cafe businesses are flourishing, but you'll only find a few without distracting gamers like you might find in typical East Asian internet cafes. Don't worry about the billing (that's how the locals say). An hour of internet access will cost you Rp. 3,000-6,000. But don't expect a speed-of-light one out of it, though. Many locals have internet access varying from snaily dial-up to ISDN (most notably Telkom Speedy) installed in their houses. GPRS and 3G access from your cellphone exists, but you will not necessarily find GPRS signal everywhere even in the middle of the city.

Consulates[edit]

  • My-flag.png Malaysia Consulate, Jl. Sutan Syahrir No. 21, (62-561) 732-986, 736-061.  edit

Get out[edit]

Pontianak is the gateway for travellers wishing to travel deeper inland. Singkawang, another one of the most Chinese-influenced town is reachable by taxi. Kuching, which lies in the Malaysian part of the island, offers some modernity you wouldn't find in the Indonesian part.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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