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.
You may find that Pontians 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 Pontians 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.
Bus trip to Pontianak can be arranged from Kuching in neighboring Malaysia. A trip from Kuching to Pontianak or vice versa will last at about 6 hours which will pass the border area of Entikong. Some of the bus providers serving this route are Damri, SJS and Biaramas Express (www.busasia.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.
The following carriers connect Pontianak to
The city of Pontianak is accesible from the airport by taxi (coupons at fixed price IDR70,000 are sold) as well as recently started Damri Bus (terminating at Kotabaru and Singkawang) for 35,000IDR. The bus also stops at Damri terminal at Jl. Pahlawan 232. Up market Hotels such as the Aston, does provide transfer from the airport. There are many illegal taxi touts overing their service from the airport to anywhere reachable by roads in Kalimantan Barat, ignore them if you are not interested with their service.
NOTE: During dry season chances of flights delayed for days due to forest fires' haze are possible. The haze can lasts upwards of 2 months.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are pleanty of hotels options in Pontianak ranging from Budget Hostels averaging USD5 per night to Splurge rooms averaging USD200-300 per night.
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.
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 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.
Pontianak is the gateway for travelers 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.