Pangkalan Bun: on the Arut River

When heading to the Tanjung Puting National Park, flight schedules may allow travelers to drive straight from the airport to the park, but there is no reason to avoid Pangkalan Bun, a pleasant town on the Arut River.

“Whoever drank from the Arut River will surely return to Pangkalan Bun” says a classic saying for those who visit the town for the first time. The phrase illustrates that certain feeling of nostalgia that one day one will return to visit the town.  Its typical riverside life together with heritage sites along the banks of the river makes Pangkalan Bun special.

“Rather than the provincial capital, Palangkaraya, the town of Pangkalan Bun serves as gateway to visitors who wish to venture into the exotic Tanjung Puting National Park.”

In 1973, DR. Birute Galdinas established The Orangutan Care Center Quarantine (OCCQ) in Pangkalan Bun. Ever since, the facility has taken care of wounded Orangutans and those confiscated by the Natural Resource Conservation Office (BKSDA) .  In this quarantine facility, visitors can also interact with charming orangutan babies. Visitors will be guided and supervised by an officer in charge when interacting with the young orangutans. The facility encompasses approximately 100 hectares and can accommodate over 300 primates.

Unlike cities in Java or other islands, and as in most Kalimantan’s cities, the main mode of transportation is by rivers, and Pangkalan Bun is no exception. The traditional Kelotok and Getek boats as well as speedboats of every shape and size passing by on the Arut River are a common scene of the town. On both banks of the river, traditional wooden houses punctuated by riverside activities of the inhabitants are truly interesting sights. There are also distinct buildings within the Chinatown area which also faces the Arut River. If one wishes to cruise and venture along the long and wide river, there are kelotok and Geteks parked on some points of the river and they will be only too willing to offer a tour down the river.

Administratively, Pangkalan Bun is a sub district, and capital of the West Kotawaringin district. The bustling little town was once the seat of power of the Kutaringin Sultanate in the reign of Sultan Imanudin reign in 1811-1814. The legacy of the sultanate can be found at the Keraton Kuning or Yellow Palace, in the heart of Pangkala Bun. The palace is reconstruced since the original site was burnt down in 1986. Historically, the Kutaringin Sultanate was once a district of the Banjar Kingdom which emerged as a separate sultanate during the reign of Sultan Banjar IV Mustainbillah. The Sultanate came under the rule of Javanese Majapahit Kingdom, and therefore traces of Javanese culture are found abundant in the area.

About an hour’s drive from downtown Pangkalan Bun, a relaxing scene awaits at the Kubu Beach. The beach is a 3 Km gulf of relatively flat surface, where the water is calm and perfect for recreational activities.  There are also areas which are perfect spots for fishing. Along the shores, visitors can also watch and took part in the activities of the fishermen, as Kubu is also known as a fishing village.


By Air:

Trigana Air connects Pangkalan Bun with JakartaSemarangand Surabaya via daily flights to and from the Iskandar Airport. Kalstar Aviation also provides daily flights from Semarang to Pangkalan Bun, while from Surabaya flights leave on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. From Pangkalan Bun, Kalstar also serve flights to Jakarta, Banjarmasin, Ketapang, Pontianak, Sampit, Semarang, and  Surabaya. Aviastar serves daily flights from Jakarta and from Semarang, every Monday and Friday. Aviastar also flies to Ketapang once every 2 days.

By Sea:

The Kumai Seaport, about 35 minutes from Pangkalan Bun serves passengers ships from Java, Freighters, Bugis Phinisi, and Madura Schooner.  Pelni Boats connect Kumai with Semarang through a 24 hours trip that cost IDR145,000 and Surabaya  through a 26 hours trip that cost IDR153,000, both three times a week.

By Land:

From the province capital, Palangkaraya, an overland trip by car will take approximately 8-10 hours. The roads and bridges from Palangkaraya to Pangkalan Bun are relatively in fair condition. Buses from Palangkaraya take about 12-14 hours, ranging from IDR80,000 to IDR120,000.

Taxis to/from Iskandar Airport will cost around IDR 50,000, and opelet or public transportation rides around the town will cost about IDR5,000. Minibuses to Kumai leave from the terminal near the market at Jl.P Antasari Street and cost about IDR 10,000.

However the best way to get around Pangkalan Bun is obviously not over land, As the city sits on the Arut River, the best way to get around it is on board traditional Klotok or Getek boats.

Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic Indonesia

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