Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
“Visit the Equator Monument,” was the advice I got from most people whom I told I was going to Pontianak. It’s the most obvious “things to do” for anyone who visits Pontianak, much more popular than the Museum Negeri Pontianak. So I had the cab drop me off at the entrance of the monument. It’s located alongside the Kapuas River, on the North part of Pontianak.
Tugu Khatulistiwa, as it is called in Indonesian, is the monument that marks the location of the invisible equator line that goes through Pontianak city. The equator line divides the northern and southern hemisphere of Earth. And on two certain times of every year called the equinox, which are sometime in March and September, it’s said that you won’t see your shadow when standing at the monument area.
What you’d see the moment you entered the monument area is the replica of the equator monument with black pillars, erected on top of a white-tiled dome-like hexagonal building. The original equator monument is standing 4.4 meters tall, right in the middle of the building, much smaller than the replica outside. The four pillars are made of ironwood or ulin, which is a kind of tropical trees that grows naturally in the forests of Sumatera and Kalimantan.
The original equator monument was first built in 1928 by a Dutch geographer, then got added a few more elements and was even rebuilt over the years. The dome-like building was built in 1990 to protect the monument and the much bigger replica was built so perhaps people can have a sense of the monument without having to enter the building.
I personally didn’t feel any amazement looking at the monument. I don’t get why it’s considered to be so important, but I’m no scientist. The shape of the monument is interesting and I love how they use local material for the pillars. Too bad the added building wasn’t designed to match it at all, at least in my opinion. Or maybe, let’s just say that I have a different taste with whoever designed and approved it.
The local government decided to give out a certificate with visitor’s name on it, to prove that the person has been at the monument. Because, you know, no certificate means hoax. And I didn’t want my effort to visit the monument considered as hoax, so I asked for a certificate.
Too bad they ran out certificate, and it was Saturday so they couldn’t go to the office to get new copies because the office was closed. But they promised me to send it to me later, like in the next week. I wrote down my name and address and left IDR 20,000 for mailing. That was actually a lot more than what he’d need to mail me the certificate.
My visit to the monument was in November 2012 and I never got the certificate until now.
The equator line has actually moved about 117 meters southward, closer to the Kapuas River. But it would be a hassle to move the monument, so they were building a new monument around the point, upon my visit. I’m not sure if it’s done by now or not.
I was looking around the new equator point where they were also building a dock by the river. One of the working men said hello and asked, “Hey Miss, do you want to make an egg stand up?”
“Huh? How do you mean, Sir?” I totally didn’t get what the man meant.
“Make an egg stand up around this point,” he said, assured.
Then he told me I could buy an egg or two at the nearby warung if I wanted to see what he meant. So I bought 2 eggs and came back to that point.
The man took an egg and put it on a random point on the tiles he and his colleagues had built. He pulled off his hands gently and…THE EGG STOOD! Borrowing Ellen Degeneres’ famous expression, I was like, “Whaaaaaaa…??” He couldn’t explain how it was possible. One of his colleagues that was watching even murmured something about it being mystical.
I tried to make the egg stand. After a lot of tries, I finally did it! I tried it on the smoother surfaced tiles and then also on the more rough surfaced cement. At first, I thought it succeeded because of the rough surface, but the old man did it on the tile. So.. was it really the surface that did it?
Later I found out that this standing egg around the equator is a common knowledge. It’s me who wasn’t knowledgeable enough! Where had I been?? Anyway, I also read that eggs could only stand on the equinox. But.. I was there on November, so how could it happen? Um.. I give up. It was an awesome experience to make an egg stand, that’s all I know 🙂
Have you tried making an egg stand?