Pangkalan Bun and surroundings, Central Kalimantan – The Search for More is Worth it

Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 16 February 2011   •  Itinerary

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In my humble opinion, there’s always something extra to a place, if only we take a closer look and have an open mind to it. That’s what I had to believe from the Tanjung Puting National Park (TPNP) trip. Because we were already in the Kumai and Pangkalan Bun area, I thought I’d extend my stay for a day just to see what more goodies the area had to offer. I browsed around and excitedly jotted a few things down to see and do. Vira, Teddy, and Keukeu initially planned to head out straight away to Banjarmasin after the TPNP trip. However, with the help of Edi, we could modify it. We made most of the time together by spontaneously decide that we should all enjoy what Kubu and the surroundings has to offer. Don’t you just love changing plans?!

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

The Tanjung Puting trip was over (SOB!). It was a bright sunny morning and we were heading back out to the Kumai River, through the Nypa gate. The crew had agreed to take us to Kubu beach since it was still early, they could end the trip earlier than expected, and we would be very happy customers. Hoorah to great service! It’s also possible to do since Kubu has a pier extending out to the bay where the boat can park. The journey was grand. We re-entered Kumai river and sailed all the way to the estuary. From Sekonyer to the Kumai river mouth, there was nothing but trees along the banks. It wasn’t a long journey before we could see the Kubu town and the extending pier.

The crew parked the boat and we hopped off. The end of the pier was burned a few months ago, so we had to park on the side of the pier. We took our last picture with Captain Anang and the gang before we bid our farewells. They were a lovely bunch!

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

Kubu Beach

As promoted by the prominent Lonely Planet Indonesia guidebook, this beach is the side venture if you happen to get stuck in Kumai for the Tanjung Putting National Park (TPNP) trip. I tried to surf up the net to see what it’s all about, but found so little. No luxurious ‘white sand-blue ocean beach’ combination, no high rising cliffs, and no lush forest to shade in. It had white sand, but that was about it… just mediocre pictures of it. But was that really it?

Being an Indonesian, of course, gave me the advantage to browse the local websites that aren’t the mainstream sites for traveling muhaha… even the bad ones. To be honest, it is one of my best resources yet. Bad websites doesn’t mean they have bad info. As I browsed, I found out that we could eat the Belangkas or horseshoe crab. Most of the sites I’ve read prefer to say ancient crabs, cause… well you can see how outdated it looks and it looks so similar to its fossilized ancestors. I just happen to see a documentary on this old fashion crustacean one day, and how humans use their blood as a really strong anti-toxin … or some kind of serum… or was it anti-toxin serum… can’t remember (and you would wonder how I graduated Biology?! I would!). I do remember their blood was pastel blue. No kidding! Maybe we should have called it the royal crab … hehehe… . And it was like glowing kinda. While the western just bleed them, we eat them!

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

Coming back from our mini trip around the area by 12 pm, we hurried and chose a table to eat. Surprisingly, the deserted restaurant is now quite full with local visitors. You can see families, friends, lovers, and meeting business men all mixed up to munch. But only we, yes WE people, that had a horseshoe crab! Muhaha… But how did it taste? Well, it’s under ‘Eats’ so come and get it.

The Beach – but not the movie

Kubu beach was nice. The small Kubu town was small, the beach isn’t spectacular and too close to the town. Tip of the town: if you plan to swim, do not wear your usual swimmers, if you don’t want to be stared at. Wear a full on shirt and shorts over your swimmers to reduce the attention.

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

The Cannon – and not the camera

An interesting thing, which Edi brought up, was the old canons from the colonized days. There were two old canons with the same size when we arrived at the beach. It was a few meters inland, behind the bushes. At the time, there was like a hut kinda infrastructure made to place the canons. These canons were placed to guard the coast from any intruders back in the Dutch days. There are 4 canons in total. The 2 canons were considered the parent canons and 2 other mini canons as the babies which are now placed somewhere in town. Why the blood related terms? Can’t remember. It must be too weird for me to remember. Yet, it is said that there was only 1 person that can lift the mini canon with his bare hands while no one else could. Unfortunately, he had passed away. It’s said, that it takes more than 5 men to lift the mini canon, while the deceased could do it himself. Another “Indohoy’s believe it or not” (see activity on this entry)!

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

Underrated Taman Wisata Keluang

When browsing around, I also found the Taman Wisata Keluang or the Keluang Park as some would translate it. It’s a commercial conservation area and a sanctuary for its flora and fauna. From the pictures I got on the web, I was interested to see this beach because it had a longer stretch of white sand compared to the pictures of Kubu. In front of the computer, I decided this was where I should take my curious ass. It looked a bit gloomy in the picture, but I had to kill time and how else would I answer my curiosity either that to get there and see it for myself.

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

We got on the speedboat and crossed the bay. Found the boatman’s farm hat, jand borrowed it. The Javanese calls it caping (pronounce: chapping) while the locals here call it tanggui, as in the feeding station. I love these hats because it functions well in rain or shine (I only wished that it was portable). Once we closed in on our target, I could see the bare trees and no signs of life on the beach. Muhahaha… a good sign that the beach, should it turn out to be great, would be ours! Muhahaha… There was a huge house, which was actually the park ranger’s office where we had to report to and pay a mere IDR 1,500 / person for admissions. But it’s no hotel. Was it worth paying at all? Are you kidding??? Take a look for yourself!

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

The park rangers didn’t charge enough! It was deserted! So long, too! Edi explained that this white sand beach is so long and stretches a few kilometers more to the neighboring beach. The sand was white and soft, but different that the usual beach sand. The weird thing about it was it had a brown ocean, opposite to the usually turquoise blue. Being in an estuary, it would have more materials in the water. Some would consider that as the deal breaker, but really, the variation was refreshing. If only I had my swimmers underneath my clothes (again, I would recommend to anyone if you don’t want people staring at you), and if we had time since the rest of the gang was catching the afternoon bus to Banjarmasin, I would have the water up to my chin by that time. I was curious, can we snorkel in these waters and what would we see? Ok, we’re not as crazy but we had the belangkas on our minds (trying to dodge the fact we didn’t craze out and skinny dip). It would be a great experience to swim in an estuary with a beach setting, wouldn’t it? I don’t regret it much, but it would have been nice.

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

The area was dry with dry grasses and some trees to shade in. We walked a fair bit around and found this starfish. I’ve never seen this kind before! So tiger print, like a tiger starfish. Overall, this beach was underrated and it should be your choice of detour if you happen to want one! I think Teddy and his new friend agrees!

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

Next in the future – Senggarong

Just to add to that, if you happen to plan your trip and you read this part, you might wanna ask about the little sand dune, called Senggarong, out in the Java sea. It’s located about an hour trip using a speedboat during summer. It has been said that the snorkeling is great in this small islet, you swim with turtles and dolphins, and if you’re lucky you can swim with the Dugongs or sea mermaids. A little too good to be true? Well there’s only one way to prove it! And that means coming back!

Pangkalan Bun

This town is a nice small town. A little puffed after such an endless trip, I decided to just stroll around the city to kill the afternoon and morning before catching the plane.

As I went in to town, I decided to stop at a random area after passing the town central. Although it has established roads around the city, it still has many activities around the river area. Well besides the fact that Kalimantan is based on a river civilization, all rivers in Indonesia are pretty densely occupied. Once I stopped, I started walking back and turning in to the small alleys heading towards the river. The road is parallel to the river and is located probably only 100 meters inland (Sorry, I’m not that good with distance count).

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

There were both organized and unorganized neighborhoods along the river. Nonetheless everyone uses it, whether it’s just to park your boat, or take a piss, a crap, or even a shower. Whatever it is, the river is densely packed with activities all day long. I kinda felt bad taking out the camera and taking a few shots, because I really felt like a tourist which I really was, but I sucked it in and took a few for the sake of memory.

So how is your hygiene compared to this? You would wonder how people survive this environment. The things is, they do. They are relatively healthy and could probably live a long life if only they stop smoking and slow down on the junk food (D’oh)! They might not have the most beautiful skin in the world but hey… they can probably still race you in swimming through the river. I, too, am always a bit hesitant to come close to river waters as murky as this one, it’s a side effect of education. And on this day, I had no specific challenge to jump in, so I just sat as a spectator understanding that this is their ways, living is stilt houses and using the water beneath it.

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

An interesting thing about Pangkalan Bun is, because it was a destination city for the transmigration program from Java, the city is filled with Javanese people. They also spoke Javanese mixed with the local dialect. I didn’t really feel like I was in Kalimantan if only I didn’t see the surrounding architecture  showing its pointy crossed wood roof.

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

In a small town like this, and in like most similar size town throughout Indonesia, it’s heartwarming to see the local activities while the sun starts to set. People hang out just enjoying cups of coffee and cigarettes, some getting ready for the afternoon prayer, some businesses closing down while some food stalls are just setting up, most getting ready for the night, and children still roaming around trying to steal more time to play from their parents. When the day usually makes you stand out as an outsider, the late afternoon usually treats you like you’re a local. I’m not sure why but as I said, it’s probably because it’s heartwarming.

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

Another Woohoo! to end this entry. Kalimantan turned out to be a flatter island than I thought. It had a weird sand-like soil texture and near the towns, it has become bare (SOB!). But it still offered a lot to see, things that were very different to what we saw back home. It was awesome to see it and I’m sure there is more to come.

Belangkas/Horseshoe Crab

If you’re looking for the place where we ate, it’s Uluhita. It’s not far from the wooden pier. Although written on every menu board of every restaurant, apparently not all have it. Edi, as a great guide that he is, asked the restaurant one by one, who happens to have stock. On the third hut, he found one… and only one. I was so glad we found it! You can spot this old lady behind the counter or in the open kitchen preparing food. She’s basically the manager and main cook 🙂 And she too, will contact a boat owner should you ask for it.

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

Creepy crawlies they are I tell you, with a hard, round, flat shell, and limbs on the bottom to crawl. Their best trait is the tail, which you can pick your teeth with once you’re done with your meal. Edi even suggested I use it to bun my hair. Really, Edi?! Aside to the oldie, we also order some newbie crabs and a few mini clams for lunch with young coconut milk to gulp it all down. A very rich lunch! We told the owner that we were to sight see before we came back and gobble it all. We also trusted our bags to her, as she trusted us to come back and eat what has been promised but yet been paid.

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

I’ve never heard any Indonesian sell this cuisine, but apparently it’s a common Malay dish. Guess I haven’t been out a lot 😛 But I’m ready for my first! How could you neglect an opportunity like this? Teddy was up for it, and I think he would try anything except humans since it’s against the law, Vira just needed to be challenged, and Keukeu was still having second thoughts but is willing of some sort.

So how did the horseshoe crab taste? Ancient? We started to open it up and ate the first bits that looked like scrambled eggs. It tasted very rich, like crab but with an omelet texture and a strong savoy taste. It wasn’t my favorite. The eggs of the horseshoe crab was cooked with it. For any kind of crab, the eggs are considered a delicacy. People just love it! They crave it. I’m not sure exactly why, but I like the meat just fine. And it’s not environmentally friendly which kinda bothered by conscious a bit. But I dug in for the sake of experience, and … we didn’t know it was a she… and a pregnant one at that.

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

The eggs were chewy. So far the crab was interesting. It was great to eat it with rice to reduce the strong salty taste. Once the outside parts were eaten, Vira opened the crab up, exposing the real meat. And THIS, people, is the jackpot. The meat was located deeper in the body. I reckon the meat tasted better than the usual crab we eat. It had the texture of a chicken drumstick, and yet it tasted like crab. But because it was more solid that the usual crab, it was more delicious! So this is what people were looking for?!

The other dishes were great. We ate a whole kilo of modern crab (badambam-ching!), which was about 3 crabs. It was in sweet sour sauce and it was mmhh mmhh mmhh good! The clams were alright, nothing special about it. We also had a plate of greenies to munch with our rice and crab. And don’t forget the Indonesian favorite: SAMBAL! Or chilly paste. Huff… was I full!

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

Wait! Young coconut milk, where the flesh melts in your mouth! Need I say more?

I need! It all cost… ppsstt… a mere IDR 145,000 for everything. WHAT?! Even I can’t believe how much we paid for it all now that I’m writing about it! Crazy prize! And even IF they do charge you with a tourist price, I’m sure it’s still way cheaper that what you would pay back home, for the same amount of food.

Iduna Bakery and Café

I was in need of coffee and internet access. So I thought I’d go with this café to at least get one of the above. Once I got there, I ordered coffee of course, but dang! The only person that made coffee was the owner and he was out. Why? Oh why?! So there was my decaf morning.

The food wasn’t great, but edible. A bit over priced to tell you the truth. But I guess it’s an escape to potatoes after a lot of rice. I ordered a chicken steak with fries that cost me about IDR 30,000. I had a not so bad chocolate milkshake that cost about IDR 20,000. Again, over priced!

Tiara Hotel

Edi recommended the Tiara Hotel. Many of his visitors stay in this clean hotel. I chose an AC room with a TV inside. Man, I finally was going to sleep in a solid building. Phew! It’s been a while! They have sitting toilets but no toilet paper! So you have to pop out to get some.

Travel Indonesia: Pangkalan Bun

Happy happy Joy Joy! Breakfast was included, placed on a chair in front of your room door in the morning. Just open up and you will find your treasure . While I was there, I had a dish of yellow rice with tempeh, a hard boiled egg, and a few more things on the side that I can’t remember yet sufficiently yummy!

The Tiara Hotel is clean and located in a great area, a tad bit far from the central of the city yet close to the ‘backpacker’ area. Around this area, there are a lot of hotels, eatery, and shops to get your supplies.

I think I paid IDR 120,000 for the room. But the guys got to have showers in it too before they went on to Banjarmasin by bus, so it was a fair price for a one night sleep.

Tiara Hotel

Jl. Pangeran Antasari No. 150

Phone: +62 532 22717

Mahkota Hotel and Restaurant

I also took a look at this hotel, which was located a lot closer to the town central, and definitely closer to the main mosque. Better watch out for 5 o’clock prayer calling.

I took a peak at the basic room, which was very spacious. This room included a private bathroom, AC, TV and all the essentials (including space, especially since you probably have been cramped in so many tight seating’s. We understand).

A room like this would cost IDR 190,000 / room including breakfast and 21% of tax. (total rip off!!!). An extra bed would cost another IDR 85,000.

Mahkota Hotel and Restaurant

Jl. Pangeran Antasari No. 303

Phone: +62 532 21172 / 22587


We happen to be dropped at the Kubu beach by the klotok of the Tanjung Puting trip. You probably can ask the captain to take you to Kubu on the last day, rather than going back Kumai.

But there are public transport from Kumai and ojegs ready to serve you, if you happen to be in town.



We got to the 2 beaches using a rented speedboat that didn’t have a roof. We asked the warung owner where we could rent a boat for about 2-3 hours. There has to be one or two for a beach located in a bay like this. The warung owner was so nice that she asked one of her kids to find this boat. About 15 minutes later, a speedboat was ready at the rock pier, ready to take us. Without any negotation, we got a price of IDR 150,000 for 5 people (excluding the boatman) with a proposed mini itinerary: Keluang – Kubu – Restauran by lunch. It would cost foreigners more of course, for the whole day. But I think you’d need it especially if you’re intrigued to jump in to the brown water and spend a little more time to tan.

Travel Indonesia: Kumai

 The roofless vessel can be a bit too much on a hot and sunny for those with sensitive skin, so get you zinc out, blotch a lot of sun block, and fasten that hat on your head. You’re gonna need it!

By Car

I’m not sure if there is a road leading to Keluang beach, but Edi told us, there is a road that can take you to the beach beside Keluang. It’s quite similar to Keluang being on the same coast. You would have to rent an Ojeg or a car to get to this beach.

We rented a car for IDR 250,000 from Kubu back to Pangkalan Bun, and to take us to ATM, Tiara Hotel, and the bus pool. Well, basically for the last 2 hours before catching the bus. It was an OK price, shared by 4 and a nice neat Kijang or car to travel in.

To get around the town, there are small mini buses or angkots that have certain routes around the Pangkalan Bun town. I’m not even sure what goes where, but I just asked around to what I was looking for (souvenirs at that time) and they pointed me to the right direction. If you happen to stay at Tiara hotel, take the yellow angkot the town central and pay a mere IDR 2,000/person.

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6 years ago

Do you more information on Senggarong? I can’t seem to find anything online. We are visiting the area in 10 days and I would like to know what else is interesting there. thanks!

6 years ago
Reply to  Ellen

Hi Ellen! Do you mean Tenggarong? I’m sorry to say that we haven’t been. I hope you can update us on it 🙂