Thirty Meters High at Bukit Bangkirai (Balikpapan’s Canopy Bridge)

Panorama of Canopy Walk

About a two hour’s drive north of Balikpapan city central lies one of East Kalimantan’s tourist draws: the canopy bridge walk at Bukit Bangkirai.

Bukit is actually a park within the rain forest, featuring log cottages for overnight stays, a small restaurant, restrooms, several [overgrown] jungle treks, a questionably maintained swimming pool and, for those who linger until five in the afternoon or so, the lure of viewing East Kal’s famous Hornbills that frequent the area around dusk.

But the main draw remains the brief but thrilling canopy walk experience.

Featuring Bukit's top-end patch jobs (the turquise strings)

What it is:  Bukit’s canopy walk consists of five narrow suspension bridges made of wooden planks, steel cabling and nylon side netting (if you ignore the random string here and there that “patches” problem areas) dangling between enormous, old-growth tees, some thirty meters in the air (that’s 98.4 feet!).

A little perspective ...

A little perspective …

This sign can come as a bit of a surprise if you aren't prepared!

This sign can come as a bit of a surprise if you aren’t prepared!

How it works: Climb the wooden staircase to the canopy above where the first platform awaits.  Once you cross the bridge to the next platform, another canopy bridge will bring you to the next and so on until you end at another tower with a staircase leading down.

Our intrepid leader at the start of the Canopy Walk

Our intrepid leader at the start of the Canopy Walk

View of two canopy bridges

View of two canopy bridges

This shows the slope of the walkway.  It can be a little unnerving!

This shows the slope of the walkway. It can be a little unnerving!

Look!  No hands!

Darwin Award Contender:  Look! No hands!  (This is not recommended as the bridges do swing a bit.)

In any case, the view is fantastic up there, so if wobbly knees allow, make sure you take in the vast views of Borneo’s rain forest.

Rules of the Road Bridge:
Rules of the Road Canopy.  
Map of Bukit Bangkarai

Map of Bukit Bangkarai

Finding the canopy walk from the parking lot:  Once you’ve reached the Bukit Bangkirai parking lot, go to the large, open-aired building (# 2 on the above map) and purchase your tickets (there are separate tickets for parking, entrance fee and then the canopy walk with prices apparently varying depending upon your nationality status).

Ticket area and entrance to rain forest

Ticket area and entrance to rain forest

If you ask for a map (“peta”), you may receive a photocopied, hand-drawn rendition of the park that serves as an amusing souvenir if nothing else.

Once you’ve purchased your tickets, proceed out the back of the ticket building and take the path to the left that leads to the canopy bridge (# 17 on the map), following the sign shown below.  The walk is quite pleasant, with towering trees shading most of the way.  Bug spray to ward of mosquitoes is definitely recommended.

Path entrance for canopy walk

Path entrance for canopy walk

How to reach the park:  Private car, taxi or tour bus remain the current options to reach this rather remote destination.  On the bright side, taxis in Balikpapan are pretty cheap, and most hotels can help arrange for transport should you wish to make a day trip.  Depending on whether or not it has recently rained, you may need to ensure a four wheel drive, or, at the very least, an SUV as the roads get pretty rough about an hour outside of town.  Also? The trip there is w-i-n-d-y (as in, curvy, not breezy).  So, if you get motion sick like I do, take some ginger ahead of time!

Nasi Goreng.  Yum!

Nasi Goreng. Yum!

Travel Tip:  At the back of the parking lot, there is a restaurant on stilts and then beside that, a small office/souvenir shop attached to an open-air food stall area.  The fried rice at the food stall is super cheap and delicious.  Highly recommended!

Entrance Fee: About 5 USD per person. Cash only.  (But bring extra as the prices seem to fluctuate.)

What to bring: Hiking shoes, bug spray, SPF, water (you can buy bottles at the food stall), a hat, cash and … a camera of course!

Location: Jl. Balikpapan-Samarinda, KM 32 (20 KM on the highway towards Penajam and then 7 KM off road), Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Phone: (+62) 542 36066

Don't kill anything but time. Don't take anything but pictures. Don't leave anything but footprints.

Don’t kill anything except time.
Don’t take anything except pictures.
Don’t leave anything except footprints.

Announcing Early Review Copies for The Orphan of Torundi!

It has been a while since my last post.  But I have some arguably valid excuses.  To wit, (1) moving from China to Borneo is a slightly involved procedure and (2) I’ve been busy completing tasks for my soon-to-be-released novel, The Orphan of Torundi!

I thought it would be fun to post the ARC/Catalog Copy here.  So, without further ado …


The Orphan of TorundiTHE ORPHAN OF TORUNDI
A PENELOPE PIPP PUBLISHING Young Adult Adventure/Romance

To find the truth, she must first uncover the lie ….

Orphaned as an infant, Sam is raised by a pharmaceutical research mission in the rain forests of Torundi.  She wields a mean machete, makes soap from candlenuts and is a fairly astute amateur entomologist.  You know, the normal stuff.  But a month before her seventeenth birthday, she is exiled to an American boarding school in Penang, Malaysia.

Armed with little more than her unusual upbringing and church-lady clothes, Sam must contend with her new existence as the world’s most socially unprepared high school senior. Well that’s just fine. Because she is determined to solve the mystery behind her banishment and return home tout de suite.

But when she discovers the unthinkable – that her banishment is tied to an enigmatic corporation with illicit designs on Torundi – she realizes the real mystery she must uncover is … why? Soon, Sam is caught in a whirlwind of intrigue, danger and greed. As she chases this thread of truth to its end, she unravels a plot that threatens her beloved home, her trust in the boy she has grown to love and her own existence.

Blending espionage elements akin to The Bourne Identity with those high-school-awkward-moments (hey, it could happen), THE ORPHAN OF TORUNDI is a quirky, cross-cultural tale of adventure, self-discovery and romance.

J.L. MCCREEDY was born in New Jersey, grew up in Indonesia and Malaysia, graduated law school in Mississippi and currently lives in Borneo.  She freelances as a writer and consultant for charitable organizations.  Her debut novel, LIBERTY FRYE AND THE WITCHES OF HESSEN (Penelope Pipp Publishing) was released in 2012.

300 Pages; 5.25″ x 8″ trade paperback; Publication date: November 2014
Young Adult, Action & Adventure/Romance
Available wherever books are sold.ISBN (E-book): 978-0-9882369-3-6/0988236931 ($4.99)
ISBN (Paperback): 978-0-9882369-2-9/0988236923 ($9.99)
Penelope Pipp Publishing, admin(AT SIGN) 

The Glory of China’s English-Language Signs

Bathroom philosophy puts a spin on it.
Bathroom philosophy puts a spin on it.  But when you think about it, really, this is spot on.  Because … what is this world that we live in?  And what is a jream?  And are they one and the same?  You could spend hours just mulling that over…

One of my great regrets about our year in China was my failure to capture the brilliance and hilarity that is the English language restaurant menu. It is worth going out to eat for that alone, even if the repercussion of said venture includes the digestion of certain unthinkable delicacies.

Well, I don’t have those awesome menu descriptions captured in all their pixelated glory, but I did snap a few signs we encountered in our day-to-day lives.

No Spitting (And this is posted, incidentally, just outside a restaurant.)
No Spitting.  Enough said.
Mall playgrounds for children take on a whole new meaning ...
Mall playgrounds for children take on a whole new meaning …
More philosophy.  This one, found inside an apartment complex.
More philosophy. This one, found inside an apartment complex.  And it worked!
Slip-and-fall mitigation at its best.  You'll want to zoom in on the sign, probably.
Slip-and-fall mitigation at its best. You’ll want to zoom in on the sign, probably.
Tianjin Tourist Board knows how to sell it.  And that neighborhood with all those restored concession houses is SO outlandish!
Tianjin Tourist Board knows how to sell it. And that neighborhood with all those restored concession houses is SO outlandish!
Masters of understatement.  This, incidentally, is posted on the Huangya Pass Great Wall of China.   And "the gap" is a chasm some hundred feet below ...
Masters of understatement. This, incidentally, is posted on the Huangya Pass Great Wall of China. And “the ditch” is a chasm some hundred feet below …
This was taken during our entrance health exam in China.
Taken during our entrance-to-China health exam.
Galaxy Mall Park, Tianjin.  What more can be said?
Galaxy Mall Park, Tianjin.  The funny thing is, this park incorporates a lot of Feng Shui —  presumably to provide a haven within the urban jungle for life-balance and reflection.  So it goes back to the whole issue of Chinese philosophy, really.  Which makes a person stop and wonder … what does it all mean?
To an American lost in a giant mall in search of an elevator while desperate for a restroom, this sign can be confusing.  (It's for the elevator.)
To an American lost in a giant mall in search of an elevator while desperate for a restroom, this sign can be confusing. (It’s for the elevator.)

Looking for a unique greeting card hailing from the Pacific isles of Tonga?

Tongan Greeting Cards Pua DesignsThen look no further!

Amy, who has been awesome enough to share her completely original Tonga-livin’ experiences here on Tonga Time … you know, things like climbing coconut trees (well, Toni gets credit for that — thanks Toni!) to making fresh coconut cream from scratch, to small, inconsequential tidbits like having a baby in Tonga!!!! … well, she’s taken her killer graphic design experience and turned it into a micro-business in the Friendly Islands!

If you get a chance, visit her new Tongan greeting cards website at Pua Designs.  Just click her logo!

(Oh, in case it wasn’t clear, I was joking about the inconsequential nature of birthing a child.  In Tonga.  In the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  With a bucket and adult diapers.  Yup.  I totally could do that…)


We’ve moved to Balikpapan, Indonesia …

Sam at Kebun Sayur Market, Balikpapan

Sam at Kebun Sayur Market, Balikpapan

… And you can see where our priorities lie!

It has been a whirlwind since our move from Tianjin, China to here: Balikpapan, a port city on the east coast of Kalimantan (a/k/a “Borneo”) Indonesia. Folks here call it “Kal-Tim,” which is short for Kalimantan Timur (timur means east in Bahasa Indonesia).

First stop?  Pasar Kebun Sayur — a huge market selling batik, Dyak handicrafts, produce, every sort of household good and clothing item a soul can think of and … delicious food, of course!  Balikpapan’s specialty is seafood — lucky us! Continue reading

Budget Travel in Shanghai: What to Do and See

The Bund at Night cont (4)Whenever we used to think of China, more often than not, we’d think of  Shanghai.  And when we thought of Shanghai, images of 1930′s glamour, junk boats, cosmopolitan streets and seedy opium dens straight out of a Clavell novel came to mind.

Turns out, Shanghai isn’t at all like that.  It’s a modern, bustling city crammed with malls and then malls and then … more malls.  If you love to shop, you’re in heaven.  But if you were hoping for that mystical aura the name of Shanghai conjures, you may be disappointed.

That said, there is still plenty to see that does not include chain stores and tour packages.  And even though Shanghai’s known for being pricey, these activities are budget friendly. Continue reading

The [Great] Wall Less Traveled … Hiking the Huangya Pass in Tianjin’s Ji County

Huangya Pass Ji Country (35)

If you happen to be visiting the Beijing area, you probably have The Great Wall of China on your to-do list.

Of course you do.  It’s THE Great Wall!

The trouble is, which wall do you see?  People don’t talk about that so much.

In fact, the first time we planned a jaunt to “The Wall,” we were surprised to discover that it doesn’t actually exist … at least it doesn’t as one continuous structure.

Rather, there are many sections of the wall scattered across 5500 miles of northern China, each engineered under various dynasties over a period of almost 2000 years, beginning in 220 BC and ending around 1644 AD.

The point is, there’s an awful lot of wall to choose from! Continue reading

One Day and Ten Ways to Visit Hong Kong on the Cheap

Hong Kong Opening PictureIf I were a Looney Toons character, I would read the above title and promptly respond with, “Succotash!”

I would leave out the “Sufferin’” because anything containing “Hong Kong” and “On the Cheap” in one phrase is such a ludicrous combination that it wouldn’t deserve the dignity of those extra syllables.

Hong Kong is not cheap, I’d scoff silently instead.  Everybody knows that.  Even make-believe, personified cats.

These presentiments hardly bode well for a budget-traveling couple whose collective salary has been seriously compromised since spawning the bright idea of leaving our grown up jobs and working around the world.  But that’s another story.  This story is how to have a fun, spontaneous and really affordable day in Hong Kong! Continue reading

Cheers from Qingdao … Touring the Tsingtao Brewery!

Vintage Tsingtao PosterHere’s one the first lessons of living in China: Nothing is ever spelled consistently.

For instance, Qingdao, a town on China’s eastern coast, about midway between Beijing and Shanghai, is the very same as the formerly spelled Tsingtao, pronounced “Chingdow” (with the the “d” giving a slight “t” sound).  It is this same venerable town that was settled by the Germans in the late 1800s — hence the brewery — and hosts China’s largest beer festival every August. Continue reading