Lunching with Sun Bears

Balikpapan’s Sun Bear Sanctuary lies in the Sungai Wain preservation area of East Kalimantan’s rain forest, off Kilometer 23 on the road to Samarinda. Here, seven sun bears rescued from poachers and other threats roam the 3.25 acre natural enclosure. Twice daily, the bears, whose Indonesian name “Beruang Madu” actually translates to honey bear, pad…

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We’re Famous! BIWA’s Biking Group Caught on Camera

Indonesia’s Independence Day, August 17, is right around the corner, and the streets festooned with mini Indonesian flags and garlands of red and white painted party cups make this a fun time to stroll or bicycle through the villages (“kampungs”). This Wednesday, the BIWA cycling group did just that.   Bike rides with the Balikpapan…

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Hiking Bukit Dinding off Samarinda Road, Kilometer 45

Bukit Dinding (Wall Hill) is a stunning backbone of boulders arching above East Kalimantan’s rain forest, about an hour and twenty minute’s drive from downtown Balikpapan. Pak Yayan has been telling us about this place for months, and since Sam had a weekend off to go further from camp, we said, “Let’s do it!” Now, the title…

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Cycling through Kalimantan’s Rubber Tree Plantations

Cycling around Balikpapan is all kinds of fun, but perhaps the best part of it is the random field trip encountered during these rides, like riding through rambutan plantations, watching mussels gleaned at low tide and then smoked, visiting a farmer harvesting seaweed for sale to cosmetic industries, or, as was the case this Sunday, cycling…

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Seven Ways to Embarrass Yourself in Bahasa Indonesia

After living in a foreign place for a while, perhaps one tends to forget how many painful exchanges have been inflicted upon the ever-patient native speaker, all for the sake of acquiring whole wheat flour or topping up one’s mobile phone credit. And for whatever reason, no matter what language you are trying to speak in…

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Ramadan, Balikpapan-style

Balikpapan, the city in Indonesian Borneo, where Sam and I currently live, lies just 88 miles south of the equator. And today, June 21, marks the Winter Solstice for us and the Summer Solstice for those living north of the equator. It also happens to be a few days into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan…

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A day at Manggar Beach, Kalimantan Indonesia (East Borneo)

Manggar Beach lies about 21 kilometers east of downtown Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, and though it isn’t even close to the white sand and crystal blue waters of one’s dreams, it’s got something else to offer that’s completely unique. Try visiting on a Sunday afternoon when bizarro homemade, self-propelled paragliders weave treacherously between picnicking families, girls…

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Pasar Klandasan, Balikpapan’s Awesome Fresh Market

This post is dedicated to Pasar Klandasan, a fresh market here in Balikpapan that I frequent about once a week. Balikpapan is flush with large fresh markets (called “pasar” in Bahasa Indonesian), especially in the old town area of Kampung Baru and Kebun Sayur, where Blue Sky Hotel stands prominent, or along the ocean-front drive…

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Cycling Trip from Balikpapan to Penajam: 7 bikes and a boat!

One of the best things about living in Balikpapan is the stupendous, completely original, I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-do-this-on-a-regular-basis! cycling here. One recent experience was a group ride from Balikpapan’s Kampung Baru (also known as “Water Village”) to Penajam, a village across the Balikpapan Bay, where back roads lead through idyllic little plantations of tapioca, water farms filled with fish,…

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