As a major producer of oil and timber, East Kalimantan is at present
the most industrially advanced province of the island and the second
largest province in Indonesia. It is also the home of the original
inhabitants of Kalimantan, the Orang Gunung or Mountain People.
The tribes are collectively called Dayak, although this name is
not embraced by many tribes- people themselves, who prefer to be
known by separate tribal names such as Iban, Punan and Banuaq.
Local tribes traditionally live in communal longhouses called Lamin
or Umaq Daru. They are built on wooden piles which can sometimes
be as tall as 3 metres high as protection against wild animals and
flooding. The Punan, however, are nomadic hunter-gatheres, who still
move around the jungles and only use the longhouse at the height
of the rainy season. Steeped in tradition, the interior of the longhouse
is typically divided into separate family quarters with a communal
area connecting each of the quarters and therefore each of the families.
It is in these communal areas that village meetings are held and
ceremonies performed, thereby reinforcing the strong tribal bonds
that have kept the Dayaks alive in the face of rapidly advancing
20th century technology.
Guardian statues are normally placed in front of longhouses to
protect them against evil spirits who bring disease and bad fortune.
Such longhouses, however, are steadyly disappearing and many that
remain have been converted into meeting halls or stages for dance
and music performances. The more remote and traditional tribes-people
have pierced earlobes, which over the years have become stretched
by the weight of heavy gold or brass rings, and beautifully elaborate
tattoes. Local jewellery and designs are intricate and powerful,
often giving messages to be passed down from generation to generation.
The most common starting points for many journeys and adventures
inland are Balikpapan and Samarinda, the provincial capital, because
of regular flight services to Jakarta. Traveling along the extensive
Mahakam river system, which has carved its way through the jungles
and flatlands constantly reshaping and nourishing the land, is a
fascinating adventure. River boats slide unobtrusively through heavily
siltladen waters where plants and animals feed and drink along these
nourishing shores, wild orchids drip off trees; Bekantans (Proboscis
monkeys), orangutans, crocodiles, clouded leopards, crab eating
macaques, giant butterflies and the legendary hornbill all live
A 5,000 acre Orchid Reservation close to the village of Kersil
Luwai cultivates 27 different species of orchid including the very
rare Cologenia Pandurata or black orchid.
- East Kalimantan Places of Interest