Banjarmasin is the biggest city in South Kalimantan. The city population was 625,395 at the 2010 Census. Average temperature ranging from 24ºC to 32ºC.
Things to know about Banjarmasin
The official birthday of the city is 24th of September in the year 1526, but its history are older than that date. From the time of the ancient kingdom of Nan Serunai, to the Buddhist kingdom of Tanjungpuri and the Hindu kingdom Negara Dipa and its succesor Negara Daha, the rivers of Southern Kalimantan were always been the favorite spot of the Malay people. That’s why Banjarmasin old name was “Bandar Masih”, meaning the port of the Malay in Dayak Bukit dialect. In the chaotic time of civil war between the rightful heir of Negara Daha, Pangeran Samudera, and his uncle, Pangeran Samudera was forced to flee for his life.
At this time, Bandar Masih received him warmly, stopped paying taxes to his uncle and support Pangeran Samudera’s fight to get his throne back. When his uncle finally surrendered, Pangeran Samudera decided to make Bandar Masih his new capital, converted to Islam, and begun his rule over the new Islamic Kingdom of Banjar. His day of victory was then celebrated as Banjarmasin’s birthday. The name “Bandar Masih” slowly changed into “Banjarmasin” as the water tastes salty when in dry season (salty is “masin” in Banjarese language). The Kingdom flourished and back in its golden era, its power enveloped almost all of the area of what is now Indonesia’s part of Kalimantan.
After the fierce Banjar War which produced a lot of highly-revered local heroes such as Pangeran Antasari, however, it was forced to surrender the colonial Dutch, following the total destruction of the palace ground and the capture of the last Banjarese Princess (Ratu Zaleha). Banjarmasin continued to be the capital of Dutch Borneo throughout the colonial era. Even after the forming of the Indonesian Government, Banjarmasin was the capital of Kalimantan province until it was divided into 4 Provinces (West, East, Central and South), then it became the capital of South Kalimantan. Few is left of its previous glory, but Banjarmasin silently kept her forgotten charm in unexpected places for the persistent travelers to find.
Things to see in Banjarmasin
Banjarese, the name of South Kalimantan’s ethnicity, have a unique way of building their houses and other structures in harmony with nature. There are at least 12 types of traditional Banjarese houses, which have unfortunately lost their popularity in modern times. Still, you can see a few houses that were built with traditional techniques all over Banjarmasin if you really search for them. The palace ground was totally destroyed by the colonial Dutch, but you can still visit its remnants in Kampung Kraton, along Jalan Pangeran Samudera. There, you can see Masjid Sultan Suriansyah. Built during Pangeran Samudera’s rule, it is the first Mosque in South Kalimantan and contains the royal burial site.
- Museum Waja Sampai Ka Puting – this was an old and genuine Banjarese traditional house in “Bubungan Tinggi” style (one of the 12 styles and the most bona fide one) before it was transformed into a museum.
- Masjid Sultan Suriansyah – The oldest mosque in South Kalimantan, 300+ years old.
- Masjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin – a giant modern mosque completed in 1981, the second largest in Indonesia.
Banjarmasin is abundant with wide and mighty rivers. The rivers have always been a part of Banjarese way of life. To this very day, every morning there are floating markets in which farmers and traders brought their goods to trade on boats. It has always been a farmers’ market and it’s interesting to see the genuine river-based way of life. The rivers are also the main venues for boat races and other festivities. The main attractions are the waterlogged suburbs traversed by canals; much of the city’s commerce takes place on water.
- Floating markets – trading is from dawn until around 9AM. Get there early. Journey takes around 20 minutes by boat.
- Canal trips
- Pulau Kembang (lit. Flower Island) – visit the long-tailed macaques at the decrepit Chinese temple, 20 minutes by boat. You can buy nuts to feed them. The monkeys are quite aggressive if you have food and will try to steal it from you.
- Pulau Kaget (lit. Surprised Island) – see the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), the mascot fauna of South Kalimantan. No guarantee you would have a good look at them, though, as they are really shy. The island takes a bit more time and money to get to.
Things to do in Banjarmasin
In Sunday mornings, people from Banjarmasin have a tradition of walking, running, jogging, cycling or go with whatever you want toward the suburbs that is called “Pal Tujuh”. There, they would go to the “Pasar Ahad” or “Sunday Market” which, obviously, opens only on Sundays. Enjoy local treats such as Ketupat Kandangan and Apam as your warm breakfast over there.
Now You Know