20 August 2019
City of a Thousand Rivers
Exploring Banjarmasin’s rivers is a great introduction to the dynamic culture of the city and provides a unique experience of a natural feature that has become a way of life for so many here.
First settled in 1526, Banjarmasin is the capital of the province of South Kalimantan. Located on a delta island near the junction of the Barito and Martapura rivers, the city has built a way of life around its unique situation and many waterways. The rivers play an important role in the city’s transportation infrastructure, tourism, trading activities, and fishing.
While rivers are often a key feature in most major cities in Kalimantan, Banjarmasin boasts a much more extensive network of waterways. In fact, this city has the highest number of rivers in all of Indonesia, so it's no wonder that it’s been dubbed the City of a Thousand Rivers, The River City, and even the Venice of the East. While the number doesn’t reach 1,000, some 98.46 km² of river passes through the city.
With the vastness and great depth of the Barito River, which is still only slightly larger than the Martapura River, large ships crossing the rivers is a common sight for the locals but provides a unique attraction for visitors to come and watch. The city government has created several areas on either side of these two rivers for tourists to come and enjoy sightseeing. One such place is Siring Watch Tower, which has become a tourism hotspot since 2014. From the 21-meter-high tower, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the Martapura River and the city of Banjarmasin.
Other highlights of Banjarmasin include the floating markets of Siring and Lok Baintan. About 30 minutes from Lok Baintan Floating Market is Banua Anyar Street which serves up the local dish Soto Banjar to visitors who can watch the activities of people on and around the Martapura river while they dine. The area is also known for its diamonds and precious stones mined from beneath the rich earth of the area. Visiting stores selling jewelry as well as those doing cutting and polishing is a popular activity in the city.
In addition to the city’s rivers, culture, and heritage tourism there are also forests, lakes, and mountains providing ample space to explore nature. Overnight trips to an area called Loksado on Meratus mountain is an interesting experience as visitors can choose to stay in a Dayak village longhouse and go jungle trekking.