Selamat Datang ke Indonesia
That’s what the taxi driver kept saying after we had passed through the Indonesian immigration in Kalimantan. “Welcome to Indonesia,” Tony said knowingly after he noticed my confusion. As always, he was a few language lessons ahead of me. At first, I wasn’t too worried. But when the driver looked at me equally confused after I gave him the hotel address in English, I realized the short distance we had come from Malaysia represented a much bigger jump than I was prepared for.
Kalimantan is a different world. The promise of more wildlife, rainforest, tropical islands as well as tribal cultures brings us to this remote part of Indonesia. Roads are sparse and bumpy, transportation costs are high, tourists are few, and English is pretty much non-existent. Yes, although we are still on the island of Borneo, it’s very noticeable that we have changed countries.
It has been a while since we traveled in a region that sees so few travelers. Even the guidebook authors don’t seem to have been here for quite some time. So far, the only reasonably useful part of our guidebook has been the language section. It certainly came in handy when we tried to book our first hotel room over the phone in Indonesian, “Saya mau pesan satu kamar.” What did they answer? I could only guess. Phrase book or not, there’s only so much you can learn in two days…