Seeing as I live in a town in Borneo, I thought I’d write a bit about an urban life on the equator! Palangka Raya is the town I live in when I’m not staying at camp on the edge of the Sabangau peatswamp forest of Borneo….

I spend most of my time in the town house as I need lots of time on the laptop and talking to people – so lots of electricity and internet… The town has two main central parts , one of which is the shopping mall and the streets around it (with the post office and the best place for corn on the cob). The second is the large busy market with both indoor stores and outdoor stalls selling pretty much everything you could want – if you know where to look!

My room

My room

My street

My street

Our house (Jalan (street) Semeru #91) is about 15 mins walk west of the shopping mall. Walking on streets that lie roughly in a grid, stemming off more main busy roads. There are four or five of these main roads in town that I know well, because of the shops/stalls that are on them. The best places to go are…

  • the multiple take away food stalls (“warungs” , there are three that I like within 2-10 mins walk of the house, the best by far is the “juice place”*)
  • fruit stalls (ten mins walk), the veg lady** (5 mins walk) , the mall (15 mins walk), the main market (15 min Bemo*** drive), the small market and supermarket (15 min walk)
  • and of course which ever way you chose to make your way to the forest (south for 1hr).

One of my favourite local houses…

Our house, however, is fully detached and in a group of similarly large houses. We have very tall ceilings and a lot of tiled floor between different areas of the house to walk around on all day long. I spend A LOT of my time within these rooms, as my office is one and the same building and it’s usually around 30 degrees outside, or raining, so staying in is common… (Notice most of the places I like to go are walking, so in thirty degrees with no AC, you really have to want to go).

The sky is bright and blue and the sun scorches the houses, 4×4 cars & motorbikes are everywhere. The loud mosques, which blare out a very particular type of noise at 4am, 12pm and 5pm every day.  Sometimes it’s very hot, but within 30 minutes the clouds have come over, the rain is so loud you can’t hear other people in the house, the bowls and towels go down on the floor for the roof leaks, and the thunder and lighting starts so you unplug the phone line to the internet router. If you don’t, the internet machines can ‘blow up’ (stop working as they get fried) and you have to buy and install new internet. For my first time after six months in Borneo, this happened recently. Also if you don’t unplug your laptop charger, in my case you also get an electric/lighting shock, as my laptop is made of metal. I have two shocks so far (inside, at my desk). Needless to say there is always some variety in living in Palangka Raya, even if you do stay in side a lot!

The mall has fantastic things like a great place for chocolate coffee based cold blended drinks and sandwiches, if you’re willing to part with the money that could last you about a week on food if you use the veg lady/instant noodles/local take away. It also has a very good bakery and the loudest, comfy-est cinema, which is a great pleasure to go to at only £2.40 a visit!

I hope that has helped you understand a little about living life in an Indonesian town! I could go on, but I’m going to go and get yummy BBQ corn near the mall!

* The “juice place” is this amazing, family run hot food place that sells all my favourite local foods at very good value! I can get enough rice, noodles, green beans, fried tempe (or tempeh – MMMM TEMPE IS SO GOOD!) , boiled eggs, bean sprouts and various delicious sauces to last me for two meals for less than £1!

** “veg lady” Is a lovely ladies front-of-house shop. Her and her family sell raw chicken of all bits and sizes, live fish(!) , dried fish , eggs and a full range of vegetables including mini-corn, spring onions, carrots – and bananas and limes as well! Me and my friends go there so much she knows us all very well. This morning I bought 5 carrots, c.10 tomatoes, 5 mini-corns, 2 bunches of Pak choi, a lime and 6 eggs for £3.30. ‘Nough said.

***bemos are orange little vans with the door always open driven on set routes around the town. You flag them down, hop in and ask them to stop where ever on their route. Very easy, very cheap, but they do become rare after 1pm ish…


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