Balikpapan, a city famous for many things. Also famous in Brunei for the wrong reasons especially during the time, not so distant ago, where we used to have direct flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to Balikpapan. Even now there is a place in Brunei known among the locals especially the older members of the public as Balikpapan. Don’t ask me why.
Here I am, first time at Balikpapan, not knowing what to expect except the stories of adventure or rather misadventures of some of our countrymen (I stressed men) here. To arrive here, we have to do a round trip via the Lion City and it took us almost 10 hours. No more direct flights. Some alleged the stopping of the direct flight was due to the misadventures of our countrymen. The more plausible reason was may the very low passenger count. I heard the original intention was to use the direct flight as a link to Australia.
After almost a day here, Balikpapan indeed is a delightful city. With the typical colors of the Indonesian cities I had visited but without the traffic jam. Last night, I heard the Governor saying something about Kota Balikpapan known as Kota BERIMAN. Must be a very religious city, I thought. Not surprising as on our walkabout, we heard quite a number of the call to prayers, the azan. More about the BERIMAN part later.
With a large number of Muslim population, I was told at least 70%, this seaport city on the eastern coast of the island of Borneo has a good mixture of people. The population of over 600 thousands is a mixture of origins from Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, Jawa, Sumatera and Kalimantan.
My boss commented last night the name Balikpapan is unique and in some ways romantic. If I heard him correctly that is. I decided to look it up. The official website of Kota Balikpapan had two versions of the origin of the name Balikpapan.
One version is during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Idris in 1739. The sultan ordered the communities around a bay area to contribute building materials for a new palace. The contribution is in the form of 1000 pieces of timber tied together into a raft. Upon arrival at Kutai, 10 pieces were found missing. These missing pieces were thought to have refused to be part of the contribution hence the phrase ‘Baliklah papan itu’.
Another version was from the people of Suku Balik, better known as Suku Pasir Kuleng who migrated to the current location of Balikpapan. This group originated from the family of Kayun Aleng and Papan Ayun and was known as ‘Kuleng-Papan’. Kuleng in Pasir Balik dialect meant ‘balik’ hence the name Balikpapan.
Coming back to the BERIMAN part. I thought it was about religion. Infact it is an acronym and it stood for ‘BERSIH, INDAH & NYAMAN’.
More info on Balikpapan can be found here.
While having breakfast, I heard a story about how some Indonesians are ‘crafty’ and how it takes a lot of patience living here. There is a local saying ‘if you can make it difficult, why make it easy’. From experience, it's not an Indonesian phenomenon, it's everywhere......