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Submitted By: Casimah Khalik
It’s always an adventure when doing something that is especially different like waking up at 4:30 in the morning to board a local boat to see a sunrise floating market. The air was crisp and peaceful and the only noise we heard was the hum of our Xplorer moving in the dark like a crocodile, barely creating a ripple through the estuary. As we got further upriver, we changed to local boats and as the sun rose, we began to see the silhouettes of homes and water crafts along the banks. We were on our way to Banjarmasin’s traditional Floating Market. Banjarmasin is known as the Venice of the East, so I was quite excited to experience this.
When we reached the market, we were surprised to see practically hundreds of individual one or two person sampans, flat bottomed boats laden with all sorts of produce. Our eyes were dazzled by the riot of colours and the pride of the people was clear in the way they carefully looked after their sampans. Both buyers and sellers got about in sampans, and they came to us to show their wares. Everything imaginable was there; a vibrant cornucopia of weird and wonderful fruit, many which even I had not seen before. We bought so many to sample – butterfruit, rambutans, langsats, salak, duku, water apples, guava and more. Then there are sampans selling breakfast, from bowls of noodles to special Indonesian peanut pancakes! I bought 2 and gave one to one of my fellow expeditioners. As we took a bite of the warm crescent-shaped folded pancake, we yelled for the seller to come back (she was leaving on her sampan). “Baliiiiiik sini!” (Come back!) I called in Indonesian! It was too yummy to only have one! She came back and made us another 5 – yes, she made it onboard her sampan – and it took less than a minute to prepare each!
The sampans were criss-crossing each other so cleverly. Most of the sellers and buyers were ladies, and they wore a hat which looked like a mini umbrella made from Nipah palm leaves. On each hat was a number, so all this must be a licensed activity. There were a few sampans which also sold t-shirts and handmade crafts for tourists, but it was obvious that the majority of the exchange was between the locals.
One of the most memorable experiences was our exchange with them. They were full of smiles and charm, and there was a certain kind of warmth that exuded a sense of genuineness. I felt that they were loving it as much as we did and the other guests agreed. It was a good time to try out our Bahasa and spend the Rupiah we had brought. This experience was a highlight for me, especially when the experience was as authentic as it gets – experiencing a glimpse of local life.