Journey from Jakarta to the Tanjung Puting National Park
Our trip started from having 1 night in Jakarta to catch an early morning flight to Pangkalan Bun, the closest airport to the Tanjung Puting NP. As for experienced SEA traveller, Jakarta airport met my expectations of being a chaotic and crowdy place where the hard bargaining starts. Taxi fares to get to a hotel located 3.3 km from the airport began from 75.000 Rp however taking the recommended by Lonely planet “blue bird” taxi you can get there for 21.000 Rp accordingly to a taxi meter. The 4 star FM7 hotel offered us big room with comfy bed for £50 – the last luxury before the jungle trip. Spa place here offers reasonably cheap 90 mins massages for 240.000 RP ($24) where apparently males can have a choice of a happy ending included in the price J. Western women with blond hair wearing rather conservative swimming costumes do not have an easy life there. With tens of Muslim eyes on me I escaped to the room very quickly. There is a good restaurant for dinner but chicken fried rice and black coffee for breakfast, when asked for milk I heard that milk is available from 6 am onwards ?!. At 5am free shuttle bus took us safely to the airport by a narrow and bumpy road mostly dominated by crazy trucks, lorries & motorbikes drivers.
We flew with Kalstar airlines from Jakarta at 7am. There is also Trigana Air flying regularly to the remote Pangkalan Bun airport. I learned there are also flights from Surabaya in East Java. Searching internet I found out that both airlines do not meet EU safety requirements and are notoriously delayed or cancelled. Our experience is that the fights both ways was on time and ok, even for someone with fear of flying like me.
There were few tricky moments at Jakarta airport departures. After being sent 4 times from one check-in counter to another we accidentally came across the right one. After security check the screens were showing our boarding gate as C1. Fine, we waited there until boarding sign showed up but no boarding took place. 10 mins later “final call” sign appeared. We panicked, started running like headless chickens from gate to gate but couldn’t get any information. Finally at the gate 4 someone told us to check gate 6. Another long run to the gate 6 and there is a funny moment – when I shouted across the long endless corridor “Stop the plane!” A man came across us asking to calm dawn and explaining that the signs at that airport are always confusing for foreigners. The plane was patiently waiting for us like it was obvious that we would get confused and 10 minutes run in a humid and hot weather at 6:30 am was good for our condition before jungle trekking. Anyway, 70 mins flight was ok and included again – fried rice for breakfast! Long wait for the luggage in an empty but full with ‘busy’ airport staff and we finally met our fantastic guide Toris who was waiting for us at the arrivals.
Around 30 mins smooth drive but on crazy roads took us to a small village called Kumai. There, we tried to buy few beers for the trip in a black market but no success. Later during the trip we were offered a warm bottle of beer for 50.000 Rp ($5). Kumai people are living mostly from tourism, fishing and farming bird nests – delicacy for the export to China. These birdhouses are the tallest landmarks in Kumai.