Pondans and Pontianak

Those who know me know how much I love traipsing the aisle of supermarkets. It’s interesting to see a foreign country’s food products and how much it cost. In Pontianak I stumbled on a brand of cake mixes called Pondan, meaning transvestite in Malaysian Malay. I did not see human pondans, or maybe I was just in the wrong part of the city.

I rose bright and early on my 2nd day in Pontianak. A love for wet markets means one has to be up early to see the buzz at full swing. I stopped by one of the biggest markets in West Kalimantan, the aptly named Pasar Flamboyan.

The markets here are not what I’m used to encounter in Malaysia. It’s more often than not sprawling, dank, dirty and intensely smelling even for someone used to working with raw meat. The traders line rows, divided into sections of fruits, vegetables, dried goods, poultry, beef and such, and pork. 

On the fringes are usually clothes, toys, other smaller vegetable and fruit traders. I spent a few hours exploring lost alleyways and sticky cement. The loud chatter and frantic calling of traders filled the air with electricity. Traders were quite enthusiastic to share the names of fruits and vegetables, once they know I’m a tourist. Apparently I looked Javanese.

Hungry, i stumbled onto the Chinese quarter of Pasar Flamboyan. A dimly lit shop became a long passageway that baited with an extraordinary fragrance. I arrived at a small stall with 4 tables lined with benches. Pictures on the banners showed soup. I pointed at one and waited.

They gave me complimentary tea and put a steaming bowl of Kwee Khe Thiang. For Malaysians the closest approximations would be a cross between beef noodle and Kueh Chap. Pork and its organs were stewed in a flavorful broth made of 5 spice, big square thin pieces of noodles topped with mushy soy beans and cilantro.

It was AMAZING. Light, hot, deep, savoury all rolled into a refined uplifting dish. 

These are the Google Maps coordinates:

0.039349,109.345692
Afterwards, I walked along Jalan Gajah Mada, the main economic and commercial belt of Pontianak. Many hotels are located here, along with cafes and fast food outlets. Locals say at night the streets are filled with mobile waroeng selling Indonesian street food.

I walked past a giant church, prominent in the skyline. A Catholic church, St. Yosef Cathedral was built to serve the local Catholic community. It had a very Roman Dayak fusion vibe. A giant dome cupola crowned the altar. Exactly then a funeral was about to start, so I took more pictures and left. The stained glass windows were beautiful.

Taman Alun Alun is a recreational park busy during weekends with local picnics. It overlooks the giant Kapuas River, largest in the province. Ships sailed uo and down carrying supplies. A ferry plied both banks carrying passengers, cars and motorbikes. The other side is Pasar Siantan, another market for the other half of the city. For passengers it’s IDR 2500 one way. 

In the evenings there is a sunset cruise that takes you all the way to Tugu Khatulistiwa, or Equatorial Monument. I think it costs IDR 10,000.

With the blazing sun burning my body, I rested and enjoyed the breeeze, watching ships chugging along the Kapuas. There were less than 10 people in the park, so it was very quiet but for the occasional blare of ferry horns. 

The sole of my sports shoes came off, so I stopped at a cobbler I saw on the way. He glued and stitched it for IDR 10,000 (a bargain!). I decided to cool down in Ayani Megamall because the heat was starting to become unbearable. I chilled for a while, enjoying another cup of coffee. Plus I bought an Indosat simcard for IDR 70,000 inclusive of 10 GB of data. 

The Kalimantan Barat Museum is 10 minutes walk from Ayani. It costs IDR 10,000 for foreigners. A very educational jaunt, the museum has a great flow, with a good selection of artefacts and informational signages. Be aware it closes at 2.30 PM everyday. 

A Pontianakian told me about an app called Gojek. It’s Uber for motorbikes. I used it to call for a ride back to the hostel which costs IDR 6,000. The weather began to turn and a heavy rain cleared the city. 

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