Pontianak – Visiting the Equator in Indonesia

When you think Indonesia, you think Bali. A place certainly not on most itineraries is Pontianak. Twelve countries the world over are on the equator and there is only one city, Pontianak – which is located right on the equator. Pontianak is the head quarter of West Kalimantan province and is on the island of Borneo (largest island in Asia) in the delta of the Kapuas river – the longest river in Indonesia.

Four vertical black logs supporting a steel globe, the whole thing covered by a big dome with a replica of the black logs supporting the globe on the top. This is how I read the description of the monument online before I decided to make a trip here.

The Lion Air B737 MAX8 (Flying the MAX8 with Lion Air)got me to Pontianak’s International Airport on time. The airport has a nice replica of the equator monument with a small stage to take pictures with it.

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The city lacks transportation options, certainly so at the airport. Internet gives out some local transportation options but they were not to be seen at the airport. Uber as well as Grab cars were not available and that meant booking the cab at the pre-paid counter, which definitely was expensive.

English is not a language which people know in the country and the case is even more grave in the towns like Pontianak. Broken Bahasa – Broken English worked well and I managed to negotiate with the driver to wait and take me back to the airport via the city center to see how the main areas of the city look like.

It takes about 45 minutes to reach the equator monument from the airport. There are no boards and the non-descript structure can be missed. There is a lot of renovation happening at this monument in an effort to get it on the tourist map prominently.

There is no entry ticket for the monument and a path dotted with trees takes you to the green and white structure. While the green is the paint, the white is cheap tiles. Definitely the monument can be better. The staff welcomes you & asks you to note down your nationality in the register. They can speak English and are very friendly and handout a pamphlet in English with Information about the place. The dome type structure has old photographs of the site – including one taken pre1990, without the overhead structure. The original monument stands right in the middle of the dome.

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Outside the main structure, an array of small shops sell food and behind those is a souvenir shop. The shop sadly does not sell any souvenir depicting the equator monument.

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The equator has moved southwards due to tilting of the Earth and there is another monument towards the river where there is small seating area along with a platform depicting the four main directions. The GPS was closest to 0.0 at this place, though the application I was using said the error is 10 meters.

This also was by far the smallest place and non-touristy place that I went to in Indonesia and the local flavor was not the familiar air of Jakarta, Surabaya or Yogyakarta. The town is a sleepy place which is falling apart. The markets were not buzzing and there were rows of empty blocks of apartments and stores.

The town also does not have many food options and one needs to rely on the small stalls which line up the streets. I ate at one of the few stalls at the equator monument. The lady at the counter was listening to Indian songs on YouTube. The broken Bahasa & broken English combination worked. She told me that she likes these songs a lot and asked me which are the new famous songs. Since I am not a movie buff and I hardly know about latest songs, I helped her by searching for “Latest Bollywood songs 2017” and opening the first playlist. I am sure she could have done the same and I had not been of any help!

I had coconut water – the local variety is giant and handed over with straw and spoon. The country is famous for Nasi Goreng (Literally Fried Rice) but the variety in Pontianak is a little different yet tasty. This region of Indonesia has influence from of the Chinese and sees a lot of stalls selling pork – forbidden to Muslim majority Indonesia. In the city, I could see stalls selling Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice), Bubur (Rice Porridge) served with pork and chicken, Nasi Kari (Rice & Curry), Mei Goreng (Noodles).

I was back at the airport to avoid the dreary weather. I have always heard that it rains a lot at Equator but I guess this was one of those odd days when it doesn’t rain at all.

The trip is recommended only if you have some real free time in Indonesia or want to tick off visit to the imaginary line which divides the earth in two hemispheres. For me, I wanted to visit the equator and clubbed it with the ride on the B737 MAX8 of Lion Air.

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