Kalimantan Indonesia is not Bali; it is much bigger and still rugged and covered in rain forests. Luxury hotels are difficult to find. We flew to Balikpapan on the east coast and it is definitely worth a trip to explore and compare.
I was finally able to use the new terminal 3 at Sukarno Hatta airport in Jakarta. We were flying Garuda Indonesia to Balikpapan on Kalimantan Island. The terminal looks very modern, made out of steel and glass. It feels airy and practical. The only tropical touch is the beautiful orchid plants in big vases placed throughout the terminal.
Arriving in Balikpapan another fantastic surprise, the airport is as modern as the one we just came from. It is made from plenty of steel and glass too; although probably a bit smaller. This shows that Balikpapan is a very important and busy destination. I doubt though it is a tourist stop.
I had no idea what to expect from this part of Indonesia. Yes, it is important for the oil industry of Indonesia. Many people who work here are of course locals and many more come from other islands, mainly Java. There are plenty of foreigners here too and this gives it an awesome mix.
We drove through the center along the coast. Since we visited on Idul Fitri, the biggest public holiday in the country, shops were closed and the streets were quite empty, except the malls of course. There are several new and modern chain hotel towers along the coast with beautiful views of the open ocean. I assume that they mostly cater to the oil industry business people. The oil refineries are along the coast and big tankers come and go constantly. This is a busy sea route. The streets a little to the interior are very hilly; you go up or down quite steeply on good streets.
While in Balikpapan we had to chance to stay with Dewi at the Pertamina Compound (Indonesian Oil Company) about 15 min drive from the airport. The house is huge with modern American appliances in a vast jungle complex. There are plenty of state of the art sports facilities. We had fun in the nice pool, Tom and Azzam did some roller-skating and some of our group played badminton in the covered arena. I loved to walk among the many tropical plants and enjoyed the different fruit trees. In the dispensary, we found everything we wanted and admired huge imported crab and turkey.
In Kalimantan Indonesia we had to do what is a unique and a once in a lifetime experience; we went into the tropical rain forest. PT. Inhutani in charge of Indonesian forests has set up Pukit Bangkirai as Ecotourism destination with a variety of activities. The most attractive and fun is the Canopy Walk.
If you like sports then you have to visit Pantai Lamaru and Taman Rekreasi Bukit Surya. It is a beautiful stretch of yellow sand beach and you can take shade under rows and rows of pine trees. Go for a morning run and take your family for a picnic. The kids can rent floaties to play in the water; go for a ride in the golf carts and yes, there are plenty of clean and modern toilets and showers. There are restaurants or eating places. You can stay the whole day and have great fun and activities.
We enjoyed quality time at The Beach House Restaurant.
Of course, there are chain hotels, the business type in both locations. What is uniquely Bali are the luxury hotels that pay attention to small details in architecture, decoration and service. Some of them are situated in lush tropical gardens along yellow sand beach, surrounded by rice fields or temples and in the mountains. See our pick of luxury hotels here.
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