Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vegetarian Food

Ketapang is surprisingly friendly for vegetarians, thanks to the large ethnic Chinese population. There are 3 fully fledged ovo-lacto vegetarian restaurants, and most of the larger restaurants will have vegetarian dishes. Although you have to be sure to tell them you don't want any seafood or meat in your order, at least it's not like other places in Indonesia where they won't understand the concept of vegetarianism at all.

The smallest of the three vegetarian restaurants is located on the Pertamina roundabout (Jl. A. Yani and Jl. Jend. Sudirman). There's nothing particularly bad about this place, but the choices are a little limited. They do sometimes have Singkawang noodles, which you won't find at the other places.

Near the main police station on the road to Sukadana (Jl. B. Katamso, on the west side of the street about 50-100m north of the traffic light) is a restaurant that tends to be more popular with foreigners, thanks to the friendly service from the husband and wife who run the place. It's best to go at lunch as they can run out of dishes later in the evening, but they will cook more upon request. The dishes rotate frequently, but lots of soy-based artificial meats, including fish, rendang, hekeng (local shrimp sausage) and my personal favorite sate. A few perks to this place - you can drink a fresh coconut, there's a decent selection of vegetarian ready-made dishes and seasonings you can buy to cook at home, and there's the town table tennis 'stadium' in the back of the restaurant if you want to work off some of the calories.

The newest vegetarian place is run out of the local Buddhist temple, on Jalan Imam Bonjol (on the way to the main market on the edge of town). This used to be an ad-hoc place run on Saturday nights only, but recently has grown into a restaurant open every day. It's a bit out of town but you get a nice view of the Pawan River (and hopefully a breeze). I would go for the self-serve buffet as the nasi goreng/mie goreng options have been pretty disappointing.

At the non-vegetarian restaurants, beyond the basics of kangkung/cap cay/kailan, try the bun tahu or sapo tahu which are cooked with an egg tofu (make sure to be clear about no seafood or chicken!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Beach

Pretty much all over the coast of Borneo, the beaches are more like being at a lake - you can't get far away enough from the sedimentation, and Ketapang area is no exception. However, there are still some lovely coastlines, the water's warm and there's plenty of popular fishing locations.

The most popular beach in the area is arguably Tanjung Belandang, about 20-40 min. north of Ketapang on the road to Sukadana. There are some stilt huts on the beach where you can enjoy a coconut, and a more 'developed' area with a (usually dirty) swimming pool and 'flying fox' zipline cable ride. A few times during the year there will be special events on the beach, such as motorcross bike racing or concerts, with as crowded and festive as Ketapang gets. Even on a regular weekend there's sure to be quite a few visitors as this and Pulau Datok are the most social beaches in the area.

Only a few kilometers south of Tanjung Belandang is the growingly popular Air Mata beach, which has some decent mangrove areas making it very popular for birdwatching and nature photography. It's a more relaxed atmosphere, but not completely deserted as on the weekend there will be a few family picnics and young couples.

If you go all the way to Sukadana town, the main beach is Pulau Datok, which has banana boat rides and other activities on the weekend. There's also lots of food vendors, although I can't say I'd recommend any of them.

For a more exclusive atmosphere try Pagar Timun, about 2 hours south of Ketapang town (near Kendawangan town). There are some very impressive villas here, but it is fairly difficult to arrange rental as they are all individually owned.

A few minutes south of the villas you can get a boat to Pulau Sawi, which is an amazing little island of coconut trees. Only a handful of families live here, with no electricity and no shops so bring everything you need. The neighboring island is much larger and uninhabited. Unlike mainland Borneo, the water here is crystal clear, with some rocks but also lots of sand. Ask around for Pak Haji, a round trip day trip (about 40-60 min each way) is around Rp. 300,000. The sea can get quite rough so ask for advice on the best times to leave and come back. You can try to work out an overnight stay on the island, but make sure to bring enough supplies as resources are limited.

There are a few other amazing little gems of untouched hidden beaches, but if we put them up on this blog then there'd be nothing left for you to discover, and what would be the fun in that?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


So most people do come here to see the forest - and rightfully so. What is left is amazing, if increasingly difficult to get to. As we're not on the beaten track, it can be somewhat frustrating for visitors to try and find where to go to see wildlife and forest, but the nice thing is that where ever you go you're sure to get that 'exclusive' feeling of not being in some regular tourist hotspot.

Gunung Palung National Park has some of the best locations in the area that are realistic to get to for visitors, but unfortunately a monopoly has been given to a fairly shady outfit so that prices are outrageous for poor service, at least by local standards - it's the closest to a 'tourist trap' you're going to find in Ketapang. Still, for diehard forest purists it's probably worth being overcharged to experience real virgin rainforest.

In town, there's the Ketapang City Forest, which is a small patch (90 hectares) of largely degraded mangrove forest along the Pawan river. If you're on Jl. Jen. Parman heading towards Sukadana, turn East (right) at the big traffic light (police headquarters), then head North (left) at the end of the road, the entrance is an even smaller road on your left a few hundred meters down (this backwoods area of Ketapang also has the Hindu temple - not open to visitors - and the ridiculous Keraton-on-steroids known as Rumah Melayu). Over the years minor improvements are slowly made to the City Forest - there is now a boardwalk that is about a kilometer long in the main stretch, which a side path to a bird-watching area. There's also a bathroom that always seems to be locked. Local kids come here for a little romance, and others for fishing, but you've got good chances of seeing birds (including hornbills), fruit bats, monitor lizards, butterflies, long-tailed macaques and proboscis monkeys. You should bring water, plenty of insect repellent, sunscreen and comfortable shoes, but around here it's the easiest place to go to see some wildlife.

Just half an hour south of town is the Melayu village of Pematang Gadung, which has a village forest teeming with all sorts of wildlife - probably because all the animals have taken refuge here as most of the forests in this area have been cleared for palm oil and mining. Best way to explore is by boat as the wildlife is easily spotted. The village forest itself is degraded, although the community seems committed to protecting what's left and rehabilitating the rest. The secondary forest makes it easier to spot the animals, and Pematang Gadung's a popular spot for local nature photographers, see some of their photos at:


Indonesian food isn't exactly healthy, and Ketapang's not known as a place to bring your cholesterol down. So most of us end up eventually giving in to the inevitable and enjoying some of the worst treats available, the infamous gorengan (fried junk).

The best time of year for this is Ramadan, as stalls pop up all over town for people to get snacks to break the fast with. Lots of the stalls sell roughly the same thing, but in particular check out around the Agusjam hospital roundabout and near the Jl. Diponegoro/Jl. Rahmad intersection. Try Kalimantan and Ketpang specialties like Kue Bingke (which resembles a Portuguese egg tart) and Bubur Pedas (which despite the name is not spicy).

During the rest of the year, your best bet is on Jalan A. Yani near the Cathedral, every morning (the later you get there the less to choose from). Salty and sweet junk food to start the day off right!

Glace Cafe

Just had to add another one to the previous posts on places to get your juice on in Ketapang - try Glace Cafe on Jl. A. Yani (the Cathedral street). It's a small place, but squeezes in A/C and outside seating, bright lights and wi-fi. Also has previously-unobtainable in Ketapang Western treats like frozen yogurt, pancakes and caffeine-free teas (fruit infusions?).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pameran Ketapang

About once a year, there is a big Regency Expo (Pameran), but at other times of the year Ketapang will have smaller Expo's organized for school reunions, church celebrations, etc. Much of the town will come out to an expo, so at the least it's worth it to do some people-seeing. But you can also get handicrafts, learn a little about the province, and enter in a bunch of little lotteries for TVs, bicycles, rice cookers and other prizes from each booth.
The Ketapang Regency Expo just ended last week, but I'd recommend checking out the next one you might hear about (with the exception of some of the company-created expo's to promoting a housing development, health product, etc.)


Ketapang can get pretty hot and dusty (thanks deforestation!) - Luckily, at least there is plenty of good juice places in town to help you cool off. There's plenty of Iced Tebu (sugar cane juice) being sold at the sides of the main streets during the day, and a much more varied selection of fruit juices available at cafes and restaurants throughout the day.

My favourite juice locale? The Posko Jus, on Jl. MT Haryono. The owner, A Li, has a gift at telling you exactly which fruits are ripe and what combination might be able to cure your current ailment. He has also known pretty much all the foreigners who've spent time in town, and has plenty of good drinking stories. Although the Posko has the best tasting juice, the atmosphere isn't always the best as it's on a strip of dingy stores.

To get a drink with arguably the best view of Ketapang is Country Cafe, just over the Pawan bridge on the road to Kendawangan. There are plenty of secluded seating if you want some privacy in your own little mangrove patch, or you can grab a seat on the riverside and watch the sun set on the town. Unfortunately, the juice (and food) is generally awful. You'd be better off sticking to bottled or canned drinks.

A good combination of atmosphere and taste is Cafe Delon, on Jl. Pandjaitan across from the Agus Jam hospital. The juice is only so-so, but it's the only place in town you can get fresh (microwaved) popcorn. They also have noodles, burgers and beer, often with a film or TV being projected on a big screen and sometimes even live entertainment.

Lots of the full-fledged restaurants in town also have a selection of juices available beyond just es jeruk - but they are often too watered-down or more milk than juice. One place which is a nice exception is Semarang on Jl. Suprapto. We'll revisit their food, which in general is good value, in another post.