BORNEO — West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Borneo is where Christina was born and raised. The vast majority of Borneo’s indigineous inhabitants are Dayak. Christina is part of a large Dayak tribe named Bidayuh. Her ancestors lived along the Kapuas and Sekayam rivers.

Borneo is a huge island, roughly the same size as New Guinea, making it the 2nd largest island in the world after Greenland. The smaller northern part of Borneo is named Sarawak, which is part of Malaysia, and the tiny oil-rich country of Brunei. The largest portion of the island is named Kalimantan and belongs to Indonesia.

Kalimantan consists of 5 Regencies (states): West Kalimantan, North Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. A natural north-south divide separates Malaysia and Indonesia and is also the headwaters to four major rivers that define the borders of the five regencies.

The area of Borneo we visited is just across the Malaysian border in Balai Karangan, West Kalimantan. Mostly, it’s a lush, hilly jungle with the fertile ground along the rivers. The people there are kind and laid back. It is poor by most standards and the cost of living is low.

Two hours north is the port city of Kuching Malaysia, complete with all the conveniences you would expect from a modern port city, including an international airport.

Dayaks living in Malaysian are different than those living in Indonesia. They are more prosperous and gravitate to large cities, while Dayaks across the border in Indonesia live in smaller groups and spread out along the vast river systems. Malaysian and Indonesian Dayaks remain close. In fact, I have never witnessed an ethnic group that maintains such close bonds as the Dayak tribes of Borneo.

celebrating Gawai Dayak festival

I love this part of Indonesia. We will someday move here and make Balai Karangan or Kuala Dua our home. This part of Borneo is a gateway to more remote parts yet only 2.5 hours from the South China sea and an international airport.

Christina’s family owns land near Kuala Dua on the Sekayam so we’ll probably build a house on a hill overlooking the River. At first, the island of Bali was going to be home, then it was Salatiga, Central Java, but now we’ve decided on West Kalimantan. I am really excited about exploring the area. We intend to travel village-to-village by canoe as Christina did growing up in Sanggau. Even today, some villages are more accessible by river. (Edited: This is still the plan, but on hold for now. Until Covid-19 runs its course, Jakarta will be our home.)

The Lomon family property on the Sekayam River.

The trip from Jakarta was quite reasonable. $35.00 each way by air to Pontianak and a $35.00 shared cab ride to Balai Karangan. We stayed with Christina’s brother Christo and his wife, Bintang. They were truly wonderful hosts. Make sure you look at the pictures of their amazing house below. It is typical Indonesian construction but the decorating style is that of Java. <<

Next to Christina is a rubber tree. A cup is attached at the bottom to catch the sap.
Nature’s barbed wire.
So, we’re walking in the jungle and find this 20-year-old poster of Christina! She ran for what we in the U.S. call congress. She lost but came close—the other candidate out-spent her 10 to 1.
Left to right, Christina’s sister Susan, my beautiful wife, Brad Pitt (me), Susan’s husband, Isme.
We took time to visit the graves of Christina’s mother and father.
Dayak men work in the field in the morning and gather afterward and socialize as a tradition.
This house on stilts is Panca house. Spiritual ceremonies are carried out here. It is an important part of Dayak culture. The ceremony we took part in was to pass along the strengths of brave enemies killed in battle. Dayak were headhunters in the past, but now are Christian. This was an honor.

Food is prepared and served to the spirits of the fallen and those taking part in the ceremony. After the ceremony, we drank a type of wine made from rice, similar to saki.

Some nice property to make a home. The views here are stunning.
Christo’s mansion in Balai Karangan. This was a great place to stay.



3 Replies to “BORNEO — West Kalimantan, Indonesia

  1. Glad that you finally decided to settle at Balai Karangan, KalBar where Christina has her family roots there. She returned back to where she once belong… hope that will be a perfect home for you & Christina. May God bless you both🙏🙏🙏

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