Banjarmasin: The Floating Market
Banjarmasin (pop 611,000)
Salamat Pagi – Good Morning
Before dawn, I am picked up by motorbike and delivered to a dock where an awaiting boat transports me up river. The river is black. The sky is black. The shoreline, barely visible.
The delta city of Banjarmasin is known as the “Venice of the East.” Four major rivers are interconnected by numerous canals. The name of my river? I haven’t a clue.
A thin daylight begins to illuminate the river’s mist. And as the mist disperses, we encounter our morning goal.
Just ahead, a flotilla of canoes - each is laden with produce and propelled by ladies dressed in their colorful best. The reminder of the past, still active in the present, the traditional Floating Market is open for business (4am – 9am). My camera is ready.
The market is not huge. Perhaps even mundane? Women in boats selling fruit? But for some reason, as I stand at the back of the boat, my hands and arms do not move. Am I surprised? Impressed? No, the word is transfixed. The sight before me is hypnotic!
I stand quietly. I watch the women as they buy and sell and barter. One lady is cooking on her canoe. Others gather in small groups; I guess they are chatting and exchanging the news from their villages. Everyone is smiling. The smiles grow to broad toothy grins as I aim my camera.
For my breakfast, I buy a bunch of small sweet bananas and a few cakes.
Like the dawn mist, at about 09:00, the market suddenly disperses.
In the daylight along the river, folks are busy with their daily activities: cooking, washing clothes, caring for children and attending to their personal hygiene.
I am back at my hotel by 10:00. The “modern” morning has just begun. Yet, for me the day is already complete.
I have traveled up a river not far from the jungles of Borneo. I observe and then participate in an age-old ritual. I encounter the most friendly and enchanting groups of people.
My day is complete.