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Balikpapan Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your Balikpapan vacation , Borneo


Nina514
Semayang Port (Port of Balikpapan) 3 stars
Semayang Port in Balikpapan is surely a one hell busy port that I have ever been to; and when there is a ship departing or docking, it is just totally possible for transportations to get through easily around the area; and if you are one of the passengers or just there to bid farewell or to pick up anyone, I am sure you definitely will have a very hard time to even breath easily; on contrary, when there isn’t ship coming or going, the activities at Semayang Port is totally nothing but public transportation’ drivers relaxing, enjoying the meals and drinks offered by the local vendors (of which meals you can actually questioned the incredibility but the aroma are very nice especially for the grilled satay or seafood, hehehe).

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Nina514
Alexa Restaurant 4 stars
Another restaurant that I had the chance to try while relaxing at de Dalmas Beach in Balikpapan was Alexa; although many of the restaurants at de Dalmas Beach offer quite similar menus and prices one to another, it was still good to try different restaurants each time we went to have fun at the beach.

Their charcoal-grilled hot and spicy chicken was very mouthwatering and memorable that I still think of it every now and then; it was so spicy (just like I love it best) that my nose was runny hehe. I have to say the most expensive meal that we ate at Alexa was the sweet and sour shrimps, a plate it was like Rp. 40.000 and yet the amount was not that many so it was kind of ripping you off in a way or two which was a shame but hey, seafood menu at restaurants is never cheap. The drinks at Alexa are unfortunately overpriced though but I just have to recommend you their charcoal-grilled hot and spicy fish, it was so good as well that I had a little regret for ordering the chicken only, ha-ha. Per piece if I am not mistaken, for the grilled fish it was about Rp. 25.000 (sorry, I don’t seem to remember for the grilled chicken though). So here is another choice of restaurant for you to try while you are at de Dalmas Beach besides Nusa Dua (http://www.cosmotourist.com/travel-tip/2106/balikpapan/nusa-dua-restaurant/) and/or Dapoer Bunda (http://www.cosmotourist.com/travel-tip/1721/balikpapan/dapoer-bunda-restaurant/)


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Nina514
Terang Bulan Mini (Indonesian Thick Sweet Pancake) 1 stars
I must admit, most of the time I am a commercial victim either from TV or other kinds of media commercial; sometimes I would also fall for a news I saw or heard or told, not just dreamy commercial. The other time when I was traveling to Indonesia, I was informed that there is a new Terang Bulan street vendor; Terang Bulan is a type of "snack" similar to with various fillings; this new street vendor is called Terang Bulan Mini; Bandung, West Java, origin.

My siblings were so enthusiast that we should try it because they were reviewed good on one of TV programs; so we went there but it was nothing but a disappointment. The texture of the Terang Bulan was more to Apem instead Terang Bulan, and no matter what the filling was, they were not tasty let alone yummy whatsoever yet they were fairly pricey. The prices were almost similar to the famous Terang Bulan Holland which is way better and actually the best to many people's opinion. So it was just a total disappointment even though we ordered the yummiest fillings that we could think of and what we were expecting a lot such as the Durian, Jackfruit, Cheese sweet condensed milk fillings.

I am sorry I have to say this, but I don't want to recommend this Terang Bulan Mini. Located at Jalan RingRoad, if you come from Dam, Terang Bulan Mini is located on the left side of the road just drive further after Terang Bulan Holland or Martabak Bangka. There is a restaurant behind this Terang Bulan Mini vendor if I am not mistaken; I think it was called RM. Tenda Damai


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Nina514
Martabak & Terang Bulan Bangka (Traditional Indonesian Omelet and Pancake Street Vendor) 4 stars
When you are in Indonesia, you should try their “traditional” omelet with spiced cooked ground meat and sliced fresh green onion fillings, called Martabak. Served with onion and green chili pickles or hot sauce, this kind of “snack” is very good served warm and very famous all over Indonesia.

Usually, the vendors who offer pricey Martabak, their Martabak taste is better and the filling is a lot more compare to the vendors who offer martabak for cheaper prices; but we can not really rely on the prices given. Some people would say famous vendors would mean yummy martabak, but some more would say differently, so it is all base on everyone’s likings and taste bud. I do have to inform you though, in some cities in Indonesia, they would divide this kind of snack into two types, Martabak Asin and Martabak Manis; Martabak Asin is the omelet while Martabak Manis is “traditional” pancake with various fillings. In my parents’ city, we call Martabak Manis as Terang Bulan instead.

In Balikpapan, East Borneo, two famous brand/street vendor of Martabak & Terang Bulan are Martabak Holland and Martabak Bangka. I like both vendors though I prefer going to Martabak Bangka for their omelet and Martabak Holland for their pancake.

I like Martabak Bangka because they give lots amount of ground meat and green onion on their omelet; with such prices of 4 dollars or so per portion (enough for 2-4 persons), I wouldn’t mind spending so much for their omelet. Such price is considered expensive for Indonesian currency, but of course it means nothing compare to the portion and the tasty omelet. The service is also quite quick and the way they make the omelet is just so professional; I am sure you would find it interesting to see they way they make the omelet. The process of making martabak is similar to pizza, they would spread the flat “pizza” dough on a very hot oil, usually cooked of a very round yet flat pan; once the pizza dough is spread on the hot oil, they would mix cooked ground meat with green onion and egg on a stainless steel cup and then spread the filling on the pizza dough, fold the dough to square, fry until slightly golden/brown and crisp; drain, set a side, cut into 12 small portions.

You definitely must try Martabak Bangka (or any other brands if you wish); I have to warn you though, you definitely need tissue as the excess oil is just too much!


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Nina514
Wana Wisata - Recreational & Camping Place Inside The Rainforest 5 stars
In KM. 10 of Jalan Soekarno-Hatta, Balikpapan, there is a very good nature reservation called Wana Wisata run by PT. Inhutani. When we went there it reminded me of Gatineau Park here in Canada. Here, at the Wana Wisata nature reservation, we can see plenty plants, trees, fruits, and flowers whose existence are becoming extinct in Indonesia. Some trails are also available for joggers and cyclists. This nature reservation is even perfect for camping especially for girls or boys scouts. As the kilometer of Jalan Soekarno-Hatta becomes bigger, the area is more to the jungle/rainforest area; and Wana Wisata nature reservation is also part of the rain forest, so the reservation is quite big.

The have many monkeys of several different kinds, the most famous ones would be the Wau-wau monkey, which I think are Gibbons (Hylobates sp); they swing here and there with their very long hands, very fun to watch.

At Wana Wisata nature reservation, there is a gazebo for visitors and a playground for the kids. You can also go to the information office for a pamphlet or two. If you are thirsty or craving for a snack at least, there are a couple of food and drinks vendors nearby. To enter the area is free from admission if I am not mistaken; at least I don’t remember paying any tickets, if we did have to pay I suppose one of our family member did he-he.

If you go to Wana Wisata, don’t forget to check out the area for the horses, deer, birds and some more animals; and definitely you would want to check out the weather forecast first because it can get too wet and muddy at Wana Wisata when it’s rainy season!


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Nina514
Lapangan Merdeka (Merdeka Square) 4 stars
Lapangan Merdeka is a fairly wide and long land for recreational and sport activities purposes. When it’s week-end or holiday, you will likely see guys playing soccer there. Some street food and drinks vendors are available along Lapangan Merdeka. When it’s Saturday night, the area usually will be full with youngsters and lovers. Line up motorbikes can only mean either for fun or a sign that there might be illegal racing later on at night.

Sometimes Lapangan Merdeka is also used for special occasions such as Muslim’ Eid ul Fitr where the believers of Islam will gather there in early morning to pray together or to celebrate Eid ul Adha by preparing some cattle meats to give out to the poor people. Schools nearby Lapangan Merdeka, such as SD and SMP Pertamina along with SD and SMP Nasional KPS in certain day and time would use Lapangan Merdeka for athletic, soccer, or other types of sport activities. Quite a few times there is an exhibition or entertainment that also takes place on Lapangan Merdeka.

If you are in Balikpapan, should take the time to at least pass by Lapangan Merdeka as this is also considered to be one of Balikpapan landmarks. Located near the Pertamina Hospital, before Melawai (recreational spot for families and youngsters with great with of the Balikpapan Sea), Lapangan Merdeka is easy to recognize; and my suggested time to go there is obviously on week-end morning to afternoon and definitely at Saturday evening until midnight!


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Nina514
Taman Bekapai - Balikpapan City Park 4 stars
There is a nice park, not too big but also not too small located in downtown Balikpapan, East Borneo, around Klandasan area to be exact; this park is also considered as a landmark of Balikpapan and is called Taman Bekapai; located near the PLN (electricity company) office and also the once was famous theater in Balikpapan, Gedung Bioskop Gelora; Taman Bekapai makes the area nicer in a way or two especially at evening or night hours since the reflections of lights on the water fountain are just beautiful, definitely making the park appears more elegant.

If I am not mistaken, Bekapai means City, so if it’s translated to English, Taman Bekapai is City’s Park. Personally, to me the best time to see Taman Bekapai is at night time as in broad day light Taman Bekapai is less appealing; when we were in Balikpapan, we often tried to get a night shot of Taman Bekapai, as I said the view is just beautiful at night, but we never succeeded (have to get more fancy camera!).

Taman Bekapai is like another recreation/relaxing place for Balikpapan people it seems, at least I often saw parents sitting at the park while watching their kids running here and there; and in the evening hours, usually lovers are there. The main attraction of Taman Bekapai beside the water fountain is the stainless steel artwork in the middle of the park. As Balikpapan is known as an oil city and this park was dedicated to the city by Pertamina and Total Indonesie (both are oil companies), the stainless steel artwork with the support of the water fountain in the middle part of the artwork resembles crude oil burst up from the earth.

If you are visiting Balikpapan and happen to be staying at the well-known expensive hotel of Gran Senyiur, as you walk out of the hotel, turn to your left and walk down straight to Jl. Jendral Sudirman (Klandasan); you will not miss this park I am sure.


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Outback
Safety 1 stars
As an Australian family possibly going over to live, did you find it safe. Most forums i've looked at say that expats have security guards, drivers etc. Did you feel safe travelling around as a foreigner?

Congratulations also on a wonderful travel blog - very informative. The best i've come across so far.


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Nina514
Dapoer Bunda Restaurant 4 stars
I have mentioned about Dapoer Bunda Restaurant before but I have not reviewed it yet nor gave more details about this restaurant; so here is the review and pictures! Dapoer Bunda which literally means Mother’s Kitchen is a great restaurant that opens very close to de Dalmas Beach in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Compare to the other 2 or 3 restaurants available at the beach shore, perhaps Dapoer Bunda is the famous one; at least amongst my colleagues who are stationed in Balikpapan at the time being, Dapoer Bunda has become a favorite restaurant to go to. Of course, who wouldn’t want to dine in at almost an open air restaurant where you can get a very nice view of the ocean and good breeze to accompany you as well; so yes, location of Dapoer Bunda is among the other reasons why this restaurant is good to go to or to dine at.

The meals in Dapoer Bunda are standard Western and Indonesian meals. You can find Italian and American type of meals along with various familiar Indonesian grilled skewered meats such as satay, vegetarian dish, and more. Many shakes and juices are also offered along with soda or cold ice tea; my favorite would be the green Fanta (and no, not the apple flavor!) though, which today is hard to find in Indonesia and I have never seen any in Canada!

Per portion, each meals obviously has different prices one to another but I can assure you they certainly affordable and really worth it. I ordered Pecel Ayam (fried crispy chicken) with hot sauce, fried Tempe, rice and salad; it was less than 2 USD, while my husband tried the Indonesian Bakso (meatballs and noodle soup), also less than 2 USD. While we were checking out the Indonesian meals, our driver ordered spaghetti! Ha-ha

So if you are at the beach or perhaps just wanting a good place to eat, let me suggest you Dapoer Bunda!


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Nina514
Manggar Beach (Pantai Manggar) - Balikpapan 4 stars
There is another beach that you can go to if you are visiting Balikpapan in East Borneo, Indonesia, called Pantai Manggar (pantai means beach in English). Before there were other beaches such as Lamaru and de Dalmas Beach, Manggar was the most developed and well managed beach in Balikpapan. The place used to be clean, nice, full with visitors who would like to enjoy the water, or just relaxing with family, eating at the food vendors offshore.

Even today people still go to Manggar, but the numbers of visitors are certainly declined big time in recent years as the other beaches I mentioned are more better managed and cleaner than what Manggar looks like today.

At this beach, a few vendors are renting big used tires for kids to float with while they are in the water. The last time we went to Manggar beach back in 2004, it was Daisy’s (my niece) first time ever swimming day. She was so scared and even though we rented one of the smaller tire for her, she wouldn’t go near the water unless all of us go with her ON tires as well. So it was really funny :-)

In most of parts of Indonesia, people hardly go to beaches using swimsuit; unless you go to tourists’ city such as Bali, I suggest you forget your swim suit if you want to swim in Balikpapan’ beaches; but of course it is different story if you are at a public swimming pool, you do need to put on your swimsuit!

If you go to Manggar beach and wanting to try the food there, get Bakso, it’s similar to Vietnamese Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), and it is yummy. They usually also offers Es Kelapa Muda which is coconut on ice with sweet syrup, yum!


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Nina514
de Dalmas Beach - Balikpapan 5 stars
de Dalmas Beach is perhaps the cleanest beach in Balikpapan, East Borneo, Indonesia. It is located not too far from the downtown. Just like other beaches in Balikpapan, the water of the beach is not blue and green but dull brown and grey; since there aren’t corals whatsoever underneath, but if you go just a little bit further, the water is nice dark blue; which I was told would be good for diving.

At de Dalmas Beach, you can do so much fun with the water sport activities that the management of the beach offers. This beach is located very close to the residency of the WAKAPOLDA (Region’s Vice-Chief Police Officer) of East Borneo. At this beach, the sands are white and nice compare to the other beaches in Balikpapan; so much to say I think de Dalmas Beach is the only beach with white sands. At least I have been to the other 2 beaches in Balikpapan and they don’t have sands at all even.

The parking lot at de Dalmas Beach is quite big and there is a lifeguard post (but I did not see any lifeguard when we went there though). From Jet Ski, a ride on the banana boat, parasailing, to wind surfing and some more activities you can do here at de Dalmas Beach. My nephew went for the jet ski while I just watched as I don’t swim that good at all he-he!

Tired after being in the water for awhile, you can dine at the eatery places or restaurants at the beach area. There is one that we tried and the foods weren’t bad at all, called Dapoer Bunda which means Mother’s Kitchen in English. We met and spoke with a family from Medan, North Sumatra. The husband had a business meeting in the town and so the wife took the kids to de Dalmas Beach for some fun just like we did :-)

So if you happen to be around Balikpapan and need some relaxation time, you might like this de Dalmas Beach with their water sport activities!


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Nina514
Alligator Farming - Penangkaran Buaya Balikpapan 5 stars
When my husband and I were vacationing to Indonesia back in 2004, we went to Balikpapan city in East Borneo to visit our family there. They took us to the alligator farming place in Teritip. Teritip is like a suburban area of Balikpapan. This place can be reached by car and it is well known as “Penangkaran Buaya”.

The farming place has lots of alligator for sure. Some were placed in muddy cage-park which I believe those alligator belong to the Estuary family (Crocodilus porosus), some were in smaller cage-room with greenish water everywhere which if I am mistaken was called Supit alligator, so that means those belong to the Supit family (Tomistoma schlegel), and some more were in another cage-room belong to Lake family (Crocodylus novaeguineae).

To see around this alligator farming is quite amusing as you can see the baby alligators as well as the huge ones. Some of them were just laying there quietly, some more were biting and fighting and they splashed water almost everywhere, and that of course, scared the younger visitors.

In this farming place, there are quite a few of snakes’ cages as well. It’s amazing how the cage is not closed cage as in made with glass just like aquarium, so it is quite open. Visitors can poke the snakes or even if parents are not careful, their kids can touch the snakes with bare hands! Isn’t that scary? But when we were there, there weren’t any visitors that stupid enough to give their hands or fingers willingly to the snakes in the cage. Thank God!

At the farming area as well, we saw a few small eatery places, almost like restaurants. We didn’t make a stop at these eatery places as the youngster in the family ran for elephant trip already! Yes, not too far from the parking lot of the alligator farming place, there is a park where they have 1 huge elephant and 1 tiny elephant and kids can ride them. My husband as shown in the picture rode the elephant along with our Indonesian niece and nephew ha-ha.

Nearby were street vendors selling snacks and drinks and the kids were crowding them. I quite liked this trip to the alligator farming. It was a nice day and I keep plenty beautiful memories.


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