Indonesia Shared

18.11.09

Lok Baintan, The Last Floating Market


The middle-aged lady rowed her boat, parting the morning mist along the river. Fresh oranges and local vegetables tigarun were piled on her boat. A few other ladies followed, and their jukungs - the local name for their little boats - marched, each carrying the harvest goods to be sold at the floating market of Lok Baintan village, in Sungai Tabuk subdistrict, Banjar Regency, South Borneo (Kalimantan).

November coincides with the oranges harvest season. The oranges were so abundant that the villagers sold them in heaps. They also sold traditional cakes, food, and basic daily needs such as rice, coconut oil, and even clothes. The morning market was crowded.

To reach this floating market, it took an hour's journey through the river from Banjarmasin city, South Borneo. The land route can be taken by motor-bike, with the same length of time, but the river-way was more scenic.

The market started around 8 AM on a part of the Martapura River. The market came to life as the merchants came and rowed their jukungs, one by one converging on one spot. The unique part was that the market moved in line with the river's current, and the hustle bustle of it peaked around 9 AM.

Transactions are set on the river. It is a little hard to tell apart buyers and sellers as the merchants mingle with buyers at the same time.

The best time to see the radiance of this market is during the orange or rambutan (nephelium fruit) harvest between September and December. Unfortunately the fruit harvest is often unpredictable as the rain and dry seasons are now also difficult to forecast.

But this doesn't mean we can't visit the market beyond those times. But please note that during the rice harvesting season the market tends to be quieter, because most of the people and merchants spend more time on the paddy fields.

The unpredictable seasons, the quality and quantity of harvests, all these factors affect the market. Aside from that the market is also influenced from the culture shift from the culture on the river to land. The floating market in this village in the last one in South Borneo.Markets like this used to be numerous, but now they're extinct. Even the city of Banjarmasin used to have the floating market of Kuin, but that has been replaced by the regular land market. A lot of tourists visiting Kuin must bear their disappointment for not witnessing that exotic water-surface market.

The disappearance of traditional markets in the "thousand river" region is triggered by the flourishing land culture, which is supported by the regional developments that are always land-oriented. The river-ways and canals are perishing, replaced by the ease of land transport. The people that used to have jukungs, are now proud of possessing own motor-bikes or cars.

Luckily the market in Lok Baintan village is coping. That village is the heir of the greatest river-culture legacy in South Borneo. The river still supports the local economy.

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