Accommodation: After a lot of walking from the main bus terminal, we found a relatively cheap hell hole in a side street. And after one night, we moved to an upmarket hotel, because that is all you can do in this city (no offence to Pontianaks).
Places to see: Ummm. Not the best place for sightseeing. Especially as a woman. Get ready for hideous ogling and lude remarks.
Getting to and from Pontianak: Buses depart Kuching regional bus terminal for Pontianak via the Tebedu-Entikong border crossing daily at 7:45AM. RM45 adult 1 way. From Pontianak, buses depart daily at 9PM. Fare is Rp 140,000. It takes about 4/5 hours one way.
The original plan was to take a boat from Pontianak to Java for about half the price of a flight. But it being one of the most unstable seas, even with our own boat sinking before arrival, taking a flight from Kuching makes a lot more sense .
Transport: Walkable city, but a little bit dangerous I found walking as a woman. But that’s just me.
Okay, crossing the border into Indonesia via bus is an interesting experience. I can’t lie that it isn’t exactly a woman-friendly place, so expect a lot of extra sexist hassle unfortunately. Hence taking a plane directly to Java is a much safer and better idea. Lucky enough, my partner was travelling with us four girls which made it much less unbearable.
The border crossing was nothing like Malaysia. It took almost an hour for them to process a visa, mostly because they were staring at us girls, rummaging through our bags, and searching through our underwear (no lie!). Once they saw a glimpse of a man, they hurried the process immediately, and the process was finished within 10 minutes. Not a good start unfortunately.
Eventually we made it, completely befuzzled without any hotel or onward transport of getting out of the port.
It was even more unnerving when we found out that Pontianak means the undead vampire of a woman who died while during childbirth. Disguised as a beautiful woman, the Pontianak goes around murdering unwary men, harming pregnant woman and eating babies, but they can be controlled by plunging a nail into a hole in the back of their neck. The irony is that it was us women running away from weary men over there and we were desperately attempting to find a way out.
We had everything organised. We were only supposed to spend a night there and then head off the next morning. But as fate has it, not only had there been torrential downpours and massive delays in the Java sea, we would have to stay there for almost 3 days. Not a happy bunny.
After one night of spending in a very rundown but friendly hotel, we decided to treat ourselves to a nicer hotel, especially since we would have to stay there for a few days now.
And by the riverside we stayed. It was much more luxurious, waking up to the waters with sun shining on our petit dejeuner. But then we got the news. That we would be stuck in that godforsaken place for a lot longer than expected. Partially because we got wind that our boat had sunk, and it was blocking all other boats from entering the port. We were edging towards the fourth day and drastic measures needed to be taken.
First step was getting a full refund on our tickets for the sunken boat. None of this ‘Act of God’ clauses thank you very much. And buying a rather more expensive plane ticket to Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Flights are around £40-£75, especially when bought last minute.
Well we did get to check out the local ‘mall’ which did resemble a Western one. There were some cute market shops beside the area as well. And that’s about it.
I think Pontianak was the first city where I know I’ll never return to, but sure as hell will remember. The day we left, we heard on the radio that President Mubarak had been ousted from his Egyptian ‘throne’ and the Arab Spring was in full swing. It was a sobering thought while we were complaining about the city.