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East Kalimantan

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Published on Feb 5, 2008

As a major producer of oil and timber, East Kalimantan is at present the most industrially advanced province of the island and the second largest province in Indonesia. It is also the home of the original inhabitants of Kalimantan, the Orang Gunung or Mountain People. The tribes are collectively called Dayak, although this name is not embraced by many tribes-people themselves, who prefer to be known by separate tribal names such as Iban, Punan and Banuaq.

Local tribes traditionally live in communal long houses called Lamin or Umaq Daru. They are built on wooden piles, sometimes 3 meters high as protection against wild animals and flooding. The Punan people are nomadic hunter-gatherers, and only use the long house at the height of the rainy season. Steeped in tradition, the interior of the long house is typically divided into separate family quarters with a communal areas connecting each of the families. It is in these communal areas that village meetings are held and ceremonies performed, thereby reinforcing the strong tribal bonds in the face of rapidly advancing 20th century technology.

Guardian statues are normally placed in front of long house to protect them against evil's spirits who bring disease and bad fortune. The more remote and traditional tribes-people have pierced earlobes, which over the years have become stretched by the weight of heavy gold or brass rings, and beautifully elaborate tattoos. Local jewelry and designs are intricate and powerful, often giving messages to be passed down from generation to generation.

The most common starting points for many journeys and adventures on the island are Balikpapan and Samarinda, the provincial capital. Traveling along the extensive Mahakam river system is a fascinating adventure. River boats slide unobtrusively through heavily silt - laden waters, wild orchids drip off trees, Proboscis monkeys signal your arrival to the crocodiles and legendary hornbills.

A 5,000acre Orchid Reservation close to the village of Kersil I cultivates 27 different species of orchid including the very rare Cologenia Pandurata or black orchid.

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